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Two planes to be used in fight against locusts

Monday February 22 2021
Locust pic
By Zephania Ubwani

Arusha. The battle against swarms of desert locusts sighted in Longido District, Arusha Region is set to begin anytime soon.

Two small aircraft are expected today to launch an attack against the gregarious and highly mobile insects.

It also emerged yesterday that swarms of locusts have also been located in Simanjiro District in neighbouring Manyara Region.

Longido District Commissioner Frank Mwaisumbe said swift intervention by the government was already in gear. The minister for Agriculture, Prof Adolf Mkenda, was at the site yesterday alongside his permanent secretary Gerald Kusaya.

“The minister and his PS were here to see measures that have to be taken,” he told The Citizen on the phone.

Mr Mwaisumbe said two aircraft to be used for spraying will land today in Arusha ready for the work. One of the planes belonging to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) will fly in from Nairobi.

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The other is a local aircraft whose pilot has been out of the country but is expected back for spraying.

Mr Mwaisume, however, played down fears the insects would cause widespread damage to crops and the vegetation. “Samples taken indicate they are still in the non-feeding pupal stage. Once destroyed the battle will be almost over,” he allayed the fears.

He hinted that with two planes spraying would only take about three to four days. He noted, however, that that would depend on assessment by experts from the ministry of Agriculture.

Scores of experts from the ministry have been to Longido since Friday after reports emerged on the presence of locusts. Officials have not been categorical as to where the highly mobile insects were located but one of them is Kimokowa Village near the Namanga border town.

Speaking at Longido yesterday, the minister said locusts have also been sighted in Simanjiro District besides Longido. Prof Mkenda said experts from the Arusha-based Tropical Pesticides Research Institute (TPRI) would also be involved.

TPRI acting director general Ephraim Njau cautioned people not to eat the insects sprayed with the poisonous chemicals. In February 2020, FAO announced that desert locusts were destroying tens of thousands of hectares of crops and grazing land in north east Africa in the worst invasion in 25 years.

The UN warned that a dangerous situation is now facing the region and in particular eastern Ethiopia. Since this announcement, locusts have caused Somalia to declare a state of emergency and spread to other East African countries such as Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, and most recently South Sudan.

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