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Some of the desert locusts that invaded Akwang sub-county, Kitgum district on February 12, 2020  

GULU: Uganda National Agricultural Research Organization –NARO has embarked on a one year locust research as countries and governments struggle to find ways of containing and controlling migratory trends of the desert locust.

“We have taken samples for the research about 200 of them picked and confined in our laboratory at, NARO research station in Kawanda”, Ms. Winfred Aol Opiyo, an Entomologist with NARO revealed.

Kawanda Research Station, situated in Wakiso district that is a few kilometres from the country’s capital Kampala, is a national designated research entity that undertakes extensive research on agricultural development and vector control.

We hope this will help us provide answers to the so many questions about the locust that has grip the country, Aol added, noting that locust samples were confined in their laboratory on February 17, 2020 and they will be subjected to various conditions as NARO struggle for find out research results.

East and Horn of Africa has been classified as at risk of food crisis due to damage caused by desert locust and expected outburst of more swamps if the eggs laid by the matured locust hatch.

So far a number of international humanitarian agencies have pledge support. They include; United Sates Agency for International Development-USAID, Food and Agriculture Organization -FAO, World Food Programme -W.F.P, to mention but a few.

In Uganda, the worst affected areas by the migration of desert locust are districts of Karamoja, Teso, Sebei and Acholi Sub –Regions where the locust have been moving in swarms and suspected have laid eggs.

Uganda government instituted a response team to help control the locust invasion by spraying them with chemicals. The national army, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces-UPDF deployed army personnel with hand pumps to spray and destroy the locust and its breeding process, while those still on air migrating are sprayed using helicopters, a move that has generated mixed reactions.

While government undertake its control measures of spraying the locust to help check their population and breeding, farmers, Civil Society organisations, pastoralist and some of rural communities who are feeding on the insect have raised concern on the safety and protection of these measure.

Mr. Tom Anyii Okello, the Executive Director of Trained Apiary Mixed Farm located in Ngetta Sub-County in Lira District told the New Vision, government owned national dailies that spraying the desert locusts using aircraft will destroy many other insects including honey bees.

He complained that the decision by the government to spray the desert locusts will be disastrous and that the locusts would rather eat the mangoes and go.

Meanwhile Dr. Michael Kaziro, the Amudat District Veterinary Officer told the reporter of the Daily Monitor, another national daily that no tests were done on the drugs to prove their safety prior to  spraying.

“This is dangerous because with aerial spraying, you are contaminating pastures at various levels. We are going to have a contaminated district herd and we all know the effects of chemicals in our bodies. If the animals do not die, we will have animals carrying these pesticides in meat and milk that we are going to consume.” He pointed out 

This according to Ms. Aol, the research aims at determining the correct use of chemicals being used in spraying the locusts, depending on the life stages in which the insects are in, the reproductive potential of the insects in relation to what they feed on, among other things.

Ms. Aol also revealed that the research will find out if the desert locusts can mate with other grasshopper species to form another breed and whether they can be used for making animal and poultry feeds or not.

“People have also been talking about it being used as animals’ feeds. We have to quantify how much protein a locust has, if we are to translate it into feeding animals, poultry or the human beings.” Ms. Aol continues

Mr. Stephen Tibeijuka Byantwale, the Commissioner Food Protection in the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries says everyone has a role to play in the control of the desert locusts that invaded the country. And knowledge about the insects is very important.

“One of the critical issues is knowledge. Number one, we must understand the biology and ecology of these insects that is when we shall provide information that is factual, truthful and is not misguiding our people.” Says Mr. Tibeijuka

He also revealed that government, with funding from Food and Agriculture Organization-FAO, has trained local leaders and extension workers countrywide on the aspect of desert locust control as provided for in the contingency plan.

“We are not moving in the direction that is not defined. We have a definite direction that is contained in our contingency plan. Our contingency plan has about five to six areas like surveillance and monitoring, coordination, capacity building and control by ‘aerial and ground’ spraying. All those are provided for in the contingency plan.”  Mr. Tibeijuka reveals

Jackson Omona, the Kitgum District Chairperson says that they have assembled a team comprising of personnel from Uganda Police Force, Uganda Peoples Defence Forces-UPDF, Uganda Prisons and the Village Health Team who are currently on standby to wait for the spraying of the grasshoppers which are yet to hatch.

Desert Locust is a species of locust, a swarming short-horned grasshopper in the family Acrididae. It is one of the most devastating migratory pests in the world and it is highly mobile and feeds on large quantities of any kind of green vegetation including crops, pasture and fodder.

Female locust pushes its abdomen 10 to 15 centimetres below the ground surface and lays a batch of eggs called egg pods. These egg pods are 5 to 6 millimetres long and pale yellow in colour. Experts say these egg pods take 10 to 14 days to hatch in warm places or 25 to 30 days in places below 22 Degree Celsius.










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