Relief for Mwea rice farmers as State sprays invading birds
By Githinji Mwangi
Rice farmers in Mwea, Kirinyaga county, are a happy lot after the national and county governments carried out an aerial spraying exercise to eliminate millions of quelea birds that have descended on their crop.
Kirinyaga Deputy Governor Peter Ndambiri said eight million birds are reported to have invaded the area this season.
Addressing the press after overseeing the spraying exercise, Ndambiri said farmers were staring at an average destruction of 72,000kg of rice per day. He added that the county government is working with growers to control the birds invasion, which he termed a major threat to food security in the country.
Accompanied by farmers and senior county officials, Ndambiri said spraying would continue for the next three days to ensure the birds are eliminated from the scheme.
“We will have the plane carry out daily spraying for the next three days; we can't allow the birds to destroy farmers' produce when we are expecting a bumper harvest,’’ he said.
The voracious quelea bird, which measures about 12cm in length and weighs 15-26g, is known to invade the expansive rice irrigation scheme annually. One bird consumes an average of 10g of grain a day.
The deputy governor also appealed to the national government to ban importation of rice during harvesting season, saying a kilogramme of rice is currently selling at Sh60 since the market is flooded with imported rice.
He asked MPs to pressure the government to buy rice as one of the food reserves and discourage importation of rice.
“Let (the) government buy our rice to feed our soldiers and those training as police officers; they should stop importing rice to feed our security forces,’’ he said.
The deputy governor also warned against mixing different types of rice— especially contamination of the pishori variety— saying the dishonesty was affecting the market. He urged county officials to arrest the culprits.