ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is faced with double whammy. On the one hand the coronavirus pandemic is threatening lives, while on the other hand locust infestation is imperiling food security in the country.
Thinking out of the box, the government on Wednesday decided to convert locust swarms – which have been described by some as a bigger threat than the coronavirus – into fertilisers with the help of communities.
The Ministry of National Food Security and Research (NFS&R) has proposed that locusts collection will be incentivised through community mobilisation to control the hoppers at the grass-root level, according to an official statement.
The ministry will become the pioneer in converting the locust crisis into an opportunity to start through developing its bio-compost through community mobilisation.
“The locust-based fertiliser will have added advantage of more N (9%) and P (7%). Initially, locust will be unruffled through community mobilisation under the incentivised scheme,” it added.
Professionals will also be involved from research, extension, academia and civil society in compost processing activities. Later on, standard compost will be made from a mix of locust and other bio-waste material.
“Marketing and distribution mechanism will also be devised for promoting the use of compost in high value/organic agriculture. Pilot testing of the whole idea will be done in the Cholistan and the Thar Desert during next 3-4 summer reproduction months,” the communique said.
Capacity building of communities will develop in trapping locust (trenching, netting, vacuum sucking etc.), it also said, adding that 50 collection centres will be designated to facilitate communities.
“Arid zone Centres/Institutes of PARC Bahawalpur (29), Tharparkar/Umerkot (42), Lakki Marwat/DI Khan (41) will be involved in the implementation of the project.”
Human resources available at different institutes Kharan Dryland Centre of Balochistan (27) and Agriculture Research Institutes of PARC at Turbat (12), Lasbella (23) & Khuzdar (26) will be involved in the execution of the project.
According to the official statement, labs of Land Resources Research Institute (LRRI) and Ecotoxicology Programme of PARC will provide scientific backup for the production of standard compost.
The PARC Agrotech Company (PATCO) in partnership with the private sector will perform labelling, packaging, promotion, marketing and branding functions at the national level. Certified compost products will be promoted for export purposes.
The expected outcomes from the project will be to improve crop productivity by 10-15%, reduction in the use of recommended chemical fertilisers up to 25%, improve soil organic matter (SOM), soil fertility and soil health.
Through this scheme organic farming will be promoted in Pakistan. The facility developed for compost production will be functional with or without locust component in the long run. Rs1 billion worth of compost will be produced during first year of the project.
“If 1% of crop loss is controlled by this project then there will be benefit of Rs32 billion. Out of 1 hundred thousand tonne of locusts, 70,000-tonne compost will be formed. A single-family can earn Rs6,000 on average per month. The full cost of the project will be recovered in three years. Payment to the community will be channelised in a proper way. The project is in the approval stage.”