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Namutumba Farmers Cut Mango Trees for Charcoal as Fruit Flies Ravage Gardens

Available information indicates that female fruit flies lay eggs under the skin of the mangoes, which hatch into larvae that feed in the decaying flesh of the crop. Infested fruits quickly rot and become inedible or drop on the ground, thus causing direct loss to the farmer.
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Moses Bateganya, a farmer in Bunangwa Estate, Nangonde sub-county of Namutumba District, is preparing to cut down his five-hectare exotic mango orchard to make charcoal after failing to have a tangible harvest for the last three years due to fruit fly infestation.

Bateganya notes that when mango growing was introduced in their district, they had been seen it as a game-changer and possible commercial plant to supplement rice and sugarcane. However, their hope seems to be lost as fruit flies ravage gardens leading to losses every season.

“We cannot have mango trees which are not productive. For years now the tree bears fruits and we hope to get some money but in the end, the flies destroy everything," Bateganya said. "You end up with nothing yet we have labored to take care of these trees with hope to get returns on the investment.” 

He adds that with no hope that the flies can be controlled, he has decided to cut the trees to burn charcoal so as to get some money to solve his personal problems and support his family financially.

Several other farmers have already cut down their mangoes trees and made charcoal out of them. 

Christopher Wamutala, a farmer, notes with concern that farmers are fed up with having these trees yet they cannot get any yield out of them.

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Wamutala adds that before the infestation, the first mangoes were productive and many people embarked on planting more both on a large and small scale and farmers could collect a minimum of five sacks of mangoes from each tree with each sack going at 20,000 shillings.  However, with fruit flies infestation, the yields were radically reduced.

Joshua Isasi, LC I chairperson of Makwi village in Nangonde sub-county who is also one of the affected farmers says the most challenging factor is the fact farmers do not how they can prevent or control the said flies to guard against losing their yields.

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Available information indicates that female fruit flies lay eggs under the skin of the mangoes, which hatch into larvae that feed in the decaying flesh of the crop. Infested fruits quickly rot and become inedible or drop on the ground, thus causing direct loss to the farmer.

Generally, the exotic varieties which are grown for commercial purposes are most susceptible to fly infestation while local mango varieties are perceived to be resistant or less susceptible.

Despite the outcries from the farming communities over years, there has been no formal assessment of the associated economic damage and offering of possible solutions with individual farmers looking for local means reducing the losses.

Isasi says so many farmers who have not cut the tree have decided to harvest the mangoes before they are ready. 

“We are now harvesting them when they are still green, Keep them in the houses for days before selling them as the only way to earn at least something small,” he adds.

Apollo Musita, the Namutumba District Production Officer attests that the challenge is widespread across the district with the district losing a lot of yield to the infestation frustrating farmers to abandon the horticulture farming which has been on the rise in the area.

Musita says despite their economic importance, there is a paucity of knowledge on fruit fly host status in the district but the department is currently advising farmers on the basic way on how they can control the fruit flies.

Many farmers have been asking the department to get them insecticides. But Musita says he has been hesitant to recommend any chemical-based solution due to their effects on the ecosystem and quality of the yield. He adds that as a department, they instead advised the the farmers to use nets to trap the flies.

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The said infestation is already ravaging other districts like Maracha, Kasese, Palisa, Soroti, Lira, and Arua. In the said districts, farmers allegedly use alocal botanical concoction to control fruit flies. Many are reporting that without interventions, one can lose up to 100 percent of the fruits due to fruit fly infestation.

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