Grasshopper trappers in Masaka Sub region have petitioned the government to allow them join the fight against the destructive desert locusts that invaded the country.
Under their umbrella Old Masaka Basenene Association Limited (OMBAU), the grasshopper trappers say that they can fight and end the problem of destructive locusts.
Mr Kuraish Katongole, the national chairperson OMBAU said they have written to Minister of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, Mr Vincent Ssempijja expressing interest in the fight against locusts at a low cost without using praying pesticides that affect the environment.
“We have been in this trade of trapping grasshoppers for 30 years and they are similar to desert locusts and we have the capacity to catch more than 500 bags of locusts in one single day without using chemicals which are dangerous to the environment,” Mr Katongole said.
“We catch grasshoppers whose source is not known, do you doubt our capacity to catch the locusts which we know are in Karamoja and Teso sub regions?” he said.
There are at least 500 registered grasshopper trappers in Masaka, according to Mr Katongole.
Mr Yusuf Kakande, the general secretary OMBAU wondered why government decided to deploy soldiers to fight locusts yet they who have experience in trapping insects were not considered.
He said that as the government is still struggling to secure the expensive pesticides, grasshopper trappers should be brought on board in the fight against the desert locusts.
“Why were we sidelined in the first place? We are qualified in trapping insects, this problem can be solved in days if we are considered in the fight,” he said.
This comes days after government response team against desert locusts received an aircraft from Desert Locust Control Organisation of East Africa (DLCO-EA) to help in the fight as more swarms invade the country.
Swarms of desert locusts have since spread to other sub regions like Teso, Lango, Sebei and Acholi. However, the latest swarms arrived when the army had secured a second spraying chopper. Since locusts invaded the country early this month, soldiers have been using motorized and hand-held spray pumps.
Mr Andrew Lubwama, a grasshopper dealer in Nyendo, a Masaka town suburb believes that with the use of their strong bulbs and metallic drums they can trap huge tones of locusts in just one night.
Grasshoppers which are locally known as ensenene are usually harvested in the months of May, November and December.
Over the years, Masaka has generally been known as a home of grasshoppers, a trade that has been a valuable source of income for many people in the region.
He also wondered why the government did not consult them before going in for the expensive means of fighting locusts which he says has not also yielded much.
When contacted Agriculture Minister, Mr Vincent Ssempijja said government is going to look into the request by grasshopper trappers.
“I have talked to them [grasshopper trappers] and informed them that these insects are a bit different from grasshoppers, they don’t move at night like grasshoppers. But the experts are going to look into their request and give technical advice, if it is discovered that lights can be used to trap desert locusts, we shall invite them,” he said.
How Nsenene are trapped
Dealers in this booming informal trade normally use large shiny iron sheets lined up vertically into a barrel at the bottom with bright bulbs suspended to attract them to the trap.
When the grasshoppers come to the lights, they circle around them until they fall onto the sheets, and slip into the barrels. While in the trap, they cannot escape.