State uses plane in killing birds in Narok wheat fields


State uses plane in killing birds in Narok wheat fields

A cloud of quelea birds in Narok wheat fields in last year: Thousands of hectares are under threat. PHOTO | GEORGE SAYAGIE | NMG 

The government is using a plane to spray pesticides in a Sh200 million fight against quelea birds that destroy thousands of acres of wheat in Narok County.

Quelea birds that traditionally migrate from Lake Natron in Tanzania in June have invaded the fields in their millions, exposing farmers to losses.

The invasion is at the worst time for the farmers who are harvesting.

The Ministry of Agriculture’s Crop Protection Authority (CPA) and the Narok County have now resorted to using light planes to spray roosts to eliminate the birds.

Narok executive for Agriculture and Livestock Everlyn Koyian said during the launch of the exercise that it would take 30 days.

Focus will be on their hideouts at Nairasirasa and Melelo in Narok South, Ilmashariani, Olopito, Tikako, Nturumeti and Katakala in Narok North, and Nairagie Enkare in Narok East.

It is estimated that each roost contains about 3.5 million birds.

Ms Koyian said the birds are a threat to food security, one of the national government’s key focus areas under the Agenda Four growth plan.

Each bird is estimated to consume about 10 grammes daily. The population of the birds across the Narok growing areas is about 15 million.

The CEC said about 57,000 hectares of wheat were under the threat of the birds.

She said the plant protection services team arrived in Narok on July 5 to assess the damage and devise control measures.

Bernard Totona, a large-scale farmer, said they would have had a good crop save for the invasion and erratic rains.

“The country’s food security is under threat because of the latest invasion. It is sad that after many years, the Crop Protection Directorate under the Agriculture ministry only has a single plane in the whole of East Africa to deal with quelea menace,” said Mr Totona who estimates his loss at 70 acres in Ololulunga wheat field.

The birds are known to fly in big numbers in search of early-maturing cereals, annual wild grass , and grains.

Narok farmers are expecting to harvest 1.8 million bags this season, down from two million in similar period last year.

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