By Maureen Odunga/IMAGE: WIKI
AS the Southern African Development Community (SADC) issues food insecurity alerts likely to be caused by a swamp of the African Migratory Locusts, the government has outlined its robust measures in case of an attack.
A statement issued recently by the SADC Secretariat Communication and Public Relations Unit observed the launch of the SADC Regional Appeal on the African Migratory Locust Outbreak.
The Appeal aims to solicit support to complement the efforts that Member States, Civil Society Organizations and International Cooperating Partners are already making towards addressing the impacts of the locusts’ invasion.
Permanent Secretary (PS) in the Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Gerald Kusaya told the ‘Daily News’ in an exclusive interview amid the launch of SADC African Migratory Locust Outbreak Appeal that Tanzania is well prepared to contain any outbreak.
“The government through the National Food Reserve Agency (NFRA) has continued to procure food stocks of up to 251,000 tonnes and construction of silos which can accommodate up to 501,000 tonnes bound to be completed between December and February next year,” said Mr Kusaya.
He pointed out that the goal is to ensure that the country maintains with a reserve of up to 300,000 tonnes of food, noting that in the previous harvesting season, between 2019/2020, a total of 3.5 million tonnes was accumulated and has been stored in the reserve.
Equally, farmers are being encouraged to engage on drought prone agricultural produce like cassava and sorghum among others.
Besides the aspect of being food stable, the PS also reminded people not to sell all their food reserves, but ensure they are stocking enough for themselves.
Mr Kusaya noted that the ministry has procured 7,000 litres of standby pesticides that is being stored in Dodoma ready for use.
As a member of the Red Locust Control Organization for Central and Eastern Africa, the country is eligible for obtaining special airplanes used in the control of the swarms.
He, however, appreciated the support being extended by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) that has facilitated the ministry’s officials’ work stationed at the country’s borders, especially with tracking devices like microscope and computers.
“With the highlighted interventions we believe that any information in relation to the locust outbreak can easily be communicated through the many channels, because we have devices for immediate action,” he said.
The PS expounded that the ministry through its Extension Officers has continued to raise awareness in the public with regard to the swarms of locust particularly at the borders.
However, he stressed on the importance of maintaining cooperation with other countries within the SADC region and beyond, especially on sharing and easily accessing information and assistance in case of a problem.
The first outbreak was reported for the first time in February, 2020 after affecting eight Member States including Botswana, eSwatini, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.
At the time, they were able to control the swarms. However, there was their resurgence in May, affecting Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe. Currently, the African Migratory Locust swarms are in Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe and have grown tremendously, rendering the on-going efforts implemented both at national and regional level inadequate.
It was noted that the current outbreak has a potential to spill beyond the five affected Member States if not urgently controlled.
In light of the situation, Mozambique Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Celso Ismael Correia launched the Regional Appeal on the African Migratory Locust Outbreak.
The outbreak poses a serious threat to the national and regional food security which already affects high numbers of food insecure and vulnerable populations.