Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) is one of Kenya’s local agricultural produce improvement institutions. Several centres of its kind are located in various parts of the republic. The KARI, Katumani station is an outstanding of these centers, not by virtue of having come up with the fast maturing maize breed, Katumani, after which the centre is named but also by being in the ideal environment where such development can be conceived, tested and proved as sufficiently a success. The 3-month maturing corn breed was thus ‘developed’ in the same tough-dry, with irregular rains semi-arid land-environment where it would satiate the local peoples hunger.
Last weekend I visited the KARI Katumani quarantine station where I spent much of the weekend birding and filling my lungs with fresher rural area air. Apparently city pollution and the cold in Nairobi were not doing good to my respiratory system.
So, this is what I saw while scouting for birds:
Take a closer look at one of the bottles in the lady’s hands. Whatdo you think is the substance in them?Hint: this is an agricultural premise.
Now take another look at the crop, the top of which is the maturing grain. This is definately millet but something else seems to have been yielded of the crop and looks khaki in colour and paper-like.
Well it is paper. Can you guess what for?My first guess was so that birds do not feed on the crop. Well, that is wrong! It is to prevent cross pollination since these are thoroughbreeds with certain ideal properties so any pollination from neighbouring farms will dilute the ideal property, but still, I believe secondarily this also accords some protection to the crop from the birds.
The real control against the pest birds feeding on the crop however is from the lady, (and many others who were shy to face the camera) in the field who use the bottles in which are pebbles and persistent shaking as well as action of the sun has scoured them to look white, so if you guessed that the bottles had milk in them then you were wrong!Sorry for my wrong hint!
Even better is the attitude of the ladies who vent out noise to scare away the stubborn birds-Red-billed Queleas, widowbirds and numerous other voracious seedeaters. They say this is their source of income. They also argued that if chemical spraying was applied in which case KARI is an institution that can easily afford that heinous venture, thendefinately the effects of thechemicals would be felt by humans even long after the crop has matured.
The message is short, clear and noble: No poisonous sprays for safe food crop and meintenance of our jobs!