The Ministry of Agriculture is seeking another Shs16 billion to fight locusts that have spread to 23 districts in the eastern and northern parts of the country.
The minister of Agriculture, Mr Vincent Sempijja, said the response team has been alerted of another huge swarm in Turkana, Kenya, that would invade the country anytime.
“Locust swarms have now been confirmed in the regions of Karamoja, Teso, Acholi, Lango and Sebei,” he said at a press briefing in Kampala yesterday.
The minister said the money will be used to boost capacity of the existing locust control operations.
“We have asked for more Shs16 billion. Of this, Shs9b will be for the UPDF response team, Shs5.6b will be used to buy more chemicals and the rest shall be used to support lower local governments,” he said.
The minister said government through the Desert Locust Control Organisation of East Africa (DLCO-EA) is working to confront the locusts from their breeding site in Turkana.
He said government is not paying for the aircraft that was brought into the country from DLCO-EA to contain the locusts. “There is no extra payment we make for the aircraft, its pilot or engineers. The only thing they are waiting for are chemicals for aerial spray to start,” Mr Sempijja said.
The minister dismissed claims that government has wasted the money earlier allocated for containing the locusts.
“The loss and risk to the country would have been greater if nothing had been done given the feeding patterns of desert locusts. Up to $218.3 million of crops would be at stake if we did nothing,” he said.
The minister said the high demand from a number of countries battling with locusts such as Pakistan and Ethiopia and other countries is making it hard for Uganda to get the required chemicals for aerial spray.
Mr Sempijja added that no mature locusts, which experts say are more destructive, are in the country. “The existing swarms are classified as mature adult locusts that are mainly laying eggs,” he said.
UPDF plane joins fight
The minister also revealed that the UPDF response team has modified one of their helicopters to spray locusts. Asked why the plane is using a chemical that is not recommended for aerial spray, the minister said: “Helicopters and drones fly at slow speed and near the ground, so they can be effective in applying the chemicals for ground spray. They are not like the other plane from DLCO-EA that moves at high speed and high above the ground.”