ISLAMABAD: The government is in the process of approving a project to use the millions of locusts that have invaded farmlands for developing bio-compost with a view to promoting organic farming in the country.
The pilot testing of the project will be carried out in Cholistan and Thar, and if 10 per cent of population in the two areas becomes active, the ministry of national food security and research expects a force of 222,000 people in local community would be available to combat the attack of desert locusts.
The ministry expects that the project will result in protection of biodiversity and full mobilisation of the local community to develop well-informed system to protect 23.6 million hectares of cropped area.
The economic benefit of the project will be the introduction of low cost – 60 to 70pc lower — compost and expected return will be around Rs2.80 billion in two years, according to the ministry.
Initially insects will be collected through community mobilisation
It will also result in improving soil organic matter, soil fertility and soil health. The locust-based fertiliser will have added advantage of more N (9pc) and P (7pc). Initially locusts will be collected through community mobilisation under an incentivised scheme.
The ministry says that the facility developed for compost production will be functional with or without locust component in the long run, and it has been estimated that Rs1bn worth of compost will be produced during the first year of the project.
If one per cent of crop loss is controlled under the project, it will accrue the benefit of Rs32bn. Out of 100,000 tons of locusts, 70,000 tons of compost will be formed. A single family can earn Rs6,000 on average per month. The full cost of the project will be recovered in three years.
A four-point implementation mechanism has been devised, under which pilot testing of the project will be carried out in Cholistan and Thar deserts during next three to four summer breeding months.
According to the ministry, payment to the community will be channelised through Ehsaas programme at the designated collection points.
This will help develop standard compost from a mix of locust and other bio-waste material. Marketing and distribution mechanism for promoting the use of compost in high value and organic agriculture will also be developed.
An amount of Rs2.5bn will be spent for community-based locust eradication as proposed by the National Locust Control Centre under the plan. It is stated in the plan that community involvement is inevitable where both human and animal settlements are present in Tharparkar, Nara, lower and upper Thal and Cholistan.
The research establishments of the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (Parc) at Bahawalpur, Umerkot and Dera Ismail Khan will be involved in implementation of the project. The Kharan Dryland Centre and agriculture research institutes of PARC at Turbat, Lasbela and Khuzdar will also be involved in the execution of the project. The laboratories of Land Resources Research Institute and the Ecotoxicology Programme of Parc will provide scientific backup for the production of standard compost.
It has been planned that 14 processing sites will be identified in Tharparkar, Cholistan, Turbat and Lakki Marwat. Around 50pc locust, 35pc manure, and 15pc plant residue will be used to produce compost with standard ratio.
Published in Dawn, July 6th, 2020