For many farmers in Kenya, pests are a big problem. They destroy your crops or lower the quality of your produce. Most of the time, the culprit is either an invertebrate (e.g. insects) or a rodent (rats, mice, moles etc). And in some cases it’s a bird or another type of animal. Many people quickly turn to chemical pesticides as the solution. There are however other more natural pest control methods that are better for us and the environment.
Almost every pest has a predator that is more than happy to make a meal of it, like a cat to a mouse. One very useful pest control method is to let the predators do their job. Predators in farmland provide the ‘ecosystem service’ of controlling pest populations. And when it comes to insects and rodents, one of their most efficient predators is birds. Some research done in Kenya showed that Sukuma wiki (kale) suffers more than twice as much damage in farms with few birds than those with many birds.
Here are some of the birds that will help you keep pests at bay on your farm:
In general, any farm is better off with birds than without them. To attract birds to your farm, maintain some patches of natural habitat such as woodland along a river, patches of grassland, a wetland or some thickets at the edge of your farm. If you plant trees around your farm, make sure you plant indigenous trees, not exotics. Also, minimize the use of pesticides. Birds that eat insects sprayed with pesticides die of poisoning and some pesticides affect predators higher in the food chain like raptors. In addition, pesticides also kill the beneficial insects like pollinators (bees, butterflies, etc) and predatory insects that hunt the pests (spiders, praying mantis, lacewings, assassin bugs, etc). Try organic farming methods that minimize the use of pesticides and let nature’s pest control agents do their job. It’s much better for the environment and better for people too, as pesticides also affect our health.
For more info and tips on how to attract beneficial birds to your farm, feel free to contact me or do an online search. If you are able to identify birds on your farm, join the Kenya Bird Map project and help us document the distribution and status of birds in Kenya’s farmlands.
Tune in next Thursday for the next part in the Ndege Wetu series.