No Funds to Contain Deadly Water Weed

2020 Views Jinja, Uganda

In short
Dr Fred Wanda Masifwa, a senior research officer for Aquatic weeds management says funding is urgently needed to facilitate at least two researchers for training in South Africa and to purchase the Salvinia Weevil, an agent of biological pest control used against the toxic aquatic plant. Each weevil costs 40 dollars.

Lack of funds has hampered progress in containing Salvinia Molesta, a water weed that has covered a number of water bodies across the country. At least 1.409 billion Shillings is estimated to cover the cost of training experts, facilitating research, and establishing a weevil breeding centre in Uganda.

The process which had been spearheaded by the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute (NaFIRRI) and National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI) has now been suspended due to lack of funding.

The National Agriculture Research Organization-NARO in August 2014 committed that a tune of 1.409 billion Shillings would be availed to support activities to contain the weed in the Kyoga and Albert lakes complex. The commitment is embedded in a letter written by Dr Yona Baguma, the acting deputy director general for research coordination.

Dr Baguma said the funds would be released on a quarterly basis. But to date, the money has not been availed.

Dr Fred Wanda Masifwa, a senior research officer for Aquatic weeds management says funding is urgently needed to facilitate at least two researchers for training in South Africa and to purchase the Salvinia Weevil, an agent of biological pest control used against the toxic aquatic plant.

Dr Masifwa says each weevil costs 40 dollars. For the research to commence, at least 100 female weevils and 10 males will be imported from South Africa, which has battled the weed in Africa successfully from its water bodies.
 
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Bugiri District Fisheries Officer Immaculate Were says that the weed has been cited on shores of Lake Kimira located in Bugiri district, a swampy lake connecting from Lake Victoria, through Mpologoma and Kibimba swamps to Lake Kyoga. It is also common among swamps in the district which poses a risk of the weed getting to Lake Victoria.

Were, says the weed was brought by fishermen from Lake Kyoga, after they admired its appearance and cover on water.

She says the fishermen and local fish pond owners also use the Salvinia Molesta weed to cover their ponds, to safe guard fish from predators like flying birds that catch fish from their ponds. It can also be spread using fishing gears and moving boats along the water bodies, because it propagates from all parts of the plant.

After forming dense mats on water, the weed suffocates aquatic life by draining oxygen needed for living organisms in water and blocks sun light from penetrating into the water. The weed also affects movement of fish, blocks boat access and other fishing activities, a development that poses a big threat to the sector.

The Fisheries sector is the second highest foreign exchange earner for Uganda with earnings estimated at 136.2 million US Dollars (468 billion Shillings) as of December 14, 2015 from fish exports. The sector also employs over 700,000 people, according to the Uganda Investment Authority.

The weed, known in some parts of the country as Nankabirwa and Kariba weed in others, was first seen on Uganda's water bodies in 2013, according to data at the National Fisheries Resources Research Institute - NaFIRRI.

The International Conservation Union ranks the weed among the worst 100 invasive weeds in the world. Researchers say that the weed reproduces through vegetative propagation and can double its population in two days upon getting a favorable habitat.

They add that due to its rapid multiplication rate, the weed can double in volume thereby clogging water ways and covering up the entire surface of the lake. It spreads with the aid of fish nets, human being and birds that feed on some of its parts.