Uganda battles large swarms of locusts amid COVID-19 lockdown
Uganda, amid complexities presented by a COVID-19 lockdown, is ramping up measures to contain a second wave of desert locust swarms.
The locusts, according to the ministry of agriculture, entered the country on April 3 through Amudat district, and by April 6, they had spread inland into four districts.
"Unlike previous swarms, these swarms comprise of immature adult desert locusts recently hatched in Kenya," the ministry said in a recent statement. "The immature adult desert locust is a growth stage that still feeds heavily and therefore has the potential to destroy vegetation wherever they go."
In the first wave, Uganda recorded nine swarms of locusts in the northern and eastern regions.
The ministry said those swarms, which were classified as mature locusts, did not cause significant damage to the vegetation cover but laid eggs that are expected to hatch into nymphs and young locusts that have high affinity for food.
Antonio Querido, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) representative in Uganda, told Xinhua in a recent interview that the second wave comes at a time when the country is much more prepared.
The government has mobilized 22 billion shillings (about 5.9 million U.S. dollars) to facilitate the fight against the locust invasion, according to Vincent Ssempijja, minister of agriculture.
The minister said an additional 16.18 billion shillings has been approved by the government.
Some of the funds have been used to procure chemicals for spraying the migratory insects.
The government has also procured and dispatched to the affected communities an assortment of equipment, including for spraying and for personal protective gear.
Over 2,000 soldiers and 800 civilians, including agriculture extension workers, have been trained and deployed to contain the locusts.
According to the agriculture ministry, control efforts have managed to prevent the locusts from causing significant damage to the vegetation.
"This has made it extremely hard for them to lay eggs as the spraying destabilizes them and they instead move in smaller swarms," according to the ministry.
Several countries and international organizations are supporting Uganda to combat the locusts that threaten the country's food security.
The FAO donated four ultra-low volume (ULV) vehicle-mounted sprayers, 10 motorized spray pumps, 10 manual spray pumps and an assortment of personal protective gear.
The World Food Program donated five trucks that are being used for logistics in control operations.
The Desert Locust Control Organization for Eastern Africa has provided an aircraft to be used for spraying.
Bulgaria offered an aircraft to facilitate aerial spraying. The aircraft, according to the ministry of agriculture, will be configured for locust spraying before it is brought into the country.
China has also donated equipment and chemicals to help Uganda's locust control efforts. The donation included 10 tons of Malathion, 500 pieces of hand-held ULV sprayers, 500 pieces of knapsack motorized sprayers, and 2,000 pieces of protective gear.
Ssempijja, the agriculture minister, said there is an urgent need to engage Kenya on the possibility of joint operations for ground spraying to ensure that the newly-hatched hoppers do not reach maturity and swarm into Uganda.
He said locust control efforts are being hampered by the ongoing COVID-19 in some parts of the world; some chemicals procured have not been received because of limited number of flights.
"The absence of this chemical hinders the use of aircraft, which are much more efficient than the ground operations," the minister said. (Xinhua)