Experts: Why owls are valuable in agriculture

In most communities in Tanzania owls are associated with superstition

What you need to know:

  • Farmers lose between five and 15 percent of their maize harvest per year due to rats. Owls can effectively help in this area

Iringa. Owls are associated with misfortune and superstition in some African cultures, but the birds could bring good fortunes to farmers if they utilise them to their advantage, experts have said.
A research by experts from the Sokoine University of Agriculture (Sua) has established that utilised effectively, owls could be one of the most effective ways of driving pests out of farms.
“We decided to conduct a research after realising that farmers lose between five and 15 percent of their maize harvest per year due to rats. Owls can effectively help in this area,” said a senior researcher for the project from Sua, Dr Nicolaus Mwalusako.
He was speaking at Mgama village during a training session for 200 farmers from Iringa and Mufindi districts in Iringa Region on how to make use of owls to defeat the challenge of pests in their farms.
He said basically, the environment in farms was conducive for reproduction of rats and that using chemicals to kill such pests was hazardous to the environment and to human health.
The government and experts, Dr Mwalusako said, were currently encouraging the use of alternative and environmentally-friendly means of destroying pests in farms.
To effectively defeat the challenge of rats in farms, Dr Mwalusako said, farmers were being encouraged to prepare nests that would be set up in their farms.
“The owl is the kind of a bird that does not want to make its own nest. If farmers prepare the nests, owls will turn the farm into their homes. They will then do their work there,” he explained.
During day time, said Dr Mwalusako, owls will spend time in nests but at night, they will go out in search of food. “Owls enjoy eating rats and this means that while hunting for rats in the farm, it will be effectively helping the farmer to drive the pests out of the farm,” he said.
A farmer from Mgama in Iringa District, Mr Aidani Kisinga said the training opened their eyes to new realties regarding the benefits of owls. He promised to deliver the message to colleagues on why owls would be a boon to their farming endeavours.
A researcher from Sua, Ms Anna Kimaro urged farmers to do away with some unfounded traditional beliefs involving owls and instead focus their attention how the bird can help them in improving their yields.
“Our researches have established that owls are not used in witchcraft but that they use their different sounds in communicating with others [other owls],” she said.