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Locusts advance to Uganda

New Vision Uganda

By Geoffrey Mutegeki

Locusts can cover as much as 150km a day and a swarm can destroy crops sufficient to feed 2,500 people for a year, according to the United Nations.

The Government has advised the public to stock up on food as a precautionary measure following reports from Kenya that indicate that the locusts have now reached the Samburu and Turkana areas, which are close to the Uganda-Kenya border.
Turkana is about 166km from Karamoja, meaning the locusts can reach Uganda in less than two days.

Locusts can cover as much as 150km a day and a swarm can destroy crops sufficient to feed 2,500 people for a year, according to the United Nations.
Experts estimate that the insects are capable of destroying at least 200 tonnes of vegetation per day.
Since the invasion in Kenya late last month, districts in Karamoja and eastern Uganda have been put on higher alert and the public asked to report to the nearest extension staff any ‘strange grasshoppers’ detected.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Dr Ruhakana Rugunda convened a meeting, where he said the threat of a possible invasion of locusts is increasingly becoming imminent. He said the Government is taking the threat seriously.
“Experts at the meeting warned that an invasion of the locusts would wreak havoc by destroying crops and vegetation, causing famine, thus the need to act with urgency,” Rugunda said.

Experts say the locusts have the potential to destroy swathes of maize, coffee, vegetables and pastures.
Rugunda directed the agriculture ministry to quickly submit to the finance ministry a comprehensive list of requirements for preventing the invasion, including facilities for aerial spraying, for funding.
“We have to find the money to undertake preventive efforts, because we will save the country much more, other than waiting to respond. This is an emergency and all agencies must be on the alert to play their roles in a timely manner,” Rugunda said.

Recently, the agriculture ministry requested for a sh5b contingent fund in preparation for the possible invasion of desert locusts.
The money is expected cater for aircraft fuel, pesticides for control, provide for ground spray equipment and spray teams and to create awareness in case of an invasion, state minister for agriculture Aggrey Bagiire said. 
Rugunda also instructed different government agencies to work together to heighten the country’s preparedness to prevent or handle the invasion.
“We call on our partners to work with the Government to prevent and combat the danger of a possible locust invasion,” Rugunda said.


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