Pakistan’s fight against locust invasion wins laurels

Published August 15, 2021
This file photo shows a truck spraying an anti-locust solution in Pakistan. — APP
This file photo shows a truck spraying an anti-locust solution in Pakistan. — APP

KARACHI: Recalling how Pakistan, seriously constrained by operational resources, had successfully overcome the desert locust threat with coordinated support from local and international partners in 2019 and 2020, speakers at an event on Saturday emphasised the need for institutional strengthening and capacity building to ensure food security in the country.

The programme was held at the Department of Plant Protection (DPP) to formally receive 10 single cabin vehicles mounted with ultra-low volume sprayers from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of United Nations under its FAO-China South-South Cooperation Programme funded by Beijing.

Lauding Pakistan’s fight against the locust outbreak, FAO representative in Pakistan Rebekah Bell said that last year Pakistan faced two national emergencies; one was Covid-19 and the other was desert locust attacks.

“Pakistan acting in close collaboration with local and international partners rose to the challenge and successfully managed to control the locust outbreak,” she said, adding that the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Korea, Japan and the UK helped provide the resources needed to fight locusts.

DPP receives 10 vehicles mounted with ultra-low volume sprayers from FAO

A desert locust outbreak, she pointed out, was a global and regional emergency and could only be dealt with coordinated assistance at the international level. “The FAO is there to build countries’ capacity so they could effectively respond to the situation and warn them about locusts’ migration. The organisation also assists in policy making and legislation.”

She informed the audience that the FAO had developed an App that people could download from its website and provide information if they spot locusts in their area.

Speaking through a video link, commercial counsellor of Chinese Embassy in Pakistan Xie Guoxiang shared how his government was offering different modalities for capacity building to Pakistan.

“This involves sharing Chinese experiences on desert locust surveillance and control technologies and hands-on training for locust field officers,” he said, while mentioning that a Chinese team conducted field investigations in Sindh, Balochistan and Punjab during the time of locust attacks and provided 600,000 litres of pesticides and sprays.

The Chinese government had also signed an agreement with Pakistan on strengthening cooperation on plant disease and research, he added.

Dr Mubarik Ahmed, FAO National Coordinator for Locust Control Operation in Pakistan, said things were in a big mess when locust invaded the country in 2019.

“But, the way all our departments, our organisations worked in collaboration with international partners was remarkable and today our villages and cities are free of locusts. This shows that if there is a political will, technical and operational will, we can make a difference.”

Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam, also the chief guest, thanked both FAO and China for their continued assistance.

The minister recalled that swarms of desert locusts migrating from Africa entered Pakistan from Iran and affected all the 34 districts of Balochistan while nine districts in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, 11 in Punjab and 10 in Sindh. They also affected nine states in India after 35 years.

He underscored the need for educating youth in science and technology and trained human resources.

Earlier, DPP Director General Dr Mohammad Tariq Khan welcomed the guests. He pointed out that it was after a gap of 27 years that the country faced a national emergency on locust infestation.

“Despite the fact that locust control is a mandate of DPP, the canvas of locust threat was much more than the available material and manpower resources in DPP then,” he said, emphasising the need for future cooperation.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2021

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