Study on the blackbird (Agelaius ruficapillus Viellot- Emberizidae, Aves) in the rice production areas of Southern Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil : basis for a population control management program

J.J.C. da Silva

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


    <p>Rice is one of the main components of the Brazilian diet. The State of Rio Grande do Sul produces approximately 4,6 millions tons per year - more than 54% of total Brazilian rice production. The average production in Southern Brazil is 5,2 tons per ha, with yields of 10 tons per ha being recorded. The rice production sector of Rio Grande do Sul is responsible for 240.000 jobs [production, industrialization and commercialization] and contributes 1,6 billion US dollar to Brazils' economy per year.</p><p>Because the Brazilian governmental have policies extinguished all subsidies and opened the country for globalization, the future of rice farmers depend exclusively on their capacity to compete with imported rice, in terms of market price/quality. If they prove incapable of overcoming this situation, an economic and social crisis caused by bankruptcy amongst rice farmers will take place in Southern Brazil. As immediate consequence of this would be an aggravation of the present exodus of rural workers into the cities. Despite small room for maneuvering, and trying to keep their level of productivity, the economic survival of farmers has a high priority at present.</p><p><strong>Problem identification</strong></p><p>The Blackbird ( <em>Agelaius ruficapillus</em> ) was a protected animal in Rio Grande do Sul. The bird however is a serious problem on rice producing farms. Its population has risen so drastically that it has become a pest. Blackbirds take freshly sown seeds and sprouts, break stems and eat ripening rice or knock it to the ground. Considering the current economic situation, control of blackbirds is of utmost priority for the Brazilian rice farmers. However, many control strategies are not legal or have been proved to be ineffective. An efficient and effective method, acceptable for farmers, environmentalists and nature conservationists, should be found. This thesis presents the challenge to manage the 'conflicting objectives and interests' between farmers and environmentalists. These conflicts result from different opinions, appreciation and definitions related to the problem and possible solutions involved. The method adopted is a result of long term research, carried out in close cooperation between rice farmers and supported by science.</p><p><strong>Chapter 1</strong> sets the context of the problem: detailed analysis of the meaning of rice production in Rio Grande do Sul State and the importance of a sustainable solution to the Blackbird problem. This chapter ends up with a clear description of the nature of the problem.</p><p><strong>Chapter 2</strong> continues by analyzing the Blackbird problem. The development of the problem in time and space, as well as relevant efforts for control undertaken so far, is studied on the basis of literature or experiences. This study outlines our problem and raises the scientific questions to be answered by research. An explanation is given as to why the research could only be done on the farms themselves, complete with all the variations, disturbances and differences in farm management. Finally, it is state that the question is not discovery-oriented, but invention-oriented, namely to find a method for sustainable and persistent control of Blackbirds in rice managed by farmers at farm level.</p><p><strong>Chapter 3</strong> identifies designing objectives at four levels of aggregation: crop, field, farm and region. Each level might be considered as a study in its own right. Results obtained from each of those studies are components of the ultimate solution: a sustainable control of the Blackbird in rice. The research journey was based on a series of steps which are addressed in detail on next chapters.</p><p><strong>Chapter 4</strong> represents the starting point of our research journey and concerns our first contact with the problem. This phase resulted in a conceptual model of the Blackbird problem which helped us to formulate research/designing objectives. An AKIS analysis of rice production system in Southern Rio Grande do Sul was also presented.</p><p><strong>Chapter 5</strong> presents an in-depth study of the Blackbird problem and identification of its causes. This phase integrates experiential and experimental knowledge. Insights obtained after integration gave the foundation for planning further research and future farmer management.</p><p><strong>Chapter 6</strong> concerns the design, discussion and adjustments of the theoretical management program by all the actors involved with the problem. The plan was initially drawn up by researchers and discussed with study groups of rice farmers. Finally, the outline plan was presented, discussed and improved on during an International meeting about the Blackbird, which involved actors connected to rice production and environmental preservation sectors in South America.</p><p><strong>Chapter 7</strong> concerns the implementation and dissemination of the management plan. Misunderstandings or inappropriate solutions, discovered after implementation of the management plan were considered as learning experiences. Actually, our research journey got a feedback effect.</p><p><strong>Chapter 8</strong> evaluates the Blackbird research project in the light of critical success factors. It also examines the implications of the research project for farmers, organizations and their staff. This research study demonstrates the power of participatory action and systems perspective in initiating and fostering changes based on sustainability. The inevitable conclusion is that for problems in complex agroecosystems, such as the Blackbird problem is, the combination of approaches - sustainability, systems, and participatory (SSP) - such as the one applied on this study is the preferred one for improving the problem situation: it has greater efficacy in these situations. Another conclusion is that the role of researcher changes from being a solver of problems to being a co-learner with the farmers as they seek to solve their problems and provide the means to find, together, the solutions. A SSP approach is relatively new (at least in Brazil) and the assumptions supporting it are still being determined. This study has exposed some of its positive and negative aspects.</p>
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • Goewie, E.A., Promotor
    • Asmus, M.L., Promotor, External person
    Award date23 Jun 1999
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Print ISBNs9789058080394
    Publication statusPublished - 1999


    • agelaius
    • rice
    • bird control
    • brazil


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