Farmers Reject Gov't Interventions against Deadly Army Worms

3247 Views Luweero, Uganda

In short
The Ministry of Agriculture announced yesterday that it had secured 4.5 billion Shillings to be used to buy pesticides, motorized spray pumps and for holding awareness meetings with farmers as it seeks to battle the deadly caterpillars that have devastated gardens in more than 50 districts.

Farmers in Luweero district have rejected interventions by the Ministry of Agriculture saying they are inadequate and likely to have no impact in fighting the maize ravaging fall army worm.

The Ministry of Agriculture announced yesterday that it had secured 4.5 billion Shillings to be used to buy pesticides, motorized spray pumps and for holding awareness meetings with farmers as it seeks to battle the deadly caterpillars that have devastated gardens in more than 50 districts.

The caterpillars march across the landscape in large groups feasting on grassy plants such as maize, millet, sorghum, rice, wheat, sugarcane, cow peas, potato, soybean, and cotton. Originally from South America, the army worms have also spread to a number of countries in east, central and southern Africa.

In Luweero District, the worms have ravaged maize gardens in Butuntumula, Kikyusa, Luweero and Zirobwe Sub Counties.

Agriculture Minister Vincent Bamulangaki Ssempijja presented 40 litres of Striker Pesticide to Operation Wealth Creation commanders in Luweero to demonstrate to farmers on how to fight fall army worms. The Ministry also recommended the use of Engeo and Rocket pesticides to fight the pest.

On Tuesday, Luweero District Operation Wealth Commander Colonel Muhamood Abiriga and District Production Officer Sarah Namubiru visited some of affected farmers to sensitize them on recommended pesticides and how to spray against the fall army worms.

But farmers who turned up at maize farms at Kakabala village left the site disappointed and attacked the Ministry of Agriculture for failing to subsidize or distribute free pesticides to deal with the deadly worms.

The farmers said that they expected the Ministry to provide free pesticides because they are expensive but they were surprised to tell them they had come for awareness which is late and destruction had been done.

Abdul-Magid Kirya, a maize farmer at Kakabala village in Butuntumula Sub County says that what they want now is Ministry of Agriculture to use part of 4.5 billion Shillings they secured from government to subsidize or provide pesticides to affected farmers instead of spending money on field awareness meetings.

Kirya adds that the recommended striker pesticide costs over 32,000 Shillings which is high to residents who are just recovering from a prolonged dry spell. Kirya also added that 40 litres are not enough to use for sensitization of hundreds of farmers who are affected by the pest.
 
Cue in: "Eddagala nga striker…
Cue out;…tekinyamba bulungi"//
 
Livingstone Ssesunku, another farmer in Butuntumula Sub County added that sensitization meetings could have at the time of the outbreak. He adds that what is important now is the availability of pesticides to save those under attack.

He also questioned how the ministry intends to utilize the 4.5 billion Shillings if it's not willing to subsidize or distribute free pesticides to affected farmers.
 
Cue; " abalimi tuli bubbi…
Cue out;…tuwere bwerere"//
 
Veronica Nabbowa, another farmer says that she has lost half an acre of crops to the fall army worm and she is unable to buy the recommended pesticides to spray against the pest.

Nabbowa says that the Ministry should treat the matter as a disaster and distribute free pesticides or else the farmers will be hit by fresh hunger after the massive destruction.

But Sarah Namubiru the Luweero District Production Officer says the Ministry may not afford to distribute free pesticides to farmers. She advises them to sacrifice and reduce crop loss.
 
Cue in: "lino eddagala….
Cue out;…bebatugambye"//
 
The pest can cause crop losses of up to 73 percent and once it is at an advanced larval development stage can become difficult to control with pesticides.

The UN food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says that following the spread, Zambia, another African country in the Sub Saharan region, lost more than 90,000 hectares of maize to the pests. Malawi lost 17,000 hectares, Zimbabwe reported a potential 130,000 hectares affected, while in Namibia, approximately 50,000 hectares of maize and millet were damaged.

 

About the author

Brian Luwaga
Since Brian Luwaga joined Uganda Radio Network in 2011, he is still amazed how, "URN is a place that gives journalists a chance to enhance their skills . It gives a journalist an opportunity to adopt and master various aspects of journalism that include radio broadcast, social media, photography and television production."

A practicing journalist since 2009, first with Star FM, Luwaga has always been keen to write about the concerns of the "common person." Based for much of his career in Luweero, Luwaga takes it as a compliment if politicians complain that his reporting is too harsh.

In his journalism, Luwaga likes to merge the past with the present. He believes you cannot understand what is happening now, if you do not have a grounding in the past. Brian Luwaga is the Luweero URN bureau chief. Nakasongola, Nakaseke, Mityana, Mubende and Wakiso districts fall under his docket.

Luwaga is interested in humanitarian work and is a keen Rotarian.