Fall Army Worm Ravages Maize Gardens in Omoro District

2066 Views Omoro, Uganda

In short
An outbreak of fall army worms in Omoro district in Acholi sub region is ravaging hundreds of acres of crop fields in various sub counties. The pests that were first reported in April this year have so far destroyed an estimated 500 acres of Maize in the sub counties of Odek, Lalogi, Lakwana, Koro, Bobi and Ongako.

An outbreak of fall army worms in Omoro district in Acholi sub region is ravaging hundreds of acres of crop fields in various sub counties.
 
The pests that were first reported in April this year have so far destroyed an estimated 500 acres of Maize in the sub counties of Odek, Lalogi, Lakwana, Koro, Bobi and Ongako.
 
The fall army worms are caterpillars that march across the landscape in large groups feasting on young plants, leaving devastation in the fields. It is currently being reported in Western, Central, Southern and Eastern African countries including Uganda where at least 65 districts are struggling to contain the pests. 
 
Godfrey Oyet Jomo, the Omoro district Production officer says the intensity of destruction in Koro Sub County, situated astride Gulu - Kampala Highway stands at 52 percent. He said farmers are helpless to control the pests.

Oyet says a multitude of the pests sighted in a Maize garden in Koro Sub County on April 21st have spread to the entire gardens.
 
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Incidents of destruction have also been reported in large farms of Uganda Prisons Service in Kaladima areas in neighbouring Amuru district. Sprouting maize of three to six weeks old are extremely vulnerable to the pests that also severely graze on grass and other cereals including Sorghum and Millet.
 
Uganda's Ministry of Agriculture has been informed of the environmental disaster but Oyet fears that help might not come in time for affected farmers. He cautions farmers to be extra careful when buying pesticides to control the pests as some are defective against the pests.
 
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Josephine Okot, the Proprietor and Managing Director of Victoria Seeds Limited, the largest seed distributor in Acholi region, suspects the worms could have been in Uganda longer than reported.
 
Okot earlier told URN that she had spotted invasive attack by alien-looking worms on Maize crops in different part of the country during the past rainy season, suggesting that the worms could have been in Uganda long before they were detected in disastrous proportions this year.
 
"I collected samples that I wanted to send to International Institute for Tropical Agriculture but courier service providers DHL declined to dispatch the samples," she told URN in an earlier interview.
 
Last week, the State Minister for Agriculture Christopher Kibanzanga said government was considering aerial spraying to control the invasive pests that have affected at least 65 districts.

Douglas Peter Okello, the Omoro district Local Council Chairperson, says by attacking cereals, the fall army worm is threatening to wipe the mainstay sources of staple food in the region.   
 
Okello says government must act fast to avert a major food crisis in the wake of the pests and a prolonged drought.

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About the author

Peter Labeja
Peter Labeja has been a practicing journalist for the last 13 years during which he has covered part of the brutal conflict which bedeviled Northern Uganda as well as the painful transition to Peace thereafter. Emerging post conflict issues such as land rights of under privileged widows and orphans, challenges of access to social services in the immediate aftermath of Lord’s Resistance Army conflict in Northern Uganda.

Labeja is now the Northern Uganda Bureau chief in Acholi Sub Region since 2014 - Gulu, Amuru, Nwoya and Omoro districts as well as South Sudan falls within his areas of jurisdiction. He previously worked with The Vision Group for four years.

Labeja’s major career interests are in Climate Change; Agriculture and Environment - natural resources such as Water, Oil and Gas; Transitional Justice; Human Rights, Democracy and Governance as well as South Sudan’s humanitarian crisis. In 2013, Labeja was awarded a prestigious Pan African Journalism Award for excellence in journalism at United Nation’s UNEP headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya for Climate Change and Health Reporting.