Uganda’s Eucalyptus industry, valued at UGX 1.75 trillion, is threatened by two devastating pests: Red Gum Lerp psyllid and Bronze bug, recorded in 2014 and 2016. A Red gum infected tree displays white lerps on the leaves due to the presence of the nymph of the psyllid. The nymph secretes honeydew which causes sooty moulds to interfere with food making process of the affected Eucalyptus leaves. Bronze bugs lead to browning, bronzing and total drying of the canopy of Eucalyptus trees.
The pests were brought to public attention by farmers working with NaFORRI scientists in the Eastern region (Namutumba, Soroti and Jinja Districts) and Western region (Kabalore and Kabale Districts). NaFORRI introduced biological control agents viz., Psyllaephagus bliteus and Cleruchoides noackae from the Food and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI) of South Africa and introduced them in the different hotspots of the country.
Different stakeholders in the Eucalyptus value chain have since expressed their gratitude to NARO for the effort to control these pests, which has improved people’s livelihoods, e.g. in Western Uganda, where an impact assessment was done.
“We had lost hope during the periods of invasion by Eucalyptus pests. I had lost over 10 acres of Eucalyptus plantation to Eucalyptus lice (Bronze bug). Thanks to NaFORRI, the disease was contained,” said Mr. Byomuhangi Benson, a prominent businessman in Kabaraga Village, Kaharo sub-county Kabale district.
Mr. Byomuhangi Benson stressed that his eucalyptus value chain enterprises directly benefit the community for example, he employs youth in activities like eucalyptus charcoal burning (which has reduced pressure on the natural forests in Kabale district), loading, charcoal salesmen, livestock herdsmen and others.
Another eucalyptus tree grower in Western Uganda, Mr. Turyatunga Josephat and a prominent businessman in Kabale District, applauded NARO for the effort, which he described as miraculous. “Loses were incurred at the time of pest attack, hope and love for eucalyptus deteriorated, and if the situation had persisted, eucalyptus farmers would have abandoned tree growing”, said Mr. Turyatunga. Before adding that, “Now that NaFORRI arrested the situation, eucalyptus tree farming has resumed steadily”, stressed Mr. Turyatunga.
The period of the pest attack saw many farmers and timber dealers quitting timber business due to continuous losses they were incurring during periods of pest infestations. This resulted from the harvesting of poor quality and young timber by farmers. The introduction of bio-agents reversed the situation. Farmers and timber dealers have since rejoined the enterprise.