The World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors approved a financing of $48 million (Shs 177bn) from the International Development Association (IDA) to help Uganda prevent and respond to the threat to livelihoods posed by the desert locust outbreak and to strengthen its national and regional systems for preparedness.
ChimpReports earlier this week reported that the Ugandan government was in the process of borrowing a staggering Shs 147bn to fight the locust invasion for the next three years.
The development comes at a time Uganda is borrowing heavily from international financial institutions to fight the Coronavirus pandemic.
According to a report on total government indebtedness, guarantees of loans to companies and statutory bodies, other financial liabilities and sum of grants received by Government during FY 2019/20, new loans equivalent to USD 1,474.68 million were approved by Parliament and new grants equivalent to USD 112.87 million were received.
The total public and publicly guaranteed external debt exposure as at end December 2019 stood at USD 13.21 Billion of which USD 8.75 billion (66 percent) of total debt is disbursed and outstanding (DOD) and USD 4.43 billion (34 percent) is loan commitments, which have not yet been disbursed.
Locusts have infested 24 districts in 6 sub-regions of Uganda, including Acholi, Karamoja, Lango, Sebei, Teso and Bugisu, since arriving from western Kenya on February 9.
Word Bank said the outbreak could undermine development gains and threaten the food security and livelihoods of millions of Ugandans.
An assessment carried out by Food and Agriculture Organisation and the World Food Program in Karamoja and Teso shows it would cost between $12 million and $42 million to safeguard and restore livelihoods if surveillance and locust management measures are lacking or ineffective.
An estimated 291,000 people are already considered severely food insecure in the two regions, and another 1.32 million people could be at risk, according to the financial institution.
World Bank said in a statement on Thursday that the Emergency Locust Response Program will help Uganda monitor and manage locust swarms to limit the growth of existing and new desert locust populations; provide livelihood protection and restoration to affected households, communities and vulnerable groups; and improve coordination and early warning preparedness at the regional and national levels to strengthen national capacities for surveillance, response and preparedness to prevent future infestations.
The project is expected to support 950,000 direct beneficiaries and about 1,200,000 indirect beneficiaries in the locust-affected districts. Priority will be given to women and youth, with at least 50 percent of household representatives expected to be women.
Immediate locust crisis response support was availed through an allocation of $1 million from the Agriculture Cluster Development Project, also financed by the World Bank to address gaps in locust management measures undertaken by the Government.
“The locust invasion could coincide with the start of the planting season, which will likely affect the main staple crop production and the regeneration of grasslands for livestock feeds. These resources are timely to support affected households cope, and to strengthen Government’s response efforts,” said Tony Thompson, Country Manager, World Bank.
According to the budget estimates handed to Finance Minister Matia Kasaija, the Agriculture Ministry will spend Shs 4.8bn on information dissemination and awareness creation up to the community level; Shs 31bn on surveillance, mapping and monitoring; and Shs 38bn on ground control operations supported in invaded districts.
Kasaija was further told that the Agriculture Ministry will also need Shs 58bn for aerial control operations; Shs 3.7bn for environmental safety safeguards; Shs 2.3bn for research and testing of other alternative control measures conducted and Shs 3.2bn for national coordination and regional collaboration for enhanced control of desert locusts control operations.:
President Museveni recently said the locusts had been “defeated” by the army teams.
“The UPDF team in that area works with the local people. For example, when the locusts invade the area, they (the local people) inform the nearest spray unit, which moves with torches in the night to spray all the locusts.”
He said the desert locusts had not caused any damage in the invaded areas.
While the Agriculture Ministry has budgeted Shs 58bn for aerial operations, Museveni recently told the nation that, “it is not necessary to use aircraft to spray the locusts as the ground teams were well equipped and able to move even at night.”