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High-level Meeting on the Desert Locust Threat to South-West Asia | FAO in India | Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


FAO organized a virtual meeting of Ministers of four South Western Asian Countries on March 11, 2020 to effectively respond to the current Desert Locust spring breeding and a potential threat of swarm invasion at the beginning of the summer in the South-West Asia region. The meeting was requested by the four member countries of the FAO Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in South-West Asia (SWAC): the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Republic of India, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

From India, the meeting was attended by Shri Kailash Chaudhary, Honorable Union Minister of State for Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare (MoA&FW); Mr. Sanjay Agarwal, Secretary, Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare, MoA&FW; Mr. Rajesh Verma, Principal Secretary Agriculture, MoA&FW and Mr. Atish Chandra, Joint Secretary, Plant Protection, MoA&FW.

Additionally, Mr. Suresh Kumar, Director, Ministry of External Affairs; Mr. Rajesh Malik, Plant Protection Advisor; Mr. J.P. Singh, Joint Director, Desert Locust Division; and Mr. K.L. Gurjar, Deputy Director, Desert Locust Division from the Department of Plant Protection Quarantine and Storage (DPPQS), Faridabad also attended the meeting along with the FAO India team headed by Mr. Tomio Shichiri, FAO Representative in India.

The objective of the meeting was to review the current Desert Locust situation; discuss its recurrent impact on these countries; evaluate existing capacities; and discuss contingency plans for anticipatory emergency actions.

With the spring breeding underway in southern Iran, it is anticipated that the country may have three times the number of locust infestations compared to 2019, as a result of a recent swarm invasion from the Central Region. There is an imminent threat of swarms invading the summer breeding areas along both sides of Indo-Pakistan border, from the spring breeding areas within the region as well as from the Horn of Africa from May to July 2020. The timing and scale of the two invasions depend on weather conditions, and the effectiveness of survey and control operations during the spring in southwest Asia and the Horn of Africa.

At the meeting Mr. Atish Chandra, Joint Secretary Plant Protection, Mo&AFW, presented the current situation in India. He mentioned that between May 2019 and February 2020, 940,000 ha were surveyed and control operations were undertaken in 430,000 ha of this land. This was done by deploying 137 vehicles, of which 83 were used for surveillance operations and 53 for control operations. Further, 220 experienced government officers were also deployed for effective control operations.

He lauded the crucial role that the State Agriculture Extension Departments have played in treating the target areas, and the prompt support from pesticide companies in providing an uninterrupted supply of pesticides, as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiatives. In addition, Mr. Chandra outlined the substantive actions being taken in preparing for the Locust invasion threat in 2020, including the increase in the number of teams and equipment such as sprayers, vehicles and aircraft. He also underlined the paramount importance of knowing the real-time situation in areas bordering Pakistan, to help plan and use resources better.

Mr. Sanjay Agarwal, Secretary, Department of Agriculture Cooperation and Farmers’ Welfare, MoA&FW, expressed India’s willingness to offer pesticides and resources to Iran and requested FAO to facilitate the bilateral cooperation between the countries.

The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Islamic Republic of Pakistan also presented the status of Desert Locust and possible infestation in their respective countries.

As an outcome of the meeting, a Technical and Operational Coordination (TOC) team has been established within SWAC to enhance coordination between the four Member Countries and FAO. The key objective of this team would be to facilitate anticipatory actions for the upcoming invasion threat. It would also technically support more effective and synchronized planning and implementation of the surveys required as also the emergency control operations at all levels within each country and the border areas. The TOC team meets virtually on a weekly basis to assess the situation on the ground.

FAO has also launched the Locust Hub; a dashboard that allows online access to updated Desert Locust survey and control data on a near real-time basis, at the regional, national and sub-national levels. This data is presented as interactive maps and analytics for countries to keep a track of the situation within their own country as well as other countries and regions for planning and early warning responses.

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