$200M WORLD BANK AID LIKELY TO HELP PAKISTAN FIGHT LOCUSTS
The World Bank’s executive board will later this month approve assistance worth $200 million to help Pakistan control locust swarms, restore livelihoods in affected areas, and strengthen the country’s food security monitoring and management system.
Out of the total project cost of $200m, $125m will be financed from the regional International Development Association (IDA), according to the project document made available to Dawn on Saturday.
This would be the World Bank’s first agriculture project in Pakistan to work directly at the federal level with the Ministry of National Food Security and Research since 2010 when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution devolved agriculture and rural affairs to provinces.
The project is selected for emergency response financing because Pakistan’s food security and sustainability of the agriculture sector is in jeopardy. Desert locust breeding and hatching are progressing at an alarming rate in Pakistan, which carries important regional implications.
According to Food and Agriculture Organisation, Pakistan is an important front-line country for the desert locust control given its two breeding seasons.
Successfully controlling the locust outbreak in Pakistan will bring significant public goods to the South Asia region, which provides strong justification for mobilising regional IDA funding. Given the locust spread across South Asia, the Horn of Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula, Pakistan is an indispensable part of the global effort to combat the existing locust crisis.
The locust spread is reaching an alarming level in Pakistan and the crisis is compounded by the Covid-19 pandemic. The component of the World Bank assisted project will be implemented across Pakistan, with a focus on provinces and districts under acute locust attack. Overall, 38 per cent of the country’s geographic area is breeding area for desert locust, while the rest of the country is at the risk of invasion.
According to the government estimate, in the worst-case scenario the agricultural loss could reach over $15 billion, including both rabi and kharif crops. This is a significant risk in Pakistan, where about 20pc of the population (around 40m people) is undernourished, 40pc of the population experience multidimensional poverty, and 25pc of the population is living under the national poverty line.
Without urgent and effective actions to control the crisis, the food security situation and the prospects of agricultural development will deteriorate at a time when the country is under a health pandemic. The newest generations of locusts are emerging at the same time as the new season’s crops and experts fear that up to 100pc of new crops could be lost, the World Bank document reveals.
The impact of the locust outbreak, together with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, calls for a strengthened Food Security and Nutrition Information System (FSNIS) in Pakistan. This system will build and strengthen the ministry’s in-house capacity to undertake timely analysis for high quality decision-making. Strengthening the system is consistent with the recommendations made by the prime minister’s committee in early 2020. Currently, neither the federal government nor provincial governments have a well-functioning system to monitor the food sector and conduct a full-spectrum analysis.
The districts in provinces which have been declared prone to locusts, have over the years, transformed fertile desert areas into agricultural land, with crops grown at least twice a year, in addition to horticulture. The identified areas are ecologically significant with presence of mammals, birds and reptiles, and are host to protected areas of various categories, including game reserves, wildlife sanctuaries, and national parks.
There are more than 300 protected areas in Pakistan out of which 50 protected areas are in Sindh province, 27 in Balochistan and 104 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Since locust attacks have affected a number of districts in these provinces, it is difficult to assess the indirect environmental hazards that may occur to these ecologically sensitive areas in different provinces. Though the ongoing ground and aerial sprays for locust is mostly carried out in agricultural land, the impact on non-target ecological habitat, protected areas and water bodies is not known at this stage, according to the project document.
So far, the extent to which small to medium farmers have either lost their crops due to locust attacks, or are at the verge of losing them, is not known. Losing crops is not only detrimental to their agricultural income, but also leads to lesser food availability for livestock, which effectively means lesser means for livelihood, food security and disposable income to be spent on health costs and other basic needs.