From: Associated Press
Published July 29, 2005 12:00 AM

Bird Swarms Invade Farmlands in Nigeria

KANO, Nigeria — Large swarms of birds have invaded parts of northern Nigeria, destroying grain farms and threatening harvests in a region bordering famine-stricken Niger, officials and farmers have said.


More than 19,700 acres of rice have been destroyed in the three worst-hit local council areas of Maradun, Bakura and Mafara in Zamfara state, Tukur Maru, a senior agriculture ministry official said. Maize, millet and sorghum farms are also under attack from the swarms of tiny birds, known locally as "Quela."


The invasions are usually seasonal, with the birds moving southwards into Nigeria from northern neighbor Niger. But farmers and local officials say the absence of yields in Niger has resulted in abnormally large swarms invading Zamfara state.


"What has made their number alarming is that there's nothing for them in Niger and they have turned on our farmlands," said Tukur.


Sule Aliyu, head of the farming village of Rimi in the Bakura council, said most families have lost entire crops to the rampaging birds.


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"While waiting for government assistance we have resorted to special fasting and prayers for the Almighty to intervene and rid us of these deadly creatures," said Aliyu.


A large swath of Nigeria's north falls within the Sahelian belt -- bordering the Sahara desert -- where a combination of drought and locust invasions last year devastated farmlands and left hundreds of thousands facing famine.


A feeding center set up by Medecins Sans Frontieres in another northern Katsina state has treated more than 800 Nigerian children suffering from severe malnutrition in the past three weeks, said Fabien Schneider, an official of the international humanitarian agency.


But oil-rich Nigeria is not at risk of the kind of severe food shortages killing thousands in Niger, he said.


Source: Associated Press


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