Govt Dispatches Pesticides, Spraying Equipment to Locust-hit Karamoja


Pesticides and spraying equipment were Monday airlifted to Karamoja
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Government has Monday dispatched the initial pesticides and spraying equipment that will be used in Karamoja subregion where authorities are battling swarms of dessert locusts that invaded Uganda on Sunday.

Government confirmed on Sunday that locusts had crossed into Uganda from Kenya.

The local authorities in Amudat said the first sighting of the locusts happened on Sunday at 11am at a place called Kosike, at the border with Kenya. However, the locusts are now confirmed to have spread further from Amudat district to other districts of Nabilatuk and Nakapiripirit.

Authorities in Uganda have spent weeks preparing to deal with the invasion when it happened. Last week, government set aside Shs 15bn to fund the interventions against the locusts.

State Minister of Agriculture, Aggrey Bagiire told reporters in Kampala on Monday that government dispatched up to 2,000 litres of spray to Karamoja. The pesticide was airlifted to the north east of the country by UPDF choppers.

Bagiire said the airlifted items also consisted of manual and motorized spray pumps that the teams will be using in spraying.

The president recently directed that air spray aircraft be acquired to reinforce the land spraying. On Sunday, Bagiire said the chemical that is sprayed from the air is a special formulation, adding that this will be available was the aerial equipment has been delivered.

The Minister said the spraying will be done during the evening and morning hours since this is the only period when the locusts are feeding on vegetation. During the day, they fly t a higher altitude making it complex for spraying.

Meanwhile, the Chief for Defence Forces, Gen David Muhoozi said on Monday that the UPDF has deployed 2,000 of its troops to provide manpower in the spraying exercise against the locusts. He said there are efforts to mobilize more troops given that the need is greater.

The CDF appointed Maj Gen Sam Kavuma to lead the effort on the part of UPDF.

Background

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.

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