After tomato ebola, quelea birds outbreak imminent: Setting agenda for FG

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In the face of the current economic recession and the ongoing measures to tackle food crisis that is affecting an average Nigerian, Nigeria cannot afford to be a victim of pests on farmlands.

The country might not have considered the presence of locusts and Quelea birds coming into the country from Niger Republic as being significant but had already learnt a leaf from tuta absoluta which affected tomatoes, hence the scarcity of the commodity in the market for a while.

Recently, the Minister of agriculture and rural development, Chief Audu Ogbeh had called an emergency meeting with commissioners of agriculture from 24 states to alert them of locusts and Quelea birds coming into the country from Niger Republic.

The minister expressed fear in what could happen if the dangerous Quelea birds and locusts should have access to farms. Ogbeh explained that “we know how dangerous Quelea birds and locusts can be. If they arrive within hours or days, they will ‎have wiped out everything the farmers would have put in the field. We already have maize crisis, and we may have food problems if we are attacked. This country would be in turmoil. We can’t allow that.”

Prices of food items are very high, many families and farmers have not recovered from what they lost to tuta absoluta. Nigerians are angry and they really want the price of food items to be resolved. Consequently, this is not the time to permit locust attack which could increase food scarcity, thus more exacerbating hunger.

At the meeting called by the Minister of Agriculture, concerns were raised over a disease known as army worm which had attacked maize in the country. With this, additional pests such as locusts should be prevented from having access to farmlands in order to forestall food shortage in the country.

He called for an emergency team to address the problem, which he explained was responsible for a severe shortage of maize, making the staple to sell for as high as N15,000 per bag.

‎To address this challenge, Ogbeh suggested that “we must have an emergency team put in place between the States’ Ministries of Agriculture and the Federal Ministry, so that we can tackle these issues very swiftly. Now that we know they will come, we have to design a strategy where chemicals are available in all the states and contingency steps can be taken quickly.”

Beyond this, the Federal Government needs to create a hub of information for farmers. This Agency can be domiciled in the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, where it will be saddled with the responsibility of providing a vibrant system of alert for farmers, especially when situations like this is about to arise. A stitch in time saves nine, they say.

Furthermore, since pest attack is inimical to crop growth, it reduces yield and results in food crises. Farmers should therefore be sensitized on cultural practices that could be undertaken in order to prevent pests such as Quelea birds from ravaging crops. One of these cultural practices is the use of scarecrows on farmlands. This practice, though ancient, is still very potent in driving away pests from farms as the pests are afraid of the human-like objects erected on farmsteads.

Finally, the Federal Government needs to embark on massive public sensitization on television and radio. This ‘lamentation’ on social media becomes necessary since many farmers now have access to televisions, radio, or at least mobile phones. One of the most effective ways in which the Government can reach its target audience is by creating this awareness through advert placement on a TV Programme that focuses on Agriculture.

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