As desert locusts spread across East Africa in February 2020, Uganda deployed 2,000 Soldiers to battle the pests.
Ugandan troops used pesticide on the ground as authorities tried to secure helicopters for aerial spraying.
However, Maj. Gen. Sam Kavuma, deputy commander of land forces for the Uganda People’s Defence Force, said locusts can evade such efforts.
“One challenge, which is being solved, that is aerial support to spray them,” Kavuma told Voice of America. “We deal much with those which are on the ground. And when we kill them, or during the spray then they jump and go on top of the trees where our pumps cannot reach.”
Uganda is one of eight East African nations dealing with reduced crop yields due to locust infestations. The other countries are Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Tanzania.
Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia were the worst hit by the crop-devouring pests.
By April, another swarm of locusts — younger and more aggressive — had hit East Africa. The United Nations estimated that the second swarm could be 20 times bigger than the first and could become 400 times bigger by the start of rainy season in June, when harvest was to begin.
Amid the infestation, aid organizations scrambled to ensure that enough food was distributed in rural areas.
“In some countries where these policies or where these measures are starting to be taken on board, there have been limitations on humanitarian access,” Steven Burak of ACTED, a humanitarian aid group, told Voice of America.
“This is the perfect storm,” he said. “What we’re seeing as these long rains are starting over the coming months throughout the Horn of Africa, it’s the ideal time to see an upsurge with desert locusts. Now, as this upsurge occurs you also have the harvests. So while the harvests are prepared, we’ll see them be greatly affected by the number of locusts that will be swarming at that stage.”