Kasane — Assistant Minister of Agricultural Development and Food Security, Ms Beauty Manake, has urged government departments and stakeholders to work together to control locust outbreak.
Speaking during an emergency meeting with government heads of departments in Chobe, Ms Manake, said the outbreak of locusts was a national disaster that needed a multi-sectoral approach.
She expressed fear that should the locusts become out of control, they would cause panic for wild animals in the park and worsen the already existing human/wildlife conflict because animals might seek refuge in residential areas.
Ms Manake further said the outbreak was a threat to the country's food security, adding that with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was imperative for every country to sustain itself in terms of food.
She said, since the outbreak of locusts had been declared a national emergency in other neighbouring countries, it meant that Botswana was on the receiving end and fear was that the Chobe River was likely to hamper efforts to fight locusts.
The assistant minister further said the current infestation would need aerial spray and consultation with the Civil Aviation Authority.
Ms Manake noted that since her ministry was already on a red budget; user ministries that would assist with manpower would further be expected to pay for their employees' overtime and other expenses.
Chobe District agricultural coordinator, Mr Seeng Manne, said the most affected area was the Enclave with nymphs and adult locusts that had not reached maturity stage.
Ms Manne said the challenge of controlling the locust was that it was migratory, adding that if not controlled it had potential to destroy a total 139 hectars.
She said already a total of 3.8ha of germinating maize in Mabele and Satau areas had been affected by the locusts.
She said Chobe had already mobilised experienced teams from other districts to help in the control exercise.
For her part, chief plant protection officer, Ms Velleminah Pelokgale, said out of 20 swarms that were identified in the area, seven still needed to be controlled, adding that out of the six barns, a total of five were destroyed.
Ms Pelokgale explained that they realised that last week the seven swarms joined each other and crossed into Namibia.
Furthermore, she said it was difficult to spray hovering swarms, but the destroyed ones were those that had settled.
Another challenge, she cited was that the chemical they used bio-degraded in two-three days, adding that another challenge was that control could not be carried out near the water or where people lived.
The ministry's permanent secretary, Mr Jimmy Opelo noted that the situation needed a proper organisational plan and as the ploughing season was approaching, there was a need to intensify the control measures.
Mr Opelo called on the district to have a control command centre and emphasised that his ministry was not solely responsible for the control of the outbreak, but could only provide the technical aspect of the process.
MP for Chobe, Mr Machana Shamukuni, thanked the ministry's leadership for coming to get first information.
Mr Shamukuni noted that there was uncertainty on the community regarding the ploughing season and there was need for assurance to be given to the farmers.
He emphasised the need for communication by the district disaster management committee with the community.
Chobe District Council chairperson, Councillor Amos Mabuku, noted that government had played its part and there was need for all stakeholders to come on board in fighting the locust outbreak.
Source : BOPA