from ALLOYCE KIMBUNGA in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania
DAR-ES-SALAAM, (CAJ News) – AN unusual invasion by millions of quelea birds is troubling authorities and threatening food security in Tanzania.
An estimated 21 million of the red-billed birds are currently ravaging rice, sorghum, millet and wheat fields in eight regions in the southern highlands in the central and lake zones.
The invasion of large populations is threatening other regions in the country.
The pest has also been reported in Botswana and Zimbabwe farming areas.
“The current outbreak has proven elusive to the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture due to the unprecedented populations of Quelea quelea birds,” Musa Chidinda, Coordinator of the Quelea quelea control operations in the Tanzania Ministry of Agriculture, said.
The official believes the intervention of the Food and Agriculture Organisation will significantly improve chances to curb the outbreak and save farmers’ crops.
FAO has released US$500 000 to beef up the Tanzania response efforts in urgent ground and aerial spray operations, surveillance and capacity building in alternative methods for controlling.
Tipo Nyabenyi Tito, FAO representative in Tanzania, said the immediate goal is to significantly reduce the population of Quelea quelea birds in affected regions.
“The resources are needed to put up effective early warning systems as well as community-based integrated pest management approaches,” Tito said.
The average quelea bird eats around 10 grammes of grain per day.
The red-billed quelea is an avian pest in Africa, causing damage of approximately $88,6 million annually.
There are fears the current outbreak will worsen the vulnerable farming households’ food and nutrition insecurity already threatened by other crises and disasters such as COVID-19 and inflation brought about by the ongoing Ukraine-Russia war.
– CAJ News