Fears of food shortages grow as swarms of birds invade farms

Huge flocks of the red-billed quelea bird – a notorious pest of African crops – have decimated grain crops on farms in western Zimbabwe in recent weeks, raising fears of a local food shortage in the near future, the online newspaper reported. New Zimbabwe on Monday.

“Farmers in the Umguza and Bubi agricultural areas in Matebeleland Norte province are struggling to contain a massive outbreak of quelea birds that are feeding on their crops, mostly small grains,” the publication reported on May 16.

“As a result of the invasion, farmers say they now spend most of their time banging on metal objects and screaming at the top of their lungs in a desperate attempt to save their crops. [sic]”, according to the newspaper.

Umguza and Bubi are districts of the Matabeleland Province of Northern Zimbabwe, which is located in western Zimbabwe.

Lavenda Ndlovu, a farmer in Bubi district, told New Zimbabwe on May 16 that he fears that the local quelea infestation could lead to crop deficits.

“We are calling on the government to do something before the birds destroy more crops. Many farmers in this area were hired last year to grow small grains for a local company. Now, this outbreak will leave many farmers with a crop deficit [sic]” said Ndlovu.

Quelea birds – which are known to flock by the thousands – have been attacking grain crops not just in Matabeleland North province but across Zimbabwe in recent weeks, according to recent comments by Shingirai Nyamutukwa, who heads the department of security against migratory pests from the Ministry of Agriculture of Zimbabwe.

New Zimbabwe recalled on 16 May that Nyamutukwa “told at a farmer’s winter wheat training workshop at Combe Farm in Zvimba that the issue was reaching crisis levels”. Zvimba is a district in the province of Mashonaland West, in north-central Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe’s state-owned Plant Protection and Research Institute (PPRI) said on Jan. 6 that it had received an undisclosed number of reports from farmers across Zimbabwe, but especially in the country’s Midlands, about quelea infestations. of “early planted corn”. [corn] plantations.”

Shingirai Nyamutukwa, director of the PPRI, told Zimbabwe the herald newspaper at the time when his department had “acquired 7,410 liters of chemicals to handle the birds”, adding: “we normally buy 5,000 liters that last up to three seasons”.

During a previous bout of quelea infestations in September 2021, the herald quoted Nyamutukwa as saying that the PPRI has recently imported chemical pesticides from Kenya and China to supplement Zimbabwe’s insufficient pesticide stocks.

“Chemicals have started arriving in the country from Kenya as we intensify efforts to control marauding quelea birds that are destroying the country’s winter wheat crop,” Nyamutukwa said at the time.

“We received chemicals over the weekend and most chemicals are expected from today. We expect to receive around 1,000 liters from Kenya and around 5,000 liters from China. [sic]”, revealed.

Zimbabwe is a severely impoverished nation that has struggled to combat the increase in agricultural pests in recent years.

“This year alone, Zimbabwe has experienced several shocks and dangers, mainly [due to] the Covid19 [Chinese coronavirus] pandemic, agricultural pests, food insecurity and livestock diseases,” the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) reported in November 2021.

“As of September 2021, the estimated number of people [in Zimbabwe] with insufficient food consumption increased by 100,000 to about 5.7 million from an estimated 5.6 million in August 2021 [sic]”, according to the aid agency.

“During the lean season from January to March 2022, around 27% of rural Zimbabweans will be food insecure. This translates to 2,942,897 individuals, who collectively need 262,856 tonnes of maize,” the IFRC predicted at the time. “The country is likely to face several emergencies, and this will be exacerbated by the low coping capacity of the most vulnerable communities due to the economic difficulties the country is currently facing.”

Zimbabwe’s recent food shortages are noteworthy because the nation was formerly known as the breadbasket of Africa before the devastating rule of Robert Mugabe, who held the country’s prime minister’s office from 1980 to 1987 and the office of the presidency of country from 1987 to 2017. Mugabe’s nearly 40-year rule over the Zimbabwean government was characterized by extreme mismanagement and corruption. The left-wing dictator imposed so-called “agrarian reforms” starting in 2000, which seriously harmed the country’s once flourishing agricultural production.

“Starting in 2000, thousands of white Zimbabwean farmers were driven from their land by violent state-backed mobs or evicted in dubious legal trials, allegedly to help marginalized blacks under British colonial rule,” recalled Agence France-Presse ( AFP) in July. 2018. “Farms, however, were often allocated to [then] Allies of President Robert Mugabe [with no knowledge of farming] and fell into disrepair, leaving tens of thousands of rural workers unemployed and leading the economy to a slump in food production”.

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