PIC: Striga weed. Striga is a deadly weed known to affect someone mentally when taken. (Paul Kiwuuwa)
FARMING AND DRUG ADDICTION
KAMULI - The Kamuli district deputy Chief Administrative Officer (CAO), Godfrey Aduma has asked the MPs committee of Agriculture to ban the smoking of Striga among locals.
This follows the increased use of the weed among the youth in Busoga region.
According to Aduma, Striga is a deadly weed known to affect someone mentally when taken.
Aduma told the legislators during their over sight role to assess the impact Striga weed has cused in Busoga region on Tuesday.
He added that youth tend to dry Striga leaves and purple flowers, combine it with tobacco for smoking hence intoxicating their brain, which explains the increased crimes in the region.
Striga is a parasitic weed bearing purple flowers that severely hampers productivity of cereal crops such as maize, groundnuts, sorghum and millet.
It survives by siphoning off water and nutrients from host crops, for its own growth.
Chairperson of the parliament agricultural committee, Robert Migadde (MP Buvuma County) showing other members of the committee a maize crop that is affected by Stringa during the committee investigation on the weed in Iganga. (Credit:Paul Kiwuuwa)
"Striga weeds are not on the list of banned narcotics in the country.
"Apparently, it is difficult to prosecute people practicing the vice. Therefore, we implore you to ensure that smoking Striga is an offence," Aduma said.
According to Aduma, over 60% of crimes committed in the region is done by youth who smoke Striga.
"Over 200 drugs related cases have been registered at Bugembe Police station since the beginning of the year," he noted.
The Iganga district Senior Agricultural officer, Wilberforce Tibairira expressed fear that the weed may cause serious harm to the people's lives who are smoking it since it causes serious damage to its host crop before emerging from the soil, by producing harmful phytotoxins to the host crop.
"The host plant's nutrients are depleted and energy is spent supporting the parasitic plant (striga). Damage is severe under conditions of low rainfall and poor soil fertility. "explained Tibairira
"Consumption of the deadly weed is common in peri-urban areas including Kamuli, Iganga, Bugiri, Mayuge, Jinja, Luuka Kaliro districts he said the vice is rampant in Idudi, Busembatia, Bugembe Kasambira town councils among others ."
The committee vice chairperson, Robert Migadde Ndugwa (Buvuma County MP, expressed fear that the youth may resort to planting the weed in hidden places, to avoid police.
Migadde said. Meanwhile local governments in Busoga regions should agree to make and pass by-laws that prevent and control the smoking of the deadly weed ," Migadde added.
Migadde said the committee will contact the Uganda National Crop Resources Research Institute-National Agricultural Research Organisation (NACRRI-NARO) to carry out experiments to get herbicides that control the striga weed.
The Bududa woman MP, Nalongo Justine Khainza cautioned the farmers against selling off their land to opportunists who are threatening to buy them off because of the striga weed.
During their tour, the committee found over 200 acres of the maize , infested by the weed.
Current interventions on the striga weed
Sharon Muhwezi, the Uganda Government Relations analyst in charge of "One Acre Fund," a non-profit organisation serving smaller holders farmers in Busoga region said apparently there is no approved pesticides for controlling the weed, calling on Governments' intervention.
Muhwezi said they offer farmers with a package of farming inputs including fertilisers, Striga maize resistant seeds, solar lights and harvest drying sheets. the package is equivalent to a loan of sh 250,000. The revolving loan payable back within one year after the farmers have harvested their yields.
Muhwezi warned; "Striga seeds are very small and mainly spread through the use of contaminated seed and equipment, surface run-off , eroded soil, wind, animals and people.
"Uprooted Striga plants should be burned with fire to prevent spreads to other farms. Seeds may remain dormant in the soil for 15-20 years," he said.