Safeguarding migratory soaring birds

30 Aug 2017


Migratory soaring birds are vulnerable to various human and natural made disasters. Millions of Such birds come to Ethiopia and Africa having flown all the way   from Eurasia  or  Northern and Eastern   hemispheres. This flyway zone is also   known as Eastern flyway. The eastern flyway consists of Russia, Turkey  including Eastern Europe  and Africa. There are six flyways in the world. But, the largest migratory birds’ flyway zone stretches from Eastern Europe to Africa.

Nowadays, the expansion of agricultural activities all over the world is posing huge threat to the migratory soaring birds. Globally the use of agricultural inputs is also growing rapidly than ever before.  Indeed, agrochemicals are the ones that have been used mostly in large and small  scale farming  as agricultural inputs.

“ When the crops begin to grow ,we often use pesticides  to  prevent  and  to put under control  the deadly plant diseases  or any sort of  warm invasion on farmlands . Some of the chemicals that are used as pesticides are harmful to human, animals, birds and environment,” said Yilma Delelegn, an expert to oversee the conservation of birds, biodiversity and environment for Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society.

Of course, in every destination, migratory birds face life threatening challenges. Particularly, over the last two decades, the suffering of  such birds has been increasing in Ethiopia. This is mainly  due to  the ongoing agricultural intensification in the country.

According to him, it is difficult to come up with precise figures that show the adverse  effects of pesticides on those birds  in Ethiopia. “We need to carry out study to this end at a national level soon. But, we do have data that indicate us how serious is the raised issue at a regional level.”

The Rift Valley /Red Sea flyway is second most important flyway for migratory soaring birds in the world. Among over 1.5 million soaring birds of 37 species,five are globally threatened.

In fact, the ever growing population, extensive development and climate change  across the world have been  creating difficult situations  for migratory soaring  birds.

Yilma noted that   if the ecosystem   is at stake due to persistent chemicals, migratory birds  will be directly affected . “ Even those  non- persistent  chemicals  like organophosphate and organochlorine are causing  serious  danger  to these birds.”

It is obvious that  the majority of fresh water is actually found underground  and so the chemicals  can easily pollute such  water source .  For instance, irrigation crops grown around lakes Koka and Zeway comprise onions, tomatoes, carrots  and the like. The farmers use new and phase out  pesticides over and over again there to gain a bumper harvest.  “These two lakes are more or less  polluted and over 50 percent  of migratory soaring birds coming to Africa and  prefer to stay  at wet places .Thus, the birds  will eat contaminated food there,” he indicated.

Speaking of  the measures that have been  taken  to mitigate  the negative impacts of   pesticides on migratory soaring birds so far,  Yilma said the society  has been closely working with Ministry of  Agriculture and Natural resources  aimed at raising awareness about agrochemicals. “We together with  Pan- Ethiopia  have been promoting  Integrated Pest Management (IPM) in Arba Minch . Using IPM, we can  reduce the use of  pesticides.” 

Likewise, the association is now in close contact with Ethiopian Electric Power  to prevent the death of  migratory soaring birds due to the turbines of wind farms at Adam and  Mekelle.

 In the efforts to  conserve other biodiversity in the Central  Rift Valley Ecosystem of Ethiopia,  He  said the safe use and mitigation of pesticides  are crux of matter.

Yilma also underlined  that the  migratory soaring birds along the flyway of Rift Valley/ Red Sea  are under threat due to illegal hunting, poor waste management,tourism, agricultural intensification and the like.

According to  him, birds are good indicators of  climate change so that  their flyway should be protected from any dangers  with a view to  conserve and perpetuate the biodiversity and ecosystem  of world.

“Globally banned pesticides like persistent organocholorine such as DDT and Endosulphan are  being used   across the country  as  such bans  are  often ignored due to lack of awareness and information,” he added.

Regarding  the level of awareness  towards the side effects of pesticides in Ethiopia, Yilma  noted that  as it did not go deep into society , extensive awareness building in  this regard  is very crucial for  smallholders.

Regarding  challenges associated with obsolete pesticides,  he pointed  out that  inadequate storage and poor stock management ,donation or purchase in excess of requirement ,product bans,pest resistance ,weak enforcement ,among others are the main the reasons for the accumulated stockpiles obsolete pesticides.

So far Ethiopia  has safeguarded and disposed  3,050 tons of  obsolete pesticides in cooperation with international donors .






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