The aircraft that Uganda received six days ago to boost the operation against locusts lies idle in Moroto District due to lack of pesticides.
Government received the aircraft from Desert Locust Control Organisation (DLCO-EA), a regional organisation for integrated pest and vector management that was established to ensure food security in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, and Djibouti. Mr Vincent Sempijja, The Agriculture minister, yesterday said the plane could not swing into action because the special chemical for use was not in place. He said the country on Wednesday received 400 litres of Fenitrothion out of the 10,000 litres they expected and the spraying using the DLCO-EA aircraft will kick off soon.
“We have got some chemicals from the supplier and spraying will begin within one or two days. This will take us four to five days,” he said.
He, however, said the ministry is still waiting for more chemicals. Earlier, the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Pius Wakabi, had said government had ordered for 10,000 litres of Fenitrothion, a phosphorothioate insecticide at a cost of Shs2.8b.
“The agreed price is $75 (Shs272,000) per litre,” Mr Wakabi told Daily Monitor last week. However, Mr Sempijja said the specialised pesticide that is manufactured by Sumitomo, Japan is not readily available.
“This is due to the overwhelming demand arising from the current wave of desert locust outbreaks across the East African region and beyond. This has caused a delay in the delivery of the chemicals,” he said.
Government had earlier modified one of the UPDF helicopters to spray locusts. However, Dr John Bahana, the adviser to the Ministry of Agriculture on locusts, said helicopters are only good for surveying.
“Helicopters are not very effective because the rotating wing create strong wind that disperse the chemical away from the intended target,” he said.
Local people, who are affected by locusts and experts have also said the current method of ground spraying conducted by UPDF soldiers is not helping much.
They say locusts are always in flight and on top of trees that the foot troops cannot access. Mr Louis Ogalo of Dipulyec Village, Lamwo District, one of the affected areas, said:
“Much as the spraying is going on, it is still ineffective.” Mr Sempijja said no prominent damage has so far been reported. He added that government is preparing to tackle the eggs that are about to hatch.
“These eggs that have been laid may hatch into hoppers, the most destructive stage of the locust. Our technical team and the UPDF are on the ground boosting surveillance to ensure the emerging generation of locusts is controlled,” he said.
He also said experts are warning that billions of swarms have hatched in Turkana and they may invade Uganda.