Uganda: Government Warns Against Politicizing Locusts Invasion

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Mr. Stephen Tibejuka Byantwale; speaking to Black Star News in Gulu, recently.

Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries warned the public against politicizing the desert locust invasion.

Mr. Stephen Tibeijuka Byantwale, the Commissioner Food Protection in Ministry Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries told Black Star News that some people have gone to different media houses to spread propaganda about government’s effort to control the pests.

“Some people are talking even on the radio that there are no locusts in Uganda; that it is a plot to waste government’s resources. But today (Monday February 24, 2020), a swarm has flown over Soroti town; and when someone goes on radio or TV and says those people are wasting government money; that there are no locusts. For us we know why they are talking like that,” says Mr. Tibeijuka.

Mr Tibeijuka further added that “These locusts that we are having now are mature and they are laying eggs. For us who understand the biology of locusts know that these ones are going to lay eggs and the eggs are going hatch when we have just planted crops around March. When the young locusts enter the garden, we are going to understand that these locusts are very dangerous.”

He warned such people to stop with immediate effect since the propaganda they are spreading is hindering the control of the pests.

“Whoever is saying that even these yellow locusts that are passing around are not destroying anything, we are telling you that scientifically, these are mature locusts that have survived across the areas where they have been. They will finally die but the eggs they have laid will hatch and they will be more than 300 times in numbers because each locust lays more than 300 hundred eggs. Therefore, that’s what we are preparing for. These ones can roam around without eating anything but let us prepare for the next cycle.” Tibeijuka warns

A recent report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) indicates that 23 districts in Uganda have so far been invaded by the desert locusts. These are districts in Acholi, Lango, Karamoja, Sebei and Teso Sub-Regions.

Ms. Winifred Aol Opio, an Entomologist with National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) dismissed the common myth by the local people that the desert locust invasion in Uganda is the wrath of God following sins that people have been committing.

Ms. Aol clarified that the desert locust invasion in Uganda, after more than seventy years is as result of climate change and insecurity in their initial breeding grounds.

“Scientifically, it is as a result of so many things that the locusts have come right now. If it was about sinning, then you expect that the locusts would have been here last year or even much earlier. There are many factors that have contributed the invasion of locusts particularly in Uganda.” Says Ms. Aol.

“One is that the population of locusts in the recession area in the desert countries where they originate went up because of the rains that have been experienced in almost every country last year. And given the fact that some of the countries like Yemen and Somalia are not peaceful, The Desert Locusts Control Organization usually puts in place management options. They would go and spray these locusts and kill them from where they live, but since there have been insecurity in those countries, these activities have not been done.” Aol continues

Mr. William Komakech, the Resident District Commissioner (RDC) of Kitgum district says the district is ready to spray the locusts once they hatch since a swarm of the adult desert locusts passed through the district a week earlier.

Uganda government has deployed the Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces (UPDF) to spray the desert locusts in all the districts invaded by locusts using both aeroplanes and hand-prays. Aeroplanes would spray those locusts still on flying in the sky while ground troops spray locusts on the ground or tree-tops.

Uganda government has injected a total of UGX. 22 billion shillings (about US$ 6 million) to help in the control of the pests; however, latest report indicates that the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries has run short of pesticides which are used by the aeroplanes for spraying the locusts.

In another development, members of the local community in whose areas locusts invade and pass through have continued to catch and eat the locusts which has been sprayed, which they say in very delicious, despite health warnings from the medics.




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