Freedom Mupanedemo-Midlands Bureau
THE Government is battling to contain quelea birds which have invaded Kwekwe district in huge flocks destroying wheat with the chemicals procured to deal with the menacing agricultural pests only expected to arrive in the next week.
Kwekwe district is one of the biggest wheat producing districts in the country and hosts President Mnangagwa’s family farm.
Yesterday, Lands, Agriculture, Fisheries,Water and Rural Resettlement Minister, Dr Anxious Masuka toured several farms which have been ravaged by the flocks in Kwekwe, including the President’s Precabe Farm, to assess the situation.
So dire is the situation that the Minister immediately activated an emergency team which will use a drone around the Shewood block to spray a repellent to deal with the destructive birds which he said were threatening the national wheat yield.
Dr Masuka said the repellent which the country has in stock has expired but is effective enough to scare away huge flocks as the country waits for chemicals from China.
“What we have seen here is a total disaster, but we have to be on top of the situation. We currently do not have chemicals, but we have procured some and they will be airlifted soon and we expect them in the country next week.
“Meanwhile, we have activated an emergency team involving Agritex officials and the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority (ZimParks) to use a drone around wheat farms in Kwekwe and spray a repellent,” said Dr Masuka.
He said the country had not dealt with such huge flocks before that have also been reported in Bindura and Rusape.
“We have never experienced quelea birds of this magnitude before but its a wakeup call. We have to be prepared the next time around but we have already put an action plan so we protect our wheat yield which is under threat,” he said.
Government had floated a tender for the procurement of chemicals in time but the supplier had tried to dupe Government by supplying the wrong chemicals.
“They then went away only to come back with a different type of chemical which was wrong and we rejected the whole consignment.
“Our experts tested the chemicals and discovered that the supplier was trying to sabotage the Government and we are investigating this,” he said.
Dr Masuka said investigations carried so far indicated each bird was consuming around 10grammes of wheat per day and the wheat was two months away from harvest.
“What it means is that in their huge flocks, with each bird eating 10 grammes of wheat per day they will cut our expected wheat harvest by half if we fail to contain them now. We have to be on our toes,” he said.
Harare regional manager for ZimParks Mrs Sharon Musakwa, who was accompanying the Minister, said they have deployed teams around Kwekwe district which were identifying the quelea birds’ roosting areas.
“We are identifying these roosting areas and we spray the areas at night. From Monday, we will be using a 15 litre drone to spray these roosting areas as we fight to contain these flocks,” she said.
Pricabe Farm foreman, Mr Ranganai Zimowa said they were now expecting to get around six tonnes per hectare after the field was invaded by the birds.
“Initially, we expected around nine tonnes per hectare, but the birds have affected our wheat yield hence we will be expecting around six tonnes per hectare this time around,” he said.