CHINA: RURAL RODENT CONTROL IN SICHUAN PROVINCE
Threat to Food Security
Sichuan is one of the largest and most important agricultural provinces in Southwestern China. It produces mainly rice and wheat and accounts for a significant share of China's agriculture output. Rodent damage to agricultural production in the Sichuan has always been a problem but it worsened considerably in the 1990s. About 1.5 million tons of wheat, rice and corn were lost in the fields every year as well as 1 million tons in storage. The main grain loss was estimated at 320 kg per hectare. In some of the worst affected areas, the crops were virtually destroyed leaving farmers with nothing to harvest. A series of contagious diseases in the rodent population were also reported, and represented a potential threat to the local population's health.
FAO’s Initiative in Rodent Control
Various efforts to control the rodents did not lead to any satisfactory results and upon the Government's request FAO provided assistance with a TCP funded project in Sichuan province .The objective of the project was to assist local authorities to start and develop a systematic rodent control program that would monitor and control infestations of rodents in farm land and grain storage.
A Health Hazard to Humans
Field training on rodent management was organized through Farmers Field Schools (FFS). Farmers quickly adopted the new techniques and reported not only up to 93 percent decrease in rodent numbers but also reduced the rate of rat-transmitted human diseases and minimized hazards of accidental poisoning of other animals. A village random survey - carried out at the end of the project - indicated that damage to crops was seven time less in Farmer Field School villages than in non FFS villages.
Embracing the FFS Programme
As field activities are largely supported by provincial, county and local government funds, the new strategies were not only sustained locally but spread rapidly to other counties in the province. Within two years the number of counties involved had more than doubled and a total of 63 000 farmers was trained. A manual on rural rodent control in Chinese language was published to encourage the adoption of the new rodent control measures beyond Sichuan province.
The Sichuan Provincial Plant Protection Station won the Edouard Saouma Award in 2003 for its particularly efficient implementation of this project.
Farmer explaining the functioning of a baiting device.