Huge flocks of red-billed quelea birds, a notorious African crop pest, have decimated grain harvests on farms in western Zimbabwe in recent weeks, raising fears of local food shortages in the near future. the New Zimbabwe online newspaper reported Monday.
“Farmers in the Umguza and Bubi agricultural areas in the northern province of Matebeleland are struggling to contain a massive outbreak of quelea birds that are feasting on their crops, mainly small grains,” the publication reported on May 16.
“As a result of the invasion, farmers say they now spend most of their time banging on metal objects and screaming at the top of their lungs in a desperate attempt to save their crops. [sic]”, according to the newspaper.
Umguza and Bubi are districts within the northern Matabeleland province of Zimbabwe, which itself is in western Zimbabwe.
Lavenda Ndlovu, a farmer from Bubi district, told New Zimbabwe on May 16 that she fears the local quelea infestation could lead to crop shortfalls.
“We are calling on the government to do something before the birds destroy more crops. Last year, a local company hired many farmers in this area to grow small grains. Now this outbreak is going to leave many farmers with a shortfall in harvest. [sic]Ndlovu said.
The quelea birds, which are known to flock here, have been attacking grain crops not only in the northern province of Matabeleland but across Zimbabwe in recent weeks, according to recent comments by Shingirai Nyamutukwa, who heads the security department of migratory pests from the Zimbabwe ministry of agriculture.
New Zimbabwe recalled on May 16 that Nyamutukwa “told a winter wheat training workshop for farmers at Combe Farm in Zvimba that the problem was reaching crisis levels.” Zvimba is a district in the western province of Mashonaland, in north-central Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s state-run Plant Protection and Research Institute (PPRI) said on January 6 that it had received an undisclosed number of reports from farmers across Zimbabwe, but especially in the area. “Midlands” of the country, on quelea infestations of “early seeded corn”. [corn] crops.”
Shingirai Nyamutukwa, director of the PPRI, told Zimbabwe the Herald newspaper at the time that his department had “acquired 7,410 liters of chemicals to deal with birds”, adding: “We normally buy 5,000 liters which last up to three seasons”.
During a previous episode of quelea infestations in September 2021, the Herald quoted Nyamutukwa as saying that the PPRI had recently imported chemical pesticides from Kenya and China to supplement Zimbabwe’s insufficient pesticide stocks.
“Chemicals have started to trickle into the country from Kenya as we step up efforts to control marauding quelea birds that are destroying the country’s winter wheat crop,” Nyamutukwa said at the time.
“We received chemicals over the weekend and most of the chemicals are expected from today. We expect to receive about 1,000 liters from Kenya and about 5,000 liters from China. [sic]”, revealed.
Zimbabwe is a severely impoverished nation that has struggled to combat a rise in crop pests in recent years.
“This year alone, Zimbabwe has seen a number of shocks and hazards, mainly [due to] the covid19 [Chinese coronavirus] pandemic, crop pests, food insecurity and livestock diseases,” reported the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) in November 2021.
“In September 2021, the estimated number of people [in Zimbabwe] with insufficient food consumption increased by 100,000 to about 5.7 million from an estimated 5.6 million in August 2021 [sic]”, according to the aid agency.
“During the lean season from January to March 2022, around 27% of rural Zimbabweans will be food insecure. This translates into 2,942,897 people, who together require 262,856 tons of maize,” the IFRC forecast at the time. “The country is likely to face several emergencies, and this will be exacerbated by the low response capacity of the most vulnerable communities due to the economic difficulties the country is currently facing.”
The recent food shortages in Zimbabwe are notable because the nation was previously known as the breadbasket of Africa before the devastating rule of Robert Mugabe, who held the office of the nation’s prime minister from 1980 to 1987 and the office of the presidency of the nation from 1987 to 2017. Mugabe’s nearly 40-year rule over Zimbabwe’s government was characterized by extreme mismanagement and corruption. The leftist dictator enforced so-called land “reforms” beginning in 2000 that severely damaged the country’s once-thriving agricultural output.
Beginning in 2000, thousands of white Zimbabwean farmers were driven off their land by state-backed violent mobs or evicted in dubious legal proceedings, allegedly to help marginalized blacks under British colonial rule. France-Presse (AFP) in July. 2018. “Farms, however, were often assigned to [then] Allies of President Robert Mugabe [with no knowledge of farming] and fell into ruin, putting tens of thousands of rural workers out of work and sending the economy into a tailspin as food production collapsed.”