The Ministry of Agriculture is asking that Finance releases Shs 16bn recently approved by Cabinet, to facilitate the fight against the latest wave of desert locusts which have so far spread across Acholi, Karamoja and Teso sub-regions in just a space of two days.
This was revealed by Agriculture Minister, Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja at a news conference in Kampala on Tuesday.
He said the country has been invaded by a second wave of desert locust swarms from Kenya. The latest swarms entered Uganda through Amudat district on Friday. The two swarms had further spread inland into Kumi, Katakwi, Otuke and Agago districts by Monday.
“Unlike previous swarms, these swarms comprise of immature adult desert locusts recently hatched in Kenya. The immature adult desert locust is a growth stage that still feeds heavily and therefore has the potential to destroy vegetation wherever they go,” the Minister said. Turning to Luganda, the Minister said the current swarm of locusts are youthful.
Each of the swarms is estimated between 5 to 10 square kilometres.
Following control by UPDF in Namalu Nakapirrpiti district, part of the swarm moved and settled in Kumi district in the parishes of Osera, and Akumu of Ongino sub county and Agule of Kumi sub-county and Agago as of Monday.
Another swarm spread from Amudat through Nabilatuk and settled in Ogongoja sub county in Katakwi district and the UPDF team at Olilim intercepted it and control efforts are ongoing.
A splinter swarm further went through Amuria, Abim and settled in Otuke district.
So far, government has spent about Shs 22bn from its treasury and various development partners to control the locusts. But an additional Shs 16bn is now needed.
Towards the end of last year, Uganda was hit by the locusts in the Northern and Eastern parts of the Country. These swarms were classified as mature locusts and did not cause significant damage to the vegetation cover.
However, the Minister now says that the eggs that were laid are expected to hatch into nymphs and young locusts that have high affinity for food.
“This may pose an imminent danger to food security and livelihoods”.
State Minister of Agriculture, Aggrey Bagiire, said in the last two days alone, the swarms have spread across three sub-regions – Acholi, Teso and Karamoja.
“This time it is tough, they have come in very large numbers, they are straining us because are already in three sub-regions just in a space of 2 days. Last time, they it took us time for them to spread. They first concentrated in Karamoja,” Bagiire said.
State Minister for ICT, Peter Ogwang who represents Usuk county in Parliament said that he is already receiving reports from his constituents that the destruction of the latest swarms of locusts is of a greater magnitude.
“The current locusts are one which really destroys crops. I have reports since yesterday that in sub-counties of Katakwi, Magoro, Okore, Palam, Omodoi, Kabujan, Okuronyo, including Katakwi town council, they have already caused destruction,” Ogwang said.
“It’s important that teams move in quickly to help the population. These swarms this time are too big. They cover almost the entire parish, 2 to 3 square miles at the same time. This calls for aerial spraying. We need planes as soon as possible”.
Government has fast tracked the procurement of appropriate chemicals for spraying the locusts. A total of 1,400 litres of Fenitrothion 96% ULV out of the 10, 000 litres that were ordered have so far been received from Twiga Kenya Limited.
Officials however said 10,000 litres of Fenitrothion 96% ULV has not been received due to limited Aircrafts flying out of Japan due to the COVID – 19 related restrictions.
Some 50,000 litres of Malathion ULV and 500 pieces of Hand-held ULV donated by the Chinese government are also yet to be delivered in the country.
“The absence of this chemical hinders the use of Aircrafts which are much more efficient than the ground operations,” Ssempijja said.
China had also donated 500 pieces of Knapsack Motorised Sprayers, 40 pieces of Unmanned Air Vehicles, and 2,000 protective gear.
The Minister cited other challenges like the Nose Masks (N95) which are currently in short supply as there is high demand for them to protect communities from Coronavirus.
Some 8,600 litres of the fenitrothion 96 ULV are also not yet delivered due to COVID-19 challenges both at the manufacturing facility in Japan and formulation facility in Nairobi.
The government of Bulgaria donated an Aircraft to facilitate aerial spraying but the aircraft is still undergoing configuration to locust spraying before it is brought into the country.