Uganda Faced with Food Shortage As the Fight Against Corona virus and Locust Attack Persist

Every farmer in Uganda are all getting ready for new attack of desert locusts after the recent swarms entry from neighboring country Kenya last week, destroying crops and leading to hunger. This is coming in the period where the government is doing everything possible to contain the corona virus pandemic. East African countries are fighting locusts outbreak known to be the worst in decades as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization warned that the situation is extremely alarming and pose a threat to food security and livelihoods coming in the planting season. According to reports by Uganda’s officials, the latest insect invasion came through the Eastern border of Amudat on April 3. Unlike previous invasions, the new arrivals of insects comprises mainly of growth stage insect that have the potential of destroying vegetation anywhere. According to Vincent Ssempojja, Ugandans agriculture minister, the nymphs and young locusts have high affinity for food and if measures are not taken to stop them; it may be an immense danger to food security and livelihood.

Source: Aljazeera.com

The Executive Director of the Food Right Alliance Agnes Kirabo also said that the new Exodus of swarms are more destructive and a big threat to food security as farmers will not have any other way of livelihood apart from their farms. It pose a threat to a less resilient Uganda agriculture sector and food system. This will affect farmers and nomadic herders in the Eastern part of the country often regarded as the poorest and most marginalized region. The pandemic caused by the outbreak of the coronavirus added more to the threat. Planted crops are in danger and there is need for the government to make available food supplies to the vulnerable population.

The fight against the ravaging locusts has been difficult mainly due to the flight ban imposed to weaken the spread of the coronavirus. This have delayed pesticides delivery in the country and the countries across the region. Uganda has deployed troops to carry out control operations but the lack of pesticides hinders their success stories if aircraft were used. There are small number of staff providing support to field control activities which is partly due to the control measures in place in the country now due to the coronavirus pandemic. The government despite the new wave of locust swarms urged and encouraged farmers to take advantage of the recent rains and plant crops in order to avoid food crisis. If such action is not taken, the usual food insecurity will override the country, people will suffer due to lack of food, and the situation can be worsen since the world is witnessing the coronavirus pandemic.

People of Ongino sub-country in Kumi district chasing away the locust from their gardens
Source: Al Jazeera

Furthermore, the United Nations has warned that there will be an increase of the swarms by 500 times by June and this pose a threat to millions of lives in a region that is vulnerable already. According to Agnes Kirabo, soon the eggs will hatch into hopper bands and this will form new swarms come late June and July, which happens to be the start of the harvest. A plan or alternative program against locusts should be put in place as sooner than later the issue will no longer be an issue of disaster and emergency but an issue of institutional and systematic planning. There is a need to engage the government of Kenya and other neighboring countries on the possibility of a joint operation for ground spraying to ensure that the newly hatched hoppers do not make it to maturity and swarm into the country.

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