While the government is struggling to find an effective way of dealing with the dreaded desert locusts, the insects have turned into a blessing in guise for residents of Kitgum district in northern Uganda.
The locals are now catching the locusts for food consumption. The latest swarm of desert locusts invaded Gogo and Abudere villages in Lukwar parish in Labongo Akwang sub-county, Kitgum on Tuesday evening. They settled overnight on tree branches and grasses covering a radius of more than three kilometers.
Several residents spent the better part of Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning picking the locusts for food. Some have since fried the locusts for eating. Kutansia Anena, 60, a resident of Gogo village is one of those who caught several locusts and boiled them for food.
Anena says locusts have been a source of food in the past. She says that she was also forced to catch them to supplement her diet because of food shortage owing to the poor harvests last year. She notes that the insects are first boiled and dried in the sun before being fried with cooking oil and served.
“We boiled these insects for eating. When they come, they are caught, boiled, dried and fried before being served for children and even adults. We currently have limited food because of the poor harvest last year due to rains that returned late and destroyed all our crops,” Anena says.
Christine Abalo, a resident of Gogo village and mother of five, says she decided to catch the locusts to taste its delicacy since elderly people told them they are edible. Like her colleagues, Abalo says the desperate move to catch the locusts was because of the food crisis in their family.
"Our elders told us that these insects were eaten in the past. We decided to catch them so that we taste them. We also supplement our diet because they were eaten in the past. There is food shortage at the moment because the crops have dried. This will help us in a short while. These insects are dried well and later fried before eating them." said Abalo.
Beatrice Alanyo, another resident says she caught two basins of locusts last evening and is still waiting for confirmation from the district leaders whether they are safe for consumption since government had started spraying them.
"We caught these insects but we’re still trying to understand if they’re safe or not…At the moment we’re still afraid to eat them because we heard that they have been sprayed with chemicals. We’re still waiting to confirm if they are safe." said Alanyo.
John Bosco Komakech, the Kitgum district vector control officer told URN in an interview that consuming desert locusts isn’t harmful and notes that the ones caught by locals hadn’t yet been sprayed. He, however, warned locals against consuming locusts from sites where they have been sprayed, saying the chemicals are dangerous for the human body. Komakech says people should eat the right amount to avoid constipation and abdominal blockage.
"I have seen very many they were eating those ones were [safe] but after spraying especially the ones that are down, those ones don’t eat them…If you caught them before spraying those ones we have no problem but eat with care, the more you eat them you can easily get problems." Komakech said.
A team of Local Defense Unit (LDU) personnel led by Brig Gen Francis Chemo, the team leader locusts spraying in Acholi sub-region this morning responded to the locust invasion in the district.
The team comprising of more than 20 LDU’s equipped with motorized and manual hand pump sprayers and chemicals arrived a few minutes to 10 am when the millions of locusts were already migrating.
Gen Chemo says his team responded late because they received information from the district late. The desert locusts, which left no destruction in Labongo Akwang sub-county, were this afternoon sighted migrating towards Padibe East sub-county in Lamwo district. Kitgum district local government approved a budget of Shs 780 million on Tuesday to aid the fight against desert locust invasion.