The number of districts affected by the desert locusts have risen to 24, according to an update by the Ministry of Agriculture issued Tuesday.
Early last month, government confirmed that locusts had crossed into Uganda from Kenya. The local authorities in Amudat said the first sighting of the locusts happened at a place called Kosike, at the border with Kenya. The locusts were later spread further from Amudat district to other districts of Nabilatuk and Nakapiripirit.
Government then embarked on an operation supported by the army, to spray in areas of Karamoja.
The Minister of Agriculture, Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja now says the locusts have since spread to 24 districts in Teso, Lango, Acholi, Sebei and Bugisu sub-regions as at March 6. The affected districts include Amudat, Nakapiripirit, Nabilatuk, Moroto, Kotido, Kaabong, Karenga, Abim and Otuke.
The others are Napak, Katakwi, Amuria, Soroti, Ngora, Kumi, Bukwo, Kween, Agago, Kitgum, Lamwo, Pader, Bulambuli, Bukedea and Sironko.
He said that the existing swarms have not caused significant damage to the vegetation cover, but was quick to add that there is an eminent threat to food security when the eggs hatch into hoppers in the next few weeks as has been the case with Kenya.
“The swarms however continue to spread to other districts and possibly laying of eggs is expected to continue while our efforts to control the adult locusts continue,” Ssempijja said.
On March 3, a new invasion of desert locust (4 square kilometre) arrived in Bukwo district covering 3 villages of Ariyowet, Kapambar and Kaptobole in Kapswamatule sub-county.
According to the Minister, the swarm was a mixture of immature and mature adults and the UPDF immediately swung into action by spraying them. He explained that immature adult locusts are the most destructive stage of the desert locust as swarms can feed on 100 tons of vegetation per day.
In a bid to preserve the wildlife eco-system, Uganda Wild Life Authority has been asked to begin mapping out areas of desert locusts’ invasions in the Kidepo Valley national park, for targeted control. Last week, a swarm had settled in Kidepo national park.
“With the planting season round the corner, it is of paramount importance that the desert locust invasions are completely brought under control to avert a potential food crisis”.
The Minister says ground spraying by the army personnel continues to be undertaken in areas where the desert locusts have been sighted. He said that aerial spraying using Fenitrothion 96 ULV has been conducted in Napak and Moroto districts, and that more areas for aerial spraying are being assessed and mapped.
Ssempija however cited some challenges including the difficulty in acquiring specialized pesticide formulation for aerial spraying (Fenitrothion 96% ULV). This is due to the current wave of desert locust outbreaks in the horn of Africa, middle East and the East African region.
“Our original order has been delayed due to strict measures by the Kenya Government which required pre-shipment inspection in Japan which takes 2 (two) weeks. However, the Supplier, Twiga Chemicals has been able to make a partial delivery of 400 litres awaiting delivery of the full consignment. Kenya is also faced with the same challenge of ready availability of this chemical”.