We are prepared for the Desert Locusts – Uganda’s Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda

We are prepared for the Desert Locusts - Uganda's Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda
Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda's Prime Minister

Kampala, Uganda | URN | The Prime Minister Dr. Ruhakana Rugunda has said the country is “reasonably prepared” to respond to the invasion of the desert locusts.

On Sunday 9th, Government confirmed reports of an invasion of Desert Locusts in Uganda. The locusts are said to have moved into Northern Uganda districts of Amudat, Nabilatuk and Nakapiripirit.

Rugunda has urged citizens to be prepared and to work closely with government in the fight against the desert locusts.

Aggrey Henry Bagiire, the State Minister for Agriculture says that the locusts entered the country on Sunday 9th afternoon. Bagiire said this during a crisis meeting on Sunday at the Office of the Prime Minister.

He says immediately after receiving reports of their arrival, response teams were dispatched on ground to verify at around 3:00pm, which confirmed the invasion.

He discloses that the Agriculture Ministry has already prepared both manual and automatic pumps for dispatch early morning to Karamoja. He discloses further that they have in stock the chemicals for spraying some using motorized spray pumps and others manual.

Districts authorities have been asked to cooperate in the operations. Bagiire says the exercise requires a lot of water and they have asked the districts to avail their water bowsers and other equipment to support the fetching and delivery of water.

Already, State Minister for Relief and Disaster Preparedness Musa Francis Ecweru and Minister for animal industry Bright Kanyontore Rwamirama are already in Nairobi to negotiate for aircrafts to support in erial spraying of the locusts.

Dr. Rugunda says government has already paid a total sum of US$3Million, approximately 11billion Uganda Shillings, as a country’s contribution towards Desert Locust Control Organisation for Eastern Africa (DLCO-EA).

Desert Locust Control Organisation is a regional organization for integrated pest and vector management that ensures food security in Eastern Africa Region. Uganda is among the nine countries that form the body that including; Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Djibouti.

“When Kenya was fighting this, it was also helping Uganda and other countries in the region. We have had a technical inter-ministerial committee to deal with it and we have done some reasonable preparations,” says Dr. Rugunda.

According to Dr. Rugunda, the fight against locusts is a struggle that requires all Ugandans’ concerted efforts. He says the invasion is coming to distabilize food security, economy and families.

On Saturday, the technical inter-ministerial team together with local authorities in Karamoja drove 78-KM into Kenya in Turkana land to establish the behavior and extent of the locusts in preparations.

Stephen Tibeijuka Byantwale, the Commissioner of Crop Protection at the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries, says government has been preparing for these locusts for the past two weeks and hopes they will contain them.

Tibeijuka, who is also the head of the Inter-Ministerial Task Force set up to fight Locusts says some of the requirements including chemicals, pumps and sprays are already on ground while others are to be airlifted today Monday 10th morning.

Safety of Chemical

Government has listed three chemicals to use in the spray against the desert locusts. They include Fenitrothion 96 per cent low volume formulation, which is a phosphorothioate insecticide.

Others are Malathion which is an organophosphate insecticide. This is commonly used to control mosquitoes and a variety of insects that attack fruits, vegetables, landscaping plants, and shrubs as well as Pyrethroid insecticides.

According to Tibeijuka, when nymphs of the locusts are still down, that massively move on the ground, government plans to use a special chemical class of active insecticide known as Pyrethroid insecticides which he says disintegrates within seven hours of spray.

He says Arial spraying will be done during early mornings before the Locusts swam and late in the evening when they have rested to ensure targeted delivery.

Tibeijuka says Ugandans should not worry about the chemicals being used as they are less harmful to human life since they have been used overtime.

“There is no way how a UN agency working with government can use a product that is harmful to the environment, harmful to people. These products have been tested and approved for this purpose,” says Tibeijuka.

Read Also: Uganda needs Shs 5 billion to avert looming locust invasion

Adding that; “…there are standard measures and this is why the UPDF is in place. Where we have the sensitive eco-systems such as swamps and water bodies, we do it on the ground. Where it is possible to do Arial spraying we do it and therefore all those mitigation measures are in place.”

Government has also disclosed that the deployment of 2,000 Uganda People’s Defense Forces (UPDF) officers has started. The officers have been undergoing training from Aswa – Lolim.

Security Minister, Gen. Elly Tumwine says the Army is jointly joined by all other security agencies in the operation. He says they are using experiences of the countries in the region to handle the invasion.