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News: Red-billed quelea invasive birds endanger crops in Amhara region

The presence of red-billed quelea swarms in the North Shewa, South Wollo, North Wollo, and Oromo Special Zone areas poses a substantial threat to crops (Photo: news24.com)

Addis Abeba – The Ministry of Agriculture has announced that it will initiate the second phase of aerial pesticide spraying after receiving reports of red-billed quelea invasive birds spreading in four zones of the Amhara region. These birds pose a significant threat to an extensive agricultural lands in the region.

Since it started on 02 October, 2023, the first phase of the aerial spraying program has primarily focused on the Amhara region. However, it was later redirected based on strategic assessments of emerging hotspots in the Oromia and central Ethiopia regional states.

Bayneh Negussie, Plant Protection Principal at the Ministry, explained that this strategic decision was necessary to prioritize targeting infestations that pose the highest risks to agricultural productivity.

In mid-October 2023, a local media outlet reported the unintended consequences of this redirection in the Amhara region. Agdew Molla, director of Amhara Agricultural Bureau, explained the significant losses in the North Shewa, South Wollo, North Wollo, and Oromo Special Zone areas resulting from postponed treatments. According to him, these areas have been affected by various cross-border crop pests, including tree and desert locusts. While traditional methods can prevent damage from tree and desert locusts without causing harm, the red-billed quelea infestation is beyond the capabilities of traditional control measures.

Agdew emphasized the difficulty in determining the exact extent of land affected by the avian invaders. However, he stated that 265 liters of chemicals have been applied aerially across 132.5 hectares to protect crops from further red-billed quelea damage.

Farmers in these regions are contending that the current issue has intensified compared to past occurrences as the birds are presently wreaking havoc on crops such as teff, which was previously unaffected.

According to Negussie, aerial operations in the Amhara region will resume as scheduled on 21 October, 2023. The second phase of aerial pesticide spraying aims to strategically contain red-billed quelea populations by detecting them early before their breeding further exacerbates the outbreak, endangering next season’s crops.

Recent news coverage by Deutsche Welle highlighted emerging challenges in central Ethiopia, with farmers from Selte, Halaba, and Hadiya zones reporting damage to staple crops such as wheat, millet, and sorghum caused by red-billed quelea swarms over the past two weeks. Current defense strategies combine traditional methods with hopes for improved aerial application of pesticides. AS

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