Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Protecting food harvests from Rats

Many factors contribute to the loss of food available for people to eat. The media often focuses on the controversial factors like climate change, drought, floods and bio-fuels. Losses in food harvests can also come in very small and natural packages, including the form of rats. Rats eat millions of tons of rice per year before the crops are even harvested.

The International Rice Research Institute works with farmers to find very simple ways to combat the rats that don't need to include any chemicals. From the Inter Press Service, writer Marwaan Macan-Markar describes some of the methods that the IRRI helps farmers with.

"Rats are the number one pre-harvest pests of rice in Indonesia and the third most important pest in Vietnam rice fields," Grant Singleton, a rodent expert at the Manila-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), told IPS.

With an eye toward saving more rice for the hungry in the region, international researchers are training farmers in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam to combat this regular destroyer of the grain. Agriculture experts are viewing the eco-friendly rodent management message now taking root in the smallholder paddy fields in Southeast Asia as an efficient and safe alternative to the previously common use of toxic chemicals, such as rodenticides.

"This is the first time that ecologically-based rodent management has been promoted since the introduction of chemicals to kill rodents in the 1950s," said Singleton. "We now have a good understanding of when, where and how to conduct control of the main rodent species in two of the region’s largest rice producers.

The new IRRI-led effort, places greater emphasis on community cooperation and management - including the simple message that farmers plant their crops within two weeks of each other - is already winning praise among farmers who have embraced this green solution.

"I now know how to manage rats better, working with my community so there are fewer in our fields and the rat damage is less," says Esmeraldo Joson Jr, a Filipino farmer, following his shift away from rodenticides, in an IRRI media release.

This is not the only attempt in the region to stop rats from depriving people from their staple diet.

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has been helping farming communities in East Timor and Cambodia to save their harvested rice by storing it in small metal silos, considered more reliable and rat-proof than the traditional baskets and clay pots farmers have used for ages.

"These are small weapons against post-harvest losses," says Rosa Rolle, senior agro-industry and post harvest officer at the FAO’s Asia-Pacific regional office in Bangkok. "They offer long term solutions and are not costly to protect rice against rats and mice."

No comments: