Event objective

To report on the implementation of FAO's Special Programme Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES) and to discuss various constraints that the programme faces.


The World Food Summit in 1996 recognized the threat posed by transboundary animal diseases and plant pests to food security, sustainable agriculture and trade. In Commitment No. 3 of the Plan of Action, it called for "effective prevention and progressive control of plant and animal pests and diseases, including especially those which are of transboundary nature, such as rinderpest, cattle tick, foot and mouth disease and desert locusts". FAO has a comparative institutional advantage in facilitating and coordinating the control and elimination of transboundary animal and plant pests and diseases, since effective action usually requires collaboration among countries. The information on the EMPRES Programme is available in our brochures and on our website


The EMPRES programme on livestock diseases promotes four key precepts: Early warning, early reaction, coordination, and enabling research. Recent disease outbreaks (e.g. foot-and-mouth disease in Europe, Rift Valley fever in Eastern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula) show that early warning systems and rapid detection are crucial in combating disease in an efficient and cost-effective manner. Through information networks and collaborative partnerships, EMPRES receives and analyses global data and patterns, and disseminates early warning alerts to FAO member countries. To help countries improve the level of their emergency preparedness, EMPRES has written basic contingency planning manuals on African swine fever and bovine pleuropneumonia and is finalizing manuals on Rift Valley fever and foot-and-mouth disease. It has also developed a transboundary animal disease information system (TADinfo) to assist in animal health management and analysis at national and regional levels. EMPRES will soon launch EMPRES-i, a global early warning system linking data on animal diseases, animal health and the environment.

Of the 16 major transboundary animal diseases, EMPRES-Livestock has given primary attention to rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease, bovine pleuropneumonia, classical and African swine fevers, peste des petits ruminants, Rift Valley fever and Newcastle disease of poultry. Major achievements of EMPRES-Livestock include:
· The Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme, which has been instrumental in reducing this devastating disease - responsible for millions of livestock and wildlife deaths throughout Africa, Asia and Europe to a few small circumscribed areas. These last foci should be eradicated within the next year.
· Eradication of African swine in Côte d'Ivoire and Ghana (2000-2001).
· Eradication of a new Foot-and-Mouth Disease virus in North Africa (1999).
· Launching of the Hemispheric Plan for the Control and Eradication of Classical Swine Fever in the Americas, with the objective of eliminating this disease by the year 2020 and providing a framework to other regions of the world to do the same.

Though EMPRES is not a research facility, its analytical services are of vital importance in promoting a better understanding of disease patterns and intervention strategies. It also provides support to reference laboratories for the diagnosis of transboundary animal diseases, and collaborates extensively with the IAEA, WAICENT, and university centres around the world.

Points for discussion

1. Effectively containing the impact of transboundary animal diseases on the livestock sector and thus on global food security;

2. Organizing concerted global support for improved management of transboundary animal diseases;

3. Fostering and maintaining the political will needed to realize such action.

EMPRES - Desert Locust

The EMPRES programme on plant pests was initiated in 1994 with a component (EMPRES/DL) specifically aimed at the Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria). The Desert Locust has been a scourge of mankind for at least two millennia. When a plague occurs, crops and pastureland in up to 65 countries in Africa, the Arabian peninsula and South-West Asia can be threatened. Plagues develop in desert and semi-arid areas where poor subsistence farmers are the first to be affected.

EMPRES/DL was designed as a long-term collaborative programme among locust-affected countries, donors and FAO. Emphasis is given to strengthening the capacity of national units to carry out preventive control through early warning, early reaction and research. The programme focuses on three regions: Western (West and North-West Africa), Central (Red Sea area), and Eastern (South-West Asia).

As a field-oriented programme, EMPRES/DL seeks to make the implementation of a preventive control strategy practical. In the Central Region, it has been fully operational since 1997 with nine participating countries and support from six donor countries, and is now about half way through its second phase. In the Western Region, pilot activities and applied research have been under way for several years but a fully-developed field programme awaits support from key donors. In the Eastern Region, capacities are already at a higher level, but donor support is sought to help modernize methodologies and make them more environmentally friendly.

Major achievements of EMPRES/DL in the Central Region include:
· implementation of Country Focus Programmes in five countries to develop country capacity in early warning and early reaction
· data management for decision making using a GIS `RAMSES' and processing satellite images to identify locust habitats in remote areas
· contingency planning towards better preparation for different locust scenarios;
· intensive training to develop national master trainers who can train national staff and cope with staff turnover without resorting to outside support
· creation of a locust diploma course at the University of Khartoum and sponsorship for institutions within the region to carry out research

In the Western Region, progress includes:
· creation of a Locust Commission, scheduled to hold its inaugural meeting in September 2002.
· strengthening of the early warning and early reaction of one key country in the region, Mauritania;
· applied research on locust pesticide application techniques through a donor-funded project, with a view to reducing the amount of pesticide used and to replacing chemical pesticides with environmentally friendlier biopesticides.

Furthermore, EMPRES experience has enriched FAO's approach to emergencies caused by other species of locust. In Afghanistan the current locust emergency will lead to a medium-term approach, covering several countries in the region, employing a preventive strategy to reduce the risk of future emergencies and using, where possible, biopesticides. Despite these achievements, much remains to be done to ensure that new methodologies and technologies for preventive control function during upsurges and are sustainable.

Points for discussion

1 . There has been no major upsurge in locust populations since 1997/98. The absence of locusts tends to cause complacency both in locust-affected countries and among the donors. History shows that such complacency often leads to upsurges that develop to a level where containment becomes very difficult. This was the case in the 1986-1989 plague, which required $300 million of donor funding to bring under control. EMPRES Central Region is financially viable until the end of 2003 and EMPRES Western region has not yet got off the ground, although funding is now promised. How can locust-affected country and donor interest be maintained, so that EMPRES can achieve its objective?

2. FAO seeks to achieve the "greening" of locust control methods, using biopesticides to the greatest extent possible for the benefit of the environment and the health of farmers and locust operators.. Conventional chemical pesticides will still have to be used when crops are under immediate threat because biopesticides are too slow acting. Indication of donor commitment is required to ensure a stable market for biopesticides and the availability of stocks when required.



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© FAO, 2002