President Yoweri Museveni has expressed the need to retool the Desert Locust Control Organisation for Eastern Africa ((DLCO-EA) with new technologies as a way of effectively dealing with locust swarms that are a threat to agriculture-based livelihoods in the region.
Speaking to the DLCO-EA council of ministers who called on him at Nakasero State Lodge in Kampala, the President said when locusts invaded Uganda and wreaked havoc in Otuke district, northern Uganda and Karamoja sub-region in 2020, the helicopter provided to fight locusts almost failed because it could not fly at night, yet it was the best time to spray them because they are unable to fly.
He said they had to involve the Uganda People’s Defence (UPDF) Forces in fighting locusts.
“I totally agree that you should reform, especially technologically. That little aircraft of yours doesn’t fly at night, very early in the morning and in bad weather; by the time it starts flying at 10:00am, the locusts are already flying,” Museveni said, adding that the army was effective because it started killing the locusts at night when they cannot move.
“So, we should have a stronger aircraft, maybe with night vision, able to spray at night so that we solve the problem quickly because all the night hours were wasted.”
Museveni said the management of desert locusts should become a responsibility of the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) in Eastern Africa in what he termed as IGAD+ to include Tanzania, which is not a member, instead of creating another organisation.
“Because IGAD is dealing with drought and so on. You can think about the concept of IGAD Plus. They (Tanzania) may not be members of IGAD, but for the purpose of locusts, we can mention it to Her Excellency Samia Suluhu Hassan. I will propose it to them,” he added, according to a press release issued by State House on Friday.
The group was led by agriculture state minister Fred Kyakulaga, who is also the first vice-chairperson of DLCO-EA Council of Ministers.
The council members were in Uganda for their 67th session and to celebrate their 60th anniversary.
Kyakulaga thanked Museveni “for allowing the UPDF to participate in the desert locust control operations in 2020, a best practice that is being emulated by other member countries”.
He also informed the President about the financial challenges affecting the organisation partly due to failure by member states to fulfil their contributions, which currently totals to $2.1m (about sh8b) a year.
He said of this amount, Tanzania contributes 20%, Ethiopia 19%, Kenya 19%, Sudan 18%, while Uganda, South Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti and Somalia 6% each.
“Unfortunately, many member countries perennially don’t fulfil their obligations. And as of June, this year, the outstanding arrears for all the countries was $12.6m (about sh48.2b),” Kyakulaga said.
He said Tanzania owes the organisation $4,841, Ethiopia $97,173, Kenya $388,697, South Sudan $6,526,537, Djibouti $2,641,280, Somalia $245,525 and Uganda $1,707,423. It is only Eritrea that has fully paid.
Kyakulaga requested that the outstanding arrears by member states be prioritised and cleared.
He called for a mechanism to ensure that arrears do not accumulate again.
President Museveni said Uganda will pay all its arrears.
The DLCO-EA, which is a United Nations registered organisation established by an international convention signed by all member countries in 1962, supports member countries in the prevention and control of migratory pests (locusts, armyworms, tsetse flies, and quelea birds), and any emerging pests that threaten food security in the member countries.