ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) will provide technical assistance to Pakistan to strengthen food security and resilience in agriculture sector in response to the impacts of Covid-19 pandemic and an unprecedented locust infestation.
The technical assistance for the ‘Strengthening Food Security Post-Covid-19 and Locust Attacks’ will be in the amount of $1.50 million, out of which $600,000 will be financed on a grant basis by ADB Technical Assistance Special Fund (TASF), $500,000 will be financed on a grant basis by TASF-others from the Covid-19 Corporate Pool; $200,000 grant by the Climate Change Fund; and $200,000 will be financed on grant basis by the Netherlands Trust Fund under the Water Financing Partnership Facility and administered by the ADB.
Pakistan relies on outdated pest management, including obsolete knowledge and practices to combat locusts and other pests. These require upgrading to meet international standards for pest, especially locust, management. Bio-friendly options need to be adopted to increase safety and sustain ecosystems.
Information and communication technology (ICT) and remote-sensing technologies are not used for data collection and associated food-monitoring systems. Manual data gathering delays decision-making on food pricing, commodity movement, among others, and negatively impacts food security.
The project will support the Ministry of National Food Security and Research MNFSR) through the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) and provincial agriculture departments in demonstrating at least three of the latest technologies including bio-pesticides and ICT-supported drones, applying international best practices in safe and environment-friendly management of locusts and other pests; and training at least 200 officials from DPP and four provincial agriculture departments to apply integrated pest management practices, and training master trainers.
The technical assistance is not included in the current country operations business plan, however it is aligned with the country partnership strategies for 2015-19 and 2020-24, according to the ADB document made available on Saturday. The impact of ADB assistance is also aligned with sustained national food security, increased resilience in agriculture and national food security, and achievement of national targets for agricultural growth.
The initiative will support the MNFSR and the four provincial agricultural departments in designing, planning and implementing agriculture data collection using the latest technology. It will provide more reliable and timely data on agriculture production, commodity prices, and the supply chain.
The project will conduct surveys across the four provinces to collect sample data on Covid-19 and the impact of locust infestation on farming households and commodity price fluctuations; design and demonstrate ICT-based crop reporting practices for village data collection, and prepare a model for remote-sensing crop assessment and perform enumerated data validation. The project will help improve historical date for effective policy making.
According to details, the project will support rural communities increase their capacity to combat the impacts of climate change and natural hazards. It will provide at least 2,000 farmers and staff members of local non-government organisations — ten per cent of whom are women — with best practices in sustainable crop protection; and demonstrate at least three technologies for climate-adaptive seed development or crop production.
Published in Dawn, December 13th, 2020