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Japan funds anti-locust efforts in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan

Locust outbreaks periodically devastate precious food crops in Central Asia, jeopardizing both the food security and livelihoods of rural people. Improved locust management capacity is the goal of three-year, US$ 5 million project being financed by the Government of Japan in Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan.

Proposed by the Republic of Tajikistan during last year’s meeting of foreign ministers under the “Central Asia plus Japan” dialogue, the project will be implemented by FAO.

“FAO plays a leading role in coordinating efforts to manage locust issues at global level,” said Viorel Gutu, FAO Representative in Tajikistan. “Benefiting from unique expertise and experience, it promotes prevention, provides technical assistance for strengthening national capacities on locust management, and facilitates regional and international cooperation.”

FAO ensures that a comprehensive approach is applied to improve locust management in concerned countries, Gutu continued. The Organization is also in a position to create links and synergies between national locust control centres working on different species and in other geographic regions.
Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Afghanistan are periodically plagued by swarming locust. The pests attack a wide range of cultivated crops. One of the reasons for low agricultural productivity is damage to crops by locust. What’s more, losses due to locust have been rising in recent years.

“In Tajikistan, three out of the four provinces of the country are regularly affected by locust infestations as shown by figures over the past decade, said Jamila Saidova, deputy to Tajikistan’s Minister of Agriculture. “The southern province of Khatlon is the first and most infested, followed by Sughd and then by the Districts of Republican Subordination.”

According to Saidova, it is important that the project will enable improvement and strengthening of the country’s technical capacity for addressing locust. Of the total project value, it is expected that about $2,275,000 will be allocated for Tajikistan.

Until now, the affected countries have had difficulty coping with locust due to inadequate resources for survey and control operations, shortage of modern equipment for monitoring, communication, positioning and control, and insufficient trained and experienced staff.

The Japan-financed project is designed to develop national capacities and encourage regional cooperation. Experts will have regular exchange of information and joint activities including cross-border surveys.

A regional training-of-trainers programme on locust management will be instituted, along with development of practical guidelines on reducing risk to human health and the environment from locust control operations. Tajikistan will serve as a training and meeting centre, with the project supplying prefabricated buildings for this purpose.

Two out of every three people in the working population of the concerned countries are employed in the agricultural sector. Yet agriculture accounts for only about 25 percent of gross domestic product, indicating room for improvement in terms of productivity, living standards and poverty alleviation.

29 October 2015, Dushanbe, Tajikistan

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