On January 30, 1933 an invasion of locusts occurred in Kampala. A report was compiled and sent to the Economic Advisory Council Committee on Locust Investigation in East Africa by Mr H. B Johnston of the then Department of Agriculture, Entebbe. In his report, Johnston sent locust specimens to the UK for studying.
The report was accompanied with the locusts’ drawings in their stages of development. He also submitted photographs of breeding cages for research purposes and a map of meteorological observation stations in Uganda. Among other countries in the region, the Imperial Institute of Entomology took a decision to concentrate locust research in Uganda.
In his reports, he noted locusts’ characteristics, habits and behaviours. Classification of species was done and the following were identified; Schistocera, gregaria, migratorioides and solitaria.
He documented the damage wrought to crops with photographs of Kapeeka, Uganda and compared his studies with those done in Sudan, Kenya, Tanganyika and Nigeria.
He reported the various studies he had undertaken on methods of destruction, which included by burning, beating, poisoning and trenching. Other studies included studies on egg laying, feeding and reproduction habits. He recorded the differences between locusts and grasshoppers and showed general patterns of flight of swarms in East Africa, Sudan and Congo.
His recommendations to the Uganda Protectorate Government was to initiate research on locusts and a need for compilation of accurate data on their movements, distribution and possible exchange of reports by governments in Africa on research and control operations.
Mr Johnston and Mr Buxton, who were carrying out investigations in swarming locusts in Uganda between 1932 and 1939, corresponded with Boris Petrovich Uvarov, an accomplished entomologist.
Born in 1888 in Russia, he came to England and took appointment at the Imperial Bureau (later Commonwealth Institute). In 1929, he was given the task of organising and supervising the investigations of swarming locusts commissioned from the Commonwealth Institute by the Committee on Civil Research.
He was the first Director of the Anti-Locust Research Centre, which was established under the Colonial Office in 1945. He retired from the directorship in 1959, but continued as Consultant until his death in March 1970.
It is surprising that whereas this research was undertaken in Uganda, no information has been forthcoming from the concerned ministry’s archives. The archives in UK’s National Archives, whose reports and correspondence emanated from Entebbe, are very informative (the files are in the AY 4 and AY 11 archival classes).
People preserving and feeding on locusts are documented. Maybe now the oncoming swarms could be trapped and turned into animal and poultry feeds if they have not been poisoned. The beliefs of natives at that time that it is rare for a living person to witness two locust invasions may hold true as there has never been another invasion since that year.