Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization

Plant Health Officers from FAO regions gathered in Rome to discuss the next priorities


Rome, 31 March 2023 – Plant health officers from all FAO regions and headquarters held a meeting to share the latest actions to protect plants globally. The meeting was opened by Jingyuan Xia, Director of the FAO Plant Production and Protection (NSP) Division, addressing the over 20 participants gathered in the Lebanon room of FAO. Director Xia recalled the previous meeting, taking place a year earlier, and also the meetings that the division organizes yearly. The meeting was moderated by Haekoo Kim, FAO Technical Adviser. 

The discussions started with updates from all FAO regions by the plant health officers: Jean Bahamas for Africa, Yubak GC for Asia and Pacific, Piotr Wlodarczyk for Europe and Central Asia, Raixa Llauguer for Latin America and the Caribbean, and Thaer Yaseen for Near East and North Africa. All presentations focused on plant health, particularly on the key achievements in 2022, major challenges for 2023 and suggestions for potential synergies among regions. 

The outcomes of the discussions focused on some important follow up action for 2023, such as strengthening the regional phytosanitary capacity, improving regional cooperation with relevant partners and stakeholders, supporting corporate initiatives such as the Global Action on Fall Armyworm and the One Country One Priority Product initiative, providing technical support to Ukraine, promoting the ePhyto solution for electronic phytosanitary certification regionally and continuing the engagement with the private sector in plant health prevention, particularly through a more responsible pesticide use. 

On a more long-term view, participants agreed to share future workplans to identify potential areas of cooperation among regions, improve coordination for resource mobilization between headquarters and regions, promote innovative plant protection measures and innovations (e.g. integrated pest management, farmer flied schools, biopesticides, biofertilizers, etc.), better collaboration both horizontally and vertically, support in standard setting, policy assistance and awareness raising, among others. 

Some major challenges were also identified, such as lack of resources, difficulties in accessing export markets and also inadequate staffing, both in terms of qualifications and availability. Some regions also noted a lack of infrastructures, limiting their ability to operate efficiently. Additional factors such as climate change are also causing an expansion of transboundary pests and diseases that is cause for concern at the regional level. 

Director Xia thanked all participants and shared three key messages in his closing remarks addressing the outcomes of the discussions. He recalled the divisional annual theme on optimization and minimization, on which there will be a publication in 2023; moving towards plant health management, with a more holistic approach, contributing to the One Health approach; implement a green, digital plant protection through innovation and technology. 

The way forward requires a shift towards prevention, which is also more cost-effective than other actions to preserve plant health. Innovation and technologies are also key to achieve this transformation towards plant health management and this can happen only with more investments and resource mobilization. Platforms such as farmer field schools can help in reaching out to farmers in a better, more inclusive manner and ensure plant health is protected. Finally, synergies and communications are also essential to help prioritize plant health in national and international agendas.