Government says it has managed to contain quelea birds that have been wreaking havoc in Kwekwe after attacking the tiny birds’ biggest roosting place with a drone.
The birds, which move in huge flocks, had invaded farms along the Sherwood block, destroying the wheat crop.
Kwekwe District is one of the biggest wheat producing districts in the country and the farmers have for the last four weeks been battling the tiny birds which moved in giant flocks.
One of the hardest hit was President Mnangagwa’s family farm, Precabe Farm, where the birds have been destroying wheat which is at maturity stage.
Last week, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka, toured the district and immediately set up a response team comprising officials from his ministry and Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (Zimparks) to track down the troublesome birds to their roosting areas.
Speaking to journalists after a tour of quelea birds roosting areas in Kwekwe on Wednesday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement permanent secretary, Dr John Bhasera, said 97 percent of the birds had been killed after they used drones to attack their roosting places.
He said Government managed to contain the threat before it was too late.
“We have toured the roosting places and it’s a mission accomplished,” said Dr Bhasera. “We have over 97 percent kill at the biggest roosting site at Dunlop Farm in Kwekwe.”
Dr Bhasera said Government will next time be prepared to deal with the birds after everyone was caught unaware.
“We have learnt our lesson the hard way,” he said. “We reacted to a problem, but a significant crop had already been destroyed by the birds and it’s not good after all the efforts that is being put by the farmers.
“We need to activate our guard and ensure that we deal with such pests at their breeding places on time. Our pre-season activities need to be reinvigorated and by setting up a taskforce we believe we are on the right track.”
Acting chief director of Research Specialist Services in the Ministry of Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries, Water and Rural Resettlement, Dr Dumisani Kutwayo, said the approach used to track down the roosting places and attack the breeding places yielded good results.
He said the birds had become a threat to the national wheat yield.
“We realised the threat on the national crop and came up with an action plan to deal with the problem at once,” said Dr Kutwayo. “We would target the birds at night and at dawn.
“The exercise seems to have yielded positive results, particularly here at Sherwood block and we intend to extend it to other areas where the birds are a menace. We are happy to announce that we have managed to get chemicals from Kenya and we expect more chemicals to be in the country from China soon.”
Farmers around the Sherwood block commended the efforts by government in containing the quelea bird menace.
“We are very happy that Government has intervened and delt with these birds, they had become troublesome,” said Mr Lovemore Fambai, who has an eight-hectare piece under wheat. “They would come in the morning in huge flocks and we were battling to deal with them. This timely intervention has actually given us hope again that we will have a good harvest.”
Another farmer, Mr Solomon Mazividza, said they were becoming worried that the birds would affect the expected yields.
Meanwhile, local villagers are feasting on the birds which they are now harvesting from their roosting areas after being killed by chemicals.
The locals said the birds were a delicacy.
“We have been enjoying the birds, we are harvesting them and some are now selling prepared birds in Kwekwe city, they are a delicacy,” said Mrs Memory Somani.