By Melodie Mukansonera
A second wave of desert locusts that is said to be 20 times worse, is set to plague some east African countries amidst concerns by experts that some countries in the region are not well prepared.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation warned that the billion-strong swarm of locusts could “reproduce rapidly and, if left unchecked, their current numbers could grow 500 times by June,” spreading to from South Sudan to Uganda
According to Ugandan based media reports, previously close to Ushs 20 billion was released for fighting the first wave but the money can’t be accounted for,” said a source privy to information on how Uganda mismanaged the first wave. The source added that with the coronavirus pandemic that has crippled the economy, and the upcoming presidential elections of which most money has been diverted, Uganda may not be in position to manage a second wave of locusts.
Latest developments indicate that the country now is looking for potential lenders, to borrow Ushs 147 billion ostensibly “to fight locusts for the next three years.”
So far, Uganda’s finance Minister Matia Kasaija is working out a plan with his Agriculture counterpart, Vincent Sempijja, to borrow the Ushs 147 billion from the World Bank.
Uganda officials also recently said that they had started seeing signals of upcoming locusts wave that could further destabilize food security, and the livelihoods of people in the east and north of the country. The insects follow spring rains, seeking emerging crops and other vegetation.
Hellen Adoa, a senior official at Uganda’s agriculture department, said, “this is a very active, destructive swarm and we are worried it has come at the time of lockdown. We are a bit overwhelmed. The moment they arrive in a place the first thing they do is eat anything green. They have destroyed some fields of crops and vegetation,” she said.
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) also issued a warned that rising numbers of Desert Locusts present an extremely alarming and unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in some parts of Africa. “Locust swarms have started laying eggs and another generation of breeding will increase their numbers. Urgent efforts must be made to stop them from increasing to protect the livelihoods of farmers and livestock holders,” said Keith Cressman, Senior Locust Forecasting Officer at FAO.
The potential for destruction is enormous. A locust swarm of one square kilometer can eat the same amount of food in one day as 35,000 people.