Photo taken on July 6, 2013 shows a flock of quelea birds flying over a sorghum plantation in Ngenge sub-county, Kween district in eastern Uganda. (Xinhua/Daniel Edyegu)
ARUSHA, Tanzania, March 9 (Xinhua) -- Tanzania plans to conduct an aerial bird control operation at Ndung'u Irrigation Scheme in the country's northern district of Same in an effort to wipe out quelea birds in the area.
Rosemary Sitaki, Same District Commissioner, said that the aircraft has been leased from the Desert Locust Control Organization for East Africa (DLCO-EA).
The aircraft will be used to spray the birds' roosters and feeding grounds with an avicide.
The official said that so far the birds have destroyed over 600 hectares of paddy in the area located on the slopes of Pare Mountain ranges located some kilometers from Mount Kilimanjaro-Africa's highest peak.
According to Sitaki, the DLCO-EA plane landed in the area two days ago and is to start its operation of killing the birds soon after the arrival of experts from the Tanzania's ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, and Fisheries.
She said that the new intervention is meant to rescue thousands of farmers who are threatened by quelea birds, which have stormed the area for the past three weeks.
With 680 hectares and over 2,500 smallholder farmers, Ndung'u irrigation scheme produces thousands of tonnes of rice, to feed the northern part of Tanzania and neighboring Kenya.
"Rice is the lifeline for many people in the area as they depend on it for income and food security. So, the birds' invasion threatens the survival of smallholder farmers in the area," the official said.
It is estimated that an average quelea bird eats around 10 grams of grain per day -- roughly half its body weight -- and a flock of 2 million can devour as much as 20 tonnes of grain in a single day.
With an estimated adult breeding population of at least 1.5 billion, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates the agricultural losses attributable to the quelea are in excess of 50 million U.S. dollars annually.