Vuvuzelas come to aid of farmers in war on birds

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Vuvuzelas come to aid of farmers in war on birds

A sorghum farm. Growers in Kisumu have asked the county and national governments to help them fight birds destroying the crop. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

Mr Geoffrey Kungu and his friends are armed with vuvuzelas — but they are not going for a football match.

They have a gigantic task on their hands — to chase ravenous birds that have invaded their sorghum fields.

The flocks, mainly of weaver birds, descend on the land around 6am, leaving destruction in Miguye village, Kisumu County.

Mr Kungu makes small balls of mud that are used to target the birds on sorghum and rice fields.

Unfortunately, the ball can kill only one bird if at all it finds a target.

That is why the farmers have gone the vuvuzela route.

“We arrived here at 5am. Chasing the birds is a tedious job but what other choice do we have?” Mr Kungu asks.

As soon as the birds fly from his zone, they quickly land on another farm to continue their frenzied feeding.

Obudo Border Co-operative Society chairman Vincent Okwaro says about 350 acres of mature sorghum have been destroyed by the birds.

“It is now two weeks since the birds invaded our fields. I am afraid we might not harvest anything if Ministry of Agriculture and county government officials do not come to our rescue,” Mr Okwaro said.

Sorghum is fairly drought resistant crop and is popular in dry areas of Kenya.

It is rarely affected by water logging and yields reasonably well in poor soils.

The farmers expected to harvest 16,500 bags of 90 kilogrammes in the coming week, and hoped to sell a kilo for Sh37 but that may not be the case.

Mr Kungu says the devolved government has not helped farmers deal with the bird menace.

“We have gone to the county agriculture department several times. The department sent some officers to the farms twice but nothing appears to be happening,” Mr Kungu told the Sunday Nation.
The most destructive bird species is the Sudan Dioch (Quelea quelea ethiopica).

Others are weavers, starling and bishop.

Villagers now spend most of the day on the farms scaring away the birds.

“We now hire boys to spend many hours on the farms chasing away the birds. They are however overwhelmed by the numbers and it is a cat-and-mouse game. Every boy gets Sh200 daily,” Mr Martin Otieno, another farmer in Kore, said.

Mr Okwaro asked the authorities to find ways of helping the farmers fight the birds.

“Officials who came only trapped a few birds using a net and told us they are looking into the matter once the Kisumu Agriculture Society of Kenya fair ends. We are still waiting for a word from them even as the birds continue to destroy our crops,” he said.

Large scale sorghum growing is part of Kisumu Governor Anyang Nyong’o’s agriculture programme that was launched in March last year.

Farmers were asked to donate some 8,000 acres for the pilot project in a scheme sponsored by East African Breweries Ltd.

West Kano Irrigation Scheme in Nyando Sub-County gave out 3,500 acres.

EABL expects to get five million kilogrammes of white sorghum in the programme.

The company will also promote consumption of the grain, thus enhance food production and fight hunger.

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