Oyam farmers call for help as rats invade rice fields

OYAM – Rice farmers in Oyam district under Tochi Irrigation Scheme have asked the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Animal Industry [MAAIF] to help eradicate rats which they say have destroyed the grains in the fields.

The rice farmers said the mice in their thousands invaded the area have been feeding on the grains for years, making them to incur losses.

Tochi Irrigation Scheme is a Shs 32 billion project launched by the Ministry of Water and Environment in 2018 to boost rice, fish and bee farming.

Moses Odongo, one of the affected farmers told theCooperator in an interview that he had invested Shs 2 million into rice farming but lost his crops to both rats and floods.

He noted apart from rice fields being destroyed by rats, floods have added further damage.

With the losses incurred, Odongo added that many farmers have abandoned the rice scheme after MAAIF failing to help fight rats that have destroyed crops.

The Oyam district Entomology officer, Walter Ogwette acknowledged that the farmers in the district are battling both pests and floods.

Odongo noted that the rats have been resistant to some of the chemicals applied against them and reproduce in large numbers.

“Under the natural ecosystem, snakes which would feed on the rats to reduce their population are getting extinct due to climate change and the natural set up have changed,” Odongo explained.

He revealed that 90 percent of the rice in the gardens has been destroyed while 380 hectares of rice fields/pads have been abandoned by the farmers.

He said the losses incurred by the farmers in the district due to rats are estimated to be worth Shs 1.4 billion, equivalent to 10,000 bags of rice lost over the years.

“The district has written to the Ministry of Agriculture for a rapid response with agro-chemicals supply but up to now we have not received any communication on that,” Odongo noted.

When contacted for this story on Wednesday, the public relations officer in MAAIF, Charlotte Bakeine Kemigyisha was unable to comment on the matter, but said complaints had been forwarded to responsible officials.

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