Kitgum, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Several acres of crop gardens in various parts of Kitgum District have been invaded by the destructive species of variegated grasshoppers.
The most affected are Manwoko and Bipong villages, both in Labongo Amida Sub County, where the grasshoppers are destroying maize, tomatoes, green vegetables, onions, cassava and beans among other crops.
Farmers say the destructive nature of the pests is likely to result in a decline in crop yield this season and make them food insecure. Janet Akiyo, a tomato farmer in Manwoko village told Uganda Radio Network in an interview that the pests began breeding in March this year.
She notes that by late April, the nymphs had begun destroying tomatoes leaves causing the crop to dry before flowering. Akiyo says her group, which is benefiting from an irrigation project piloted by the Uganda government to boost vegetable farming in the area, has made huge losses as a result of the invasive grasshoppers.
James Oryema, another farmer in Bipong village in Oryang Parish, also notes that the flightless nature of the grasshoppers has made them very destructive unlike desert locusts that are migratory. He says the grasshoppers ate most of his maize crops on a two-acre piece of land in the first week when it sprouted, adding that he is unsure whether they will grow.
Oryema notes that despite sounding an alarm of the dangers the grasshoppers are posing, local leaders are paying a deaf ear claiming the pests are not destructive.
“Our concerns are being taken for granted by our leaders who believe the variegated grasshoppers are not destructive. On the ground, our crops are being eaten and destroyed at an alarming rate by the grasshoppers, we call for help,” Oryema told Uganda Radio Network in an interview.
Jackson Omona, the district local council Chairperson, admits that the invasion of the pest is a real threat to food security in the district. Omona says the district is currently embarking on a wide assessment to map out the exact spots of invasion for accurate reports.
He notes that the Covid-19 pandemic has greatly affected their intervention to conduct assessments for possible action. This comes just a month after the district registered invasion of desert locusts in Tumangu village in Labongo Akwang sub-county, parts of Okidi parish in Labongo Amida sub-county, Lalano and Lumule parishes in Lagoro and Kitgum Matidi sub-counties.