IT’S CONFIRMED: Locusts have crossed into Uganda


By Andrew Kaggwa and David Luganda, NECJOGHA

It’s confirmed! The marauding desert locusts on Sunday crossed into Uganda through the border district of Amudat in the Karamoja region.

By Monday swarms of locusts had also spread in the Moroto district.

On Sunday, government officials held a crisis meeting to prepare how to prevent the locusts that have ravaged several parts of Kenya, from spreading to other parts of Uganda. The crisis meeting was chaired by the Prime Minister, Ruhakana Rugunda.

Reports say that the locusts entered Uganda via North West Pokot in Kenya, where they have destroyed hundreds of acres of vegetation.

“Surveillance and control teams mobilized by government are already in Karamoja sub-region and Uganda met all requirements of the Desert Locust Control Organisation for Eastern Africa,” Dr. Rugunda said.

The Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF), Vincent Ssempijja said his ministry would release a statement today (Monday) about the locusts.

FAO commits to help Uganda

A statement by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FA) through its Twitter handle promised to help Uganda’s handle the locust problem.


Facts about Locusts

  • The Desert Locust is one of about a dozen species of short-horned grasshoppers (Acridoidea) that are known to change their behavior and form swarms of adults or bands of hoppers (wingless nymphs). The swarms that form can be dense and highly mobile. The Latin name for Desert Locust is Schistocerca gregaria (Forskal).
  • A Desert Locust lives a total of about three to five months although this is extremely variable and depends mostly on weather and ecological conditions. The life cycle comprises three stages: egg, hopper and adult. Eggs hatch in about two weeks (the range is 10-65 days), hoppers develop in five to six stages over a period of about 30-40 days, and adults mature in about three weeks to nine months but more frequently from two to four months.
  • Desert Locust females lay eggs in an egg pod primarily in sandy soils at a depth of 10-15 centimetres below the surface. A solitary female lays about 95-158 eggs whereas a gregarious female lays usually less than 80 eggs in an egg pod. Females can lay at least three times in their lifetime usually at intervals of about 6-11 days. Up to 1,000 egg pods have been found in one square metre.
  • Desert Locusts usually fly with the wind at a speed of about 16-19 km/h depending on the wind. Swarms can travel about 5-130 km or more in a day. Locusts can stay in the air for long periods of time. For example, locusts regularly cross the Red Sea, a distance of 300 km. In the past there have been some spectacular and very long distance swarm migrations, for example from North-West Africa to the British Isles in 1954 and from West Africa to the Caribbean, a distance of 5,000 km in about ten days in 1988. Solitary Desert Locust adults usually fly at night whereas gregarious adults (swarms) fly during the day.
  • Locust swarms can vary from less than one square kilometre to several hundred square kilometres. There can be at least 40 million and sometimes as many as 80 million locust adults in each square kilometre of swarm.
  • Locusts do not attack people or animals. There is no evidence that suggests that locusts carry diseases that could harm humans
  • There are many reasons as to why it is difficult to successfully combat the Desert Locust. Some of these are: (1) the extremely large area (16-30 million sq. km) within which locusts can be found, (2) the remoteness and difficult access of such areas, (3) the insecurity or lack of safety (such as land mines) in some areas, (4) the limited resources for locust monitoring and control in some of the affected countries, (5) the undeveloped basic infrastructure (roads, communications, water and food) in many countries, (6) the difficulty in maintaining a sufficient number of trained staff and functioning resources during the long periods of recession in which there is little or no locust activity, (7) political relations amongst affected countries, (8) the difficulty in organizing and implementing control operations in which the pesticide must be applied directly onto the locusts, and (9) the difficulty in predicting outbreaks given the lack of periodicity of such incidents and the uncertainty of rainfall in locust areas.
  • People in several countries collect locusts using large nets and by other means. Locusts are usually stir-fried, roasted or boiled and eaten immediately or dried and eaten later. Locusts are rich in protein. During periods of increased locust activity, piles of dead locusts can be found in the market places of many locust affected countries. 




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