Locust Invasion: Uganda Secures spraying aircraft

Uganda has finally secured an aircraft to enable aerial spray of locusts, which by yesterday, had spread to 17 districts in Karamoja, Teso, Acholi and Lango sub-regions.

Since the locusts invaded Uganda, the Government has been in frantically trying to acquire the aircraft, which had been expected last week.

Bright Rwamirama, the state minister for animal industry, said a cabinet session on Monday also cleared the agriculture ministry to prepare a new budget under Plan B and present it on Monday, detailing how they will deal with an anticipated fresh invasion of locusts from Somaliland.

“The resources are not enough. We need to plan,” Rwamirama told journalists at the Uganda Media Centre, yesterday.

“The aircraft was cleared on Monday and it is going to be stationed in Moroto district,” he said, emphasising that another aircraft has been hired by the Government as a backup. “We have procured the pesticides which will be delivered within three days,” Rwamirama added.

Plan A and B

Last week, Rwamirama and Musa Ecweru (state minister for disaster preparedness) travelled to Nairobi, Kenya to engage a private firm Farmland Aviation to give the Uganda two aeroplanes to enhance aerial spraying.

The two ministers also engaged the Desert Locust Control Organisation for East Africa (DLCO-EA) for support, including the provision of aeroplanes to combat the spread of locusts in the region. Rwamirama said the aircraft was secured from the DLCO- EA after Uganda paid an sh11b subscription fee out of the sh18b in outstanding arrears the country owes the regional locust body.

“Where we have a wide presence of the population, we will use the hand spray. Aerial spraying will be done in wide bush areas. People should stay calm. We have strategically moved. We have Plan A and B,” he said.

Rwamirama added: “Plan A is to deal with the problem now, using available resources, while Plan B is to anticipate, because we have areas where we do not have effective control, such as Somaliland and around the Red Sea, where war is taking place.

‘‘The locusts have taken advantage of the war in Yemen. So, we must prepare in case more swarms come.”

The aircraft will back up the motorised and handheld pumps that the army has been using.

‘‘I was to receive the aircraft on Tuesday morning from Moroto since it was flying in via Lodwar, Kenya. However, it was delayed while being serviced since it has been busy and now I am told it will be ready on Friday,” Musa Ecweru, the state minister of the disaster said yesterday while in Soroti district.

Accountability

Commenting on the accountability question, Rwamirama said out of the sh22b budget, sh11b was used to pay arrears to the regional body and the rest has been used to procure other related logistical requirements needed to deal with the invasion.

“Much of the money has gone into the purchase of chemicals and pumps for spraying,” he said, appealing for more resources.

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Patrick Luwagga is the editorial director of cross-platform content for UGANDANZ. He works across the newsroom and with business partners to drive and develop ambitious editorial projects that include digital journalism, video, data research, polling, live events, and thought-leadership series that are supported by outside underwriting. As executive director, he is responsible for the creation of Political news section, prior to joining UGANDANZ, Patrick was the chief editor for the national weekly news magazine of Kasese Times. In that role, he covered several presidential elections, wrote and produced two television documentaries, and was a regular commentator on television and radio news programs. Patrick was born in Masaka and grew up in Kasese. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Makerere University where he was a Knight Foundation journalism fellow.