Farmers in Kisoro are overwhelmed by a new pest: the red swamp crayfish.
The Louisiana red swamp crayfish is reported to be causing havoc in subsistence farms in low lying areas, valleys and wetlands. The farmers say the fast-reproducing crayfish bores holes into their fields causing damage to water courses, eating plant roots and spreading a fungus that kills young crops.
Louisiana red swamp crayfish are not indigenous to Uganda. The crayfish, that resemble small lobsters, haven cultured in Lake Bunyonyi and other lakes in southwestern Uganda, as well as at Kajjansi Aquaculture Research and Development Center. The crayfish are sold as a delicacy to tourists in the Kigezi region. Local populations do not eat them much, using them as fish bait and food for pigs.
The Kisoro District Agriculture Officer, Justus Rwakare, says the crayfish have moved from the lakes to terraces where they have invaded about four square kilometers of wetland. He says crop harvests in affected areas have dropped drastically.
Elias Rukina, chairperson of the Kisoro Wetland Farmers Association, appeals to government to help to control the invasion of the crayfish. He proposes that government should help them process the crayfish into animal feeds before the invasion spirals out of control.
The Louisiana red swamp crayfish is well documented as an invasive species worldwide. In Lake Naivasha in Kenya, where it was introduced in 1970, it is believed to have caused the complete disappearance of native floating-leaved and submerged plants by 1982. In its native southern USA, the red swamp crayfish is responsible for the damaging of levees, dams, and water control structures.
At Kajjansi Aquaculture Research and Development Center, the crayfish has become a menace. It bores through the earthen ponds causing leakage and cross-pond fish mixing.