Government launches biological control to fight mango mealybug pest

The Government of Uganda through the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries, and Fisheries (MAAIF) together with development partners launched and released biological control agents for the Mango mealybug (Rastococcus invadens). The event was held on 19/10/22 at Mirama Hills Town Council, Ntungamo district in Western Uganda.

The Minister of State for Agriculture Hon Fred Bwino Kyakulaga the chief guest said, observed that Government has a wider mission of transforming Uganda and the Agro-Industrialization agenda is spearheaded by Agriculture. He noted that there are many interventions aimed at increasing production and productivity to ensure food and nutritional security, animal feed security, environmental security, and income security.

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Speaking at Sofia Ward in Mirama Hills Town Council, where the Mango mealybug infestation was noticed in November 2019, the Minister observed that the farmers are facing challenges such as pests and diseases, climate change, and effects of wetland degradation, which the Government is addressing one by one.

“Today we are launching a solution to one of the challenges of pests and diseases. Our country has been invaded by a new pest the Mango Mealybug”. “Am pleased that FAO and IITA have brought this technology here and our capacity has been built to deploy the biological agent. We thank NARO, IITA, FAO, and experts from MAAIF for the good work. We are sure that we shall be able to contain this pest to only this area.” The biological control comes 11 months after the first infestation was sighted in Ntungamo border district close to Rwanda.

The Mango mealybug, an insect pest that originated in India, in Africa, was first reported in Benin (West Africa) but has now affected 11 African countries. Apart from mangos, they can spread to other crops and over 100 plant species.

FAO Country Rep giving his remarks at the event

In East Africa, the mango mealybug pest is in the 3 countries of Rwanda, Burundi, and Uganda. According to the minister, he is hopeful that the infestation will be curbed “We are arresting it early. “So far FAO has learned lessons from West Africa and here together with IITA and NARO the team is working to eradicate the infestation before it spreads to other parts of Uganda”. Rwanda so far has the highest infestation and is thought to be the source of the infestation in Uganda because the mango mealybug was first detected there. All three countries are deploying the use of parasitoids, in addition to phytosanitary management measures with Burundi having released the same parasitoids in 2021.

The FAO country representative to Uganda, Antiono Querido, said: “We want to ensure that the people engaged in agriculture continue to produce for the sustainability of food for the household and the markets.” He noted that Uganda has faced several pest challenges in the recent past; in 2016, the Fall Army Worm caused havoc to hectares of maize grain while in 2020, Desert locusts invaded parts of Northeastern Uganda, which was contained by collaborative action between the government of Uganda and FAO.

Hon Fred Bwiino – Minister of State for Agriculture being shown how the mango mealy bug affects the fruit by Winnie opio-Entomologist from NARO

According to Winnifred Aool Opio, an Entomologist from the NARO’s National Agricultural Research Laboratories (NARL), it is not the first time Uganda uses biological control to manage pest infestations and invasive weeds. Previous controls include; Management of the water hyacinth in the early 1990s on Lake Victoria, Diamond back-moth, a pest of cabbages, Cassava mealybug, the cassava green mites, Salvinia molesta, and the Maize stem borers (locally called Ndiwulira in the Bantu dialects.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), National Agricultural Advisory Services (NAADS), and the District Local Government leadership of Ntungamo district were all part of this launch.

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