Quelea birds wreck havoc

Flocks of red-billed quelea birds have destroyed entire fields of crops here, with local farmers concerned that if the situation is not quickly addressed, they will lose their harvest.

Red-billed quelea birds travel in large flocks and can cause serious damage to crops.
Red-billed quelea birds travel in large flocks and can cause serious damage to crops.

Masvingo province lies in region four where farmers rely heavily on drought-resistant crops such as millet and sorghum. The birds have reportedly destroyed hectors of these crops and have appealed to the government for assistance.

The Plant Protection Unit says it has dispatched additional officers to control the situation. PPU director, Dr Godfrey Chikwenhere, said Zimbabwe had enough Queleatox to deal with the birds.

"Initially we had 800l of the chemical from last year’s reserves and we received another 1 000l from the South African government. We distributed the chemical in all provinces," he said.

Quelea birds eat annual grasses, seeds and grain. As soon as the sun comes up, they descend in huge flocks to find a suitable feeding place. After a successful search, they settle rapidly and can cause serious damage to crops. The birds have been reported in Gwanda, Beitbridge, Umzingwane, Kezi and Plumtree, but the PPU managed to control it.

"Our officers are spraying at night. It is still very difficult for us to get statistics because people are collecting them to eat. Due to the recent dry spell, the people here are hungry,” he said.

Chikwenhere urged farmers to make use of traditional farming methods to scare away the birds such as scarecrows and making noise.

Post published in: Africa News

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