Government has taken to fighting against quelea birds which continue to ravage crops, it has been reported. The menace of insects and birds that invade and destroy crops after every farming season have been identified as the major problem being faced by farmers across the country, the effect of which is said to be militating against farmers’ efforts in ensuring mass production of food and cash crops.
Officially opening a stakeholders’ workshop on quelea control using falcons last Tuesday, the Acting Deputy Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr Philemon Motsu, said there is need to wage a war against migrant pests and birds.
Agricultural sector remains an important source of food and provides income, employment and investment opportunities for the majority of the population in the rural areas, thus assisting the government in addressing the crucial development needs of food security, poverty alleviation, socio-economic growth and environmental management, said Motsu.
Motsu said, “It must be noted from the onset that crop production in Botswana is faced with many challenges such as the continuous droughts, low yields, low soil fertility, erratic rainfall (patterns) and outbreaks of pests and diseases.”
According to Motsu, quelea birds (Thaga in the local vernacular) are some of the major pests affecting crop production. Quelea birds’ damage can be as high as 100 percent on crops thereby militating against farmers’ efforts.
“This year (alone), quelea bird outbreaks were recorded in five districts. The outbreaks of these quelea birds and pests (the African armyworm) are normally beyond the capacity of the farmer as such, it is necessary to execute control timely before they cause any damage,” he said.
It is against this backdrop that the government through the Ministry of Agriculture’s Department of Crop of Production has been mandated to control migrant birds and pests in order to safeguard farmers’ crops, the stakeholders’ workshop heard.
The government is seeking for synergy and cooperation amongst corporate organisations and individuals to wedge a war against hunger and food shortages which may result from the havoc caused by quelea birds and other destructive pests across the country.
Motsu said the main focus of the government’s strategy is to develop and adopt appropriate crop protection technologies, conserve agricultural resources, control pests of national and economic importance and farmer education.
“The Ministry of Agriculture is collaborating with a company from the United States of America on this project of controlling quelea birds using falcons,” said Motsu without much details of the project.
He said the government continues to explore other control methods. Motsu added that the control methods are environmentally friendly and safe to use.
For years now, subsistence farmers in Botswana have been at the mercy of the gluttonous red-billed quelea birds, sky-blackening swarm of the tiny feathered locust still destroy fields across the country.