Kampala — The deadly Congress weed (parthenium hysperophorius) reported in the country two years ago has invaded Queen Elizabeth National Park in western Uganda, endangering thousands of animals and plant species and thus threatening tourism in the area.
The alien weed had by last September been detected along highways in 12 districts but it has now spread to more pasturelands and a national park. The weed which spreads aggressively is destructive to native ecological systems and human health and could have devastating effects.
Early detection and rapid response is crucial. It could cost the country billions of shillings if the weed is allowed to establish itself.
The weed produces up to 100,000 seeds, which germinate and flower within four weeks. This implies that 10 plants can multiply into 1 million weeds within one month.
The weed has beautiful flowers and an inviting aroma so commercial decorators have started using it in their business. The witchdoctors have conscripted boda-boda operators to collect the weed, which they think can evoke spirits.
It is, therefore, imperative that the masses are sensitised about the danger of the weed and are involved in monitoring its spread.
There is need to fight the weed in an integrated and urgent manner. The country should borrow a leaf from the experience of fighting the menacing water hyacinth that threatened to squeeze life out of the lakes by killing fish and disturbing water transport.
Experts are now describing the congress weed as the "land hyacinth" indicating that the land weed could have similar devastating impacts on agriculture, livestock production and tourism.
The Government and all stakeholders should come out urgently and vehemently deploy all means available to fight the killer weed; mechanical removal, biological methods and involvement of the masses.