The federal government has begun aerial pesticide spraying to control the quelea bird invasion in the northeast region.
Alhaji Usman Ciromari, director of the Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) in Yobe, told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Damaturu that the exercise was designed to destroy nesting colonies of quelea birds in Yobe and other parts of the region. .
Quelea also called red-billed quelea, or dioch, is a small brownish bird from Africa. It occurs in such large numbers that it often destroys cereal crops and, when perching, breaks branches.
The birds are long distance migrants with a range covering well over 10 million square kilometers of the semi-arid, bush, grassland and savanna regions of Africa.
“It is a pest in many different African countries, ranging from South Africa, north through countries like Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia, and all the way through the Sahel to the Mauritania.
Intensive agriculture and increased grain production across the continent have led to an explosion in their numbers; by some estimates, populations of Quelea have increased 10- to 100-fold since the 1970s.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), efforts to control quelea populations have had little success.
Although they prefer the seeds of wild grasses to those of cultivated crops, their large numbers make them a constant threat to sorghum, wheat, barley, millet and rice fields.
The average quelea bird eats about 10 grams of grain per day, so a flock of two million people can devour up to 20 tons of grain in a single day.
With an estimated adult breeding population of at least 1.5 billion, the FAO estimates agricultural losses attributable to quelea at more than $50 million per year.
To control the threat, Ciroma said aerial spraying which began on August 10, aimed at clearing the nests of migratory birds, had so far covered the Ngalda, Wachakal and Gadaka areas of Yobe.
According to Ciroma, spraying bird colonies with avicides is the only method available to control them at present.
The director, however, said if African countries could coordinate and carry out aerial spraying simultaneously, the birds would be wiped out completely.
The Association of All Farmers of Nigeria (AFAN) had previously expressed concern over the relentless attacks of quelea birds on farmland in Nguru, Bade, Karasuwa and Yusufari local government areas of the state.
Alhaji Modu Sandari, president of AFAN in Nguru, said the quelea bird destroyed more than 1,000 hectares of rice fields cultivated by 672 farmers during the 2021 agricultural season.
He therefore called regularly for aerial spraying against the quelea bird to prevent its devastating attack on farms.
Sandari said quelea bird nesting colonies currently exist in Makawagabas, Makawayamma, Maikwankone, Maiyashi, Maigudu, Ruwantsamiya, Azur, Dala, Ngurodi and Dogana.
In Jigawa, which is one of the states most affected by bird pests, the state government was soon to start aerial spraying to control the pest.
Alhaji Hamza Muhammad, Special Assistant for Community Development and Inclusion to Governor Badaru Abubakar, said the birds were infesting agricultural lands in Guri, Kirikasamma, Hadejia, Auyo, Miga and Kazaure LGAs.
He said the state government, in conjunction with FMARD, would control the bird to protect farmland from destruction.
He said aerial spraying followed by farmers had complained about the invasion of farmland by birds in the affected areas.
According to him, the government has been making efforts since 2016 to control the invasion of destructive birds in the state.
“The federal government conducts annual aerial spraying of pesticides to reduce the population of quelea birds during their incubation period.
“In addition, this time around, arrangements have been made for aerial spraying of FG to control transboundary pests.
“The exercise targeted the incubation period of these birds before they hatch and become more numerous to destroy crops,” he said.
In Borno, the state government said more than 500 hectares of farmland had been destroyed by quelea birds and locusts.
Mustapha Fatibe, director of produce and pest control at the Borno State Ministry of Agriculture, said the bird pest destroyed agricultural produce in Mafa and Konduga while locusts infested farmland by Jere LGA.
“We have visited all the affected areas and taken measures which have shown positive results in containing the pest infestation.
“FMARD supported us especially to contain grasshoppers in Jere LGA,” Fatibe said.
While noting the negative impact of pests on a good harvest, the manager said prompt reporting of pests to relevant authorities would speed up effective control.
In Gombe State, Dr. Musa Inuwa, the coordinator of FMARD, said the ministry had intensified aerial spraying to control the quelea bird to boost food security in the statistics and in the country as a whole.
Controlling quelea birds and other transboundary pests is critical to the federal government’s food security agenda, he says, hence the intervention to prevent devastating effects on farmland.
“Without the federal government’s efforts to control quelea, many farmers would have fallen into poverty.
“The federal government has been proactive in controlling transboundary pests in 12 states, including Gombe, through aerial spraying of farmland.
“In Gombe State, we conducted the exercise on August 3, covering Shongom, Kaltungo, Nafada, Billiri and Dukku LGAs.
“This exercise helps rural farmers who depend on agriculture for their livelihood. These birds and locusts come in their millions and when they feed on farmland there will be nothing left,” he said.
Inuwa said the chemicals used in the drill had no adverse effect on crops and warned farmers against eating dead birds as a result of spraying.
All the more; Daniel Abarshi, director of FMARD in Bauchi State, said the ministry has intensified the campaign against the birds across the state.
He urged state governments to increase federal government efforts by providing additional flight hours, pesticides and logistics to effectively control bird pests in the region.
For his part, Dr. Haruna Hashimu, an agronomist, praised the federal government for the aerial spraying exercise aimed at controlling the quelea.
He said aerial spraying is key to controlling quelea birds, protecting farmers and encouraging agricultural productivity. (NOPE)