The government is planning to buy its own aircraft for aerial sprays in response to locusts and other insect attacks in future.
Uganda has been on high alert in anticipation of a possible invasion of desert locusts, now reported to be about 60 kilometers away from Amudat and Kaabong districts in North Eastern Uganda. The locusts are wreaking havoc in West Pokot in Kenya.
Speaking at celebrations to mark the 39th Tarehe Sita anniversary in Nakaseke District on Thursday, President Yoweri Museveni said that the government is ready to decisively deal with locusts in case they cross to Uganda.
Mr Museveni said that he convened a meeting over the issue on Wednesday and they agreed on several strategies to fight the locusts. He said that one of the strategies is to deploy ground sprayers to be based in Moroto District.
He added that an aircraft has already been sourced and is on alert for aerial sprays in case of an attack. He added that the government will buy its own aircraft to stop dependence on other countries in the future.
“On the issue of locusts, on Wednesday we had a meeting and we are going to move decisively both on ground and in the air in case they cross to Uganda. We are going to buy our own aircraft for future use,” Mr Museveni said.
At least 2,000 UPDF soldiers have been trained to carry out small scale spraying.
Recently, Mr Stephen Byantwale, the commissioner for crop protection at Ministry of Agriculture was quoted by media saying that Uganda had no aircraft and the ministry was working with the Desert Locust Control Organisation of East Africa (DLCO-EA), based in Nairobi, Kenya to provide aircraft incase locusts cross to Uganda.
But Evarist Magara, the Uganda representative to DLCO-EA also told media the limited financial commitment from the government of Uganda would complicate the possibility of assistance from the locust control body. He said that they would bring in spray aircraft if Uganda pays up the debts of Shs18 billion.
Districts in Karamoja have already deployed teams at the Uganda-Kenya border to monitor the movement of the deadly desert locusts.
The Director of Extension Services, Beatrice Byarugaba told the media in Kampala recently that the ministry had requested for Shs11 billion for the contingency plan. She however said only Shs5 billion was available.