Nature provides us many cultural and financial benefits through the ecosystem. Research on the ecosystem has shown that natural animals, especially birds are very important in our agriculture and food supply.
Although these birds play a positive role in our environment, they are sometimes a nuisance to our farmers. Establishing modern methods of agriculture and maintaining the balance of the environment is a major challenge to meet the growing demand for food.
Earth is thought to be home to about 18,000 species of birds, spread across all continents. These birds play an important role in providing food to humans, keeping the environment clean, eating insects, and scattering seeds. Farmer-friendly birds are integrated into the farmer’s daily life, increasing crop growth by controlling pests at different stages of the crop. According to an analysis, up to 28 million tons of insects are eaten annually by birds found in agricultural areas. Birds have a high rate of metabolism, due to this they need plenty of food to survive.
According to the international organization Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, plants are responsible for 95% of our oxygen and 80% of our food, but up to 40% of our food crops are lost due to diseases and pests. The recent locust attacks have created a food crisis in Pakistan as well as around the world. After almost 22 years in Pakistan, this locust is considered a major attack. This desert locust has entered Pakistan through East Africa, the Middle East, Iran and spread to India. Locusts are currently causing damage in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Sindh, Punjab and Balochistan, especially in their agricultural areas. An estimated 80 million locusts can live in one square kilometer, and they can travel up to 150 kilometers a day.
Regarding locust attacks, government of Pakistan declared a state of emergency at the national level along with government agencies. Pakistan Army is also using all its resources to counter this locust attack. Insecticides are being sprayed on affected areas across the country, but these pesticides can cause severe damage to humans, livestock and even locust eating birds (farmer friendly birds). Farmer friendly birds play effective role in reducing population of damage causing insects.
There are different types of native and migratory birds in Pakistan which are also considered farmer friendly. Notable among them are Bank Mena, Common Mena, Black Drongon, House Crow, Kettle Egret, Common Babblers, House Sparrow, Green Beater, Rosie Starling and Indian Roller. These birds play an important role in maintaining the balance of insects in our agricultural system. But unfortunately the indiscriminate use of chemical fertilizers and poisons in our agriculture and continuous hunting have done great harm to these eco-friendly birds. The passenger pigeon’s extinction was shocking; its population declined from 2 billion to zero in last 40 years. According to a report, the misuse of chemicals in cotton-growing areas alone has reduced the bird population. Due to which the ecological balance has deteriorated.
According to FAO, up to 2.5 million tons of pesticides are used worldwide every year, which is increasing over time. In a developing country like Pakistan, 80% of the total use of pesticides is in cotton areas alone. Due to which the number of natural birds is decreasing by the passage of time. Chemical fertilizers and poisons have caused immense damage to our environment and natural birds, as we can see from the damage done to our agriculture by locusts. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world’s bird population has declined by 60% in the last 200 years due to agricultural innovation. Global climate change has also created uncertainties for agriculture and natural animals, leading to declining bird populations, migration, breeding and food issues.
Significant reductions in bird populations and increasing locust attacks have become a global threat now. As a result, food production is expected to decline significantly. Controlling the desert locust is an international responsibility, as it spreads over vast areas and countries. The FAO has warned that monsoon rains in South Asia could exacerbate locust attacks. Therefore, we must also pay attention to biological control and bio-pesticides for effective control of locusts, so that we can save our natural environment and birds in the future. In short, there is an urgent need to formulate a solid policy that can balance humans, natural animals and our agricultural system.
Young Agronomist, Graduated from University of Agriculture Faisalabad
Former Research Associate and preparing myself for PhD in future