Rosemary Sitaki, Same District Commissioner, said that Tanzania plans to conduct an aerial bird control operation to wipe out Quelea birds at Ndung’u Irrigation Scheme in the country’s northern district of Same. She explained that so far the birds have destroyed over 600 hectares of paddy in the area located on the slopes of Pare Mountain ranges located some kilometers from Mount Kilimanjaro-Africa’s highest peak. She further added that the aircraft leased from the Desert Locust Control Organization for East Africa (DLCO-EA) will be used to spray the birds’ roosters and feeding grounds with an avicide. The operation of killing of birds would soon start after the arrival of experts from the Tanzania’s ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries.
Ms. Sitaki said that the new intervention was meant to rescue thousands of farmers who were threatened by quelea birds that had stormed the area for the past three weeks. Ndung’u irrigation scheme, with 680 hectares and over 2,500 smallholder farmers, produces thousands of tonnes of rice, to feed the northern part of Tanzania and neighboring Kenya. “Rice is the lifeline for many people in the area as they depend on it for income and food security. So, the birds’ invasion threatens the survival of smallholder farmers in the area,” she explained.
It is estimated that an average Quelea bird eats around 10 grams of grain per day which is roughly half its body weight and a flock of 2 million can devour as much as 20 tonnes of grain in a single day. With an estimated adult breeding population of at least 1.5 billion, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the agricultural losses attributable to the Quelea birds, are in excess of USD 50 million annually.