In Summary
  • The bird that normally appears on robust wheat, rice and sorghum plantations can consume an average of 10g of grain a day.
  • Farmers have been using rudimentary technologies to curb the birds, which include mounting scare crows in the fields. Others turned to catapults and slings.
  • Farmers have been worried that the ravenous birds, which are in their thousands, may end up destroying their entire crop if measures are not taken to curb them.
  • David Mwangi, the head of plant protection services in the State Department for Crop Development in the Ministry of Agriculture, says that a team is in the field to map and identify where the birds roost.

Rice farmers in Mwea, Kirinyaga County, are counting losses after thousands of quelea birds descended on their crop.

The voracious tiny bird, which measures about 12cm in length and weighs 15-26g, is known to cause a lot of havoc.

The bird that normally appears on robust wheat, rice and sorghum plantations can consume an average of 10g of grain a day.

In the Mwea Irrigation Scheme, farmers are staring at an average destruction of 72,000kg of rice per day, according to area MP Kabinga Wachira Wathayu, who is working with growers to control the menace.

Patrick Wamugunda, a rice farmer, says that the government assisted in curbing the quelea menace in the main season, where planting is done in July and August and harvesting starts from November and December.

The current season called ratoon comes after the main crop has been harvested. The ratoon (new shoot) is then allowed to grow after the main harvest because there is no enough water to allow another crop to develop right from the seedling to maturity.

“In the main season, an acre offers up to 30 bags and around 20 bags from the ratoon crop,” Wamugunda explains, adding that the ratoon crop offers additional income in the dry January and February.

Farmers have been using rudimentary technologies to curb the birds, which include mounting scare crows in the fields. Others turned to catapults and slings.

Most of the farmers visit the fields early morning when the crop is most vulnerable and use stones to chase the birds away. It is an energy sapping exercise that yields little results.

Interestingly, the diurnal birds seem to have changed tactics, getting on the farms as early as 5am or late evening after hiding in swamps or in reeds making it hard for anyone to track them.

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