The government is on high alert, putting in a place a standby team that will swing into action should the destructive desert locusts cross into the country.
According to the government officials, despite the declaration by the Food and Agricultural Organisation that the country was among the less high-risk areas to be invaded by the locusts, which are wreaking havoc in the region, possible preventive arrangements are in place.
Director-general of Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) Patrick Karangwa said mobilisation of pesticides, equipment and support from different institutions is under way.
“FAO indicates that Rwanda is not directly concerned as far as the invasion is concerned but we are not relaxing from there, we are collaboratively mobilising pesticides, other equipment and other concerned institutions,” Dr Karangwa told Rwanda Today.
However, the desert locusts that earlier this week crossed fromKenya into Tanzania and Uganda have caused panic that they could spread further into the country.
RAB refuted information that the locusts had invaded parts of Nyagatare district, which borders Uganda and Tanzania, saying the insects belong to the family of the locusts but not the destructive ones.
According to Mr Karangwa, besides the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources and RAB, a taskforce to monitoring the locusts movements’ and mobilisation of resources has been put together from the Ministries of Defence, Emergency Management Authority, Local government and Rwanda Meteorological Agency.
Mature swarms of locusts have continue spreading across the region ̶ 50 kilometres from the border of Uganda with Rwanda by February 6. Other mature locusts nearly reached the Tanzania border on February 7 as indicated, according to FAO.
“Widespread egg-laying and hatching have started, and so far numerous dense early instar hopper bands are present in some central areas,” FAO’s Locust watch noted, adding that aerial and ground control operations are continuing.
With further rains expected in the region in the coming weeks, experts have expressed concerns that the number of locusts if unchecked could grow by up to 500 times by June, when drier weather sets in.
According to FAO’s Locust Watch, as the breeding continues in the Horn of Africa, which will cause locusts to increase further in Ethiopia, Somalia and Kenya with new swarms forming in March and April, it will consequently result in an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods in the region.
“Without rapid action, we will be facing a rapidly expanding humanitarian crisis. The Desert Locust swarms are growing exponentially,” said Qu Dongyu, the FAO director general, as has been quoted by the FAO Locust watch.