Prime Minister, Dr Ruhakana Rugunda has assured the country that government has made preparations to ensure the imminent locust invasion is prevented.
He described the imminent invasion as an emergency that requires immediate intervention and urged the public to stock up food reserves as a precautionary measure.
“With the threat of a possible invasion of locusts to the country increasingly becoming eminent, I would like to assure the public that Government is taking this matter seriously and consequently, different agencies of Government have been instructed to work together to collectively heighten our preparedness to prevent or handle the invasion,” the Prime Minister said in a statement.
He said the Ugandan government is in contact with authorities in Kenya to explore ways of jointly addressing the challenge.
On January 21, Dr Rugunda convened an Inter-Ministerial meeting comprising Ministries of Agriculture, Finance, Internal Affairs, Defence, Security, Environment, Local Government, East African Community Affairs, Presidency and Disaster Preparedness and Uganda Wildlife Authority.
Representatives from the Desert Locusts Control Organization (DLCO) also attended the meeting during which a road map to prevent the invasion was drawn.
During the meeting, the Ministry of Agriculture was directed to quickly submit to the Ministry of Finance, a comprehensive list of requirements for preventing the invasion, including facilities for aerial spraying, for funding.
The matter was also part of the Cabinet discussions on Monday.
“We have to find the money to undertake preventive efforts, because we will save the country much more, than waiting to respond. This is an emergency, and all efforts and agencies must be on the alert to play their roles in a timely manner,” the Prime Minister said.
On January 10, the State Minister of Agriculture, Aggrey Bagiire said the Ministry was seeking Shs 5 billion to deal with an imminent locust invasion following an outbreak of swarms of desert locusts in neighboring Kenya.
“Experts at the meeting warned that an invasion of the locusts would wreak havoc by destroying crops and vegetation, and causing famine, thus the need to act urgently”.
The Ministry of East African Community Affairs has been tasked to urgently link up with counterparts in Kenya to explore avenues of supporting Kenya’s efforts to contain and destroy the locusts.
An Inter-ministerial technical committee chaired by Ministry of Agriculture and supported by the Office of the Prime Minister, was set up and tasked to meet and act every day and keep the country informed of developments.
Reports from Kenya indicate that the locusts have now arrived in the Samburu and Turkana areas, which are close to the border with Uganda. We call upon all our partners to work together with Government to prevent and combat the danger of a possible locusts invasion.
The second half of last year recorded unusually high rains in most parts of Eastern Africa that had not been seen in many years.
These rains incidentally fell also in the semi-arid traditional Desert Locusts (Schistocerca gregaria) breeding ecological areas of Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea and Somalia.
It is these favorable conditions that facilitated further locusts breeding, multiplication and spread in to Kenya.
Due to the security situation in Somalia and North Eastern Kenya (Mandera and Garissa Counties) and other factors, there are still large locusts’ swarms observed from Somalia and Ethiopia with further spread inside Kenya.
The Locusts invaded North Eastern Kenyan County of Mandera by December 2019.
The Kenyan government working with DLCOEA and partners has instituted control operations to suppress the population and stop further spread.
Since the current control capacity is limited, some of the swarms could move further Western into Turkan county, probably by mid January 2020, with likely potential and risk that some swarms could spill over into the North Eastern region of Uganda, particularly Karamoja region (borders Turkana County).
Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is a species of short- horned grasshopper family. It is characterized by its nature of high mobility (migratory) and broad spectrum feeding habits. Locust swarms vary from less than one square kilometer to several hundred square kilometers.
There can be at least 40 to 80 million locusts in each km2 of swarm.Coupled with its amazing ability to build up and multiply to colossal numbers, a locust can eat its own weight in fresh food (about 2 gm/day). Half million locusts weigh about 1 ton and they can eat about 1 ton of food enough to feed 2500 people.