30 August 2017

Ethiopia: Safeguarding Migratory Soaring Birds

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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