The migratory quelea birds are dreaded as destructive pests to cereal crops by many communities but to some people in Arua and Maracha districts, the marauding weaver species are a source of fortune and revered delicacy.
Isaac Piriyo, a resident of Mundru village in Ombachi parish, Oluvu sub county in Maracha district is one such person with a lovely testimony.
The 17-year-old pupil of Galia primary school started netting quelea birds which seasonally fly from the direction of the Democratic Republic of Congo when he was so young.
Netting birds is a hobby for young children from the area where majority hunt them for their own dinner and it is not uncommon to see young children armed with catapults and small stones going to hunt the birds. Others use sticky tree saps for the mission.
However a rising number is taking advantage of the growing demand to make money. For those idling at roadside trading centres, the quelea meat is emerging as a chosen accompaniment for intoxicants such as mairungi and waragi.
Last year Piriyo decided to concentrate on hunting the birds for three months using a deadly pesticide that he crushes into powder and smear on white ants. The bait is placed near the cereal crops where the birds like to prowl.
“On a good day, I netted as many as 100 birds. I saved the money which enabled me to buy a heifer at sh460,000. I also bought a sheep and two rabbits,” he disclosed.
The teenager handed the animals to his father to rear as he switched his attention back to schooling.
He believes that the animals are his guarantee for future school fees as he aims to become a medical doctor.
Pariyo’s actions have been viewed as a commendable milestone in this impoverished community of Maracha where available cultivable lands have become small and increasingly fragmented.
His father Mr Charles Ewaga intimated that the heifer increased to five the herd of cattle the family has.
Galia primary school teachers are also singing praises of the boy with his class teacher Mrs Gloria Eyotaru saying that Piriyo has demonstrated productive mentality to generate income.
She said such trait is worth emulating by especially those wasting their time on ropes improvised as seats along the roadsides.
It is not clear whether there is a health risk to the people who eat birds killed using toxic chemicals but the people are feeling more and more comfortable savouring quelea meat.
The birds are preserved by smoking and fixing them on sticks, each stick having usually five to ten birds sells at sh1,000 in the local markets.
Nearly some 30km away in bustling Arua town, Mrs Mary Candiru who specializes in trading in seasonal commodities of opportunity such as white ants and grasshoppers revealed that quelea birds and sparrows too have been making business sense to her recently.
Candiru considered dealing in bird meat when a man travelled from Rhino camp to Arua main market to sell dry birds.
She was awed by the scramble for the birds and since then, decided that the man supplies her and then she resells the birds at a higher price.
Her supplier packs the birds in a box that she buys at sh90,000 and scoops a profit of about sh30,000 upon resell, charging between sh2,000 to sh4,000 per stick of eight to ten birds depending on the size of the birds.
“Clients are always waiting, so, the birds get finished the very day I get them,” she said amid cheers.