Give public clear advice on locusts

Wednesday February 12 2020

Efforts. Residents fight locusts in Kenya

Efforts. Residents fight locusts in Kenya recently. The locust invasion in East Africa is the biggest in Kenya in 70 years, according to the FAO. COURTESY PHOTO  

By Editor

News of random sightings of desert locusts across districts in the northern Uganda is widespread. With the sightings also come more panic from the locals who are unsure of what to do in the face of the scary insect invasion.
From Amudat, more of the locusts have been sighted in five other districts of Moroto, Nabilatuk, Nakapiripirit, Napak, and Abim. Also neighbouring districts of Agago, Kitgum and Lamwo in Acholi Sub-region, have reported sightings of a handful of the desert locusts. For now, the locals need to know what the solitary sightings mean and when to expect the menacing swarm.
There are also unanswered questions about how locals can identify the desert locusts by appearances and whether locusts can harm humans and livestock or not.
Indeed, the rural communities are right to worry, given devastating reports of what the locusts can do to food crops and pasture, which are the mainstay of the mixed farming and pastoral communities in northern and north-eastern Uganda.
Most worryingly, a single swarm of locusts can cover an area up to 60 kilometres long by 40 kilometres wide, and can travel five to 130 kilometres a day, with each adult locust eating up to two grammes every day. This means the arrival of marauding millions of the locusts have the potential to wreak havoc on the communities, devastating livelihoods of millions and exposing them to hunger and famine.
Already, the unpredictable weather has done enough damage to the rural communities. But many more questions remain unanswered and the communities need to be educated.
Certainly, the wananchi would be reassured to know that sightings of solitary locusts are not uncommon as they fly by night, and swarms by day. It would also be useful to make the communities know the swarms can vary from a stretch of one square kilometre to several hundred square kilometres and can number up to tens of millions.
Spreading such information as provided by FAO on the locusts are useful. Surely, such clarity on solitary adult desert locusts being brown, while those in swarms are pink (immature hoppers), and yellow (adult), would help stem some of the fears about the desert locusts. There are also questions whether the locusts are edible or not, and risks of eating them after being sprayed.
These and many more answers to what happens to bee-farmers in the sub-region since the chemicals being sprayed to kill off the locusts are reportedly dangerous to useful insects such as bees, are essential.
In sum, the ministries, departments, and agencies responsible should educate the public about these locusts, chemicals used to spray them and implications to bee farmers and livelihoods.