18 December 2022, Pakistan: CABI in Pakistan has officially launched the PlantwisePlus programme to help improve food security in Pakistan through more sustainable approaches to food production.
The CABI-led programme will help the Pakistan Government and smallholder farmers predict, prepare and prevent plant health threats to help reduce crop losses and increase livelihoods.
It is agreed by agricultural scientists that on average, 30-40% of crops worldwide are lost before they can be consumed.
PlantwisePlus will seek to help authorities and food producers adapt to the risks posed by climate change – including adverse weather conditions and the potential spread of invasive pests and diseases – while being mindful of the country’s growing population expected to reach 338 million in 2050.
Pakistan is one of six PlantwisePlus countries that will effectively serve to ‘prove-the-concept’ for the programme in its delivery of digital innovations that also include expansion of its network of plant clinics and plant doctors who help farmers diagnose and remedy their plant health issues.
This will bring about greater efficiency in plant health management and have strong potential for broad application. The other countries are Kenya, Zambia, Ghana, Bangladesh and Uganda.
CABI in Pakistan in September signed an Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Agriculture Department of Sindh, Balochistan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) and Gilgit Baltistan (GB) Governments to strengthen collaboration for PlantwisePlus programme.
The recent launch event for PlantwisePlus was attended by senior officials from national and provincial agricultural institutes including those from extension and research wings. Vice Chancellors, Deans and senior management from universities and representatives from private sector were also present at the occasion.
Participants expressed their full support and commitment to implement the PlantwisePlus programme activities in the country and foresee this programme as not only building the capacity of agricultural scientists in the country but also contributing towards national and regional food security.
In his opening remarks, Chairman Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), Dr Ghulam Muhammad Ali, said that there is a need to address the dynamic challenges of agriculture through concrete actions. He highlighted that PARC is playing its role for agricultural development in collaboration with its partners – conducting needs-based and target oriented research and implementing Government’s policy in to actions.
He appreciated the efforts of CABI for helping to strengthen the national agricultural system. He emphasized that the PlantwisePlus programme will be helpful to address not only the food security challenge but also contribute in improving livelihoods of the farming community.
Dr Babar Ehsan Bajwa, Senior Regional Director, CABI-Asia said the government is convinced and enthusiastic about undertaking quality assurance and accreditation of plant clinic operations, processes, and outcomes under the Plantwise programme.
The partners were also committed to supporting the implementation of the agreed activities under all four work packages of the PlantwisePlus programme.
He added that the government believes that the plant clinic network should be running in the country to provide pest diagnosis and advisory services to the farmers.
Dr Bajwa said, “The government intends to collaborate with a shared vision to address the country’s agricultural challenges and food insecurity issues through PlantwisePlus, which they envision as the best option for long-term support to agricultural development and smallholder farmers.
“Moreover, this programme links with new and existing extension approaches, especially with the introduction of digital tools and authenticated diagnosis/identification of pests and diseases.”
This includes the use of the CABI Horizon Scanning and Pest Risk Analysis tools as well as the control of the insect/pests by biological control agents. The supply of safe and nutritious food will also be increased through enterprises driven by women and youth.
Dr Muhammad Naeem Aslam, CABI Country Coordinator-PlantwisePlus programme, said, “Academia, research and extension organizations can also benefit from online resources of CABI such as the Crop Protection Compendium and Invasive Species Compendium. The CABI Compendium brings together data and research across species, pests, and diseases into one comprehensive resource.”
Under the framework of the MoU, CABI seeks active collaboration for the development of agricultural policy and projects in the country; to improve and mainstream sustainable agriculture development for poverty alleviation of resource-poor farming communities.
PlantwisePlus builds upon CABI’s core strengths whilst innovating through collaboration with relevant partnerships and support countries.
It does this by identifying key crops where quantity and quality can be improved to (1) enhance digital advisory tools to boost climate-smart plant health practices, (2) increase the supply of and demand for safer, higher quality and locally produced food in domestic markets, (3) strengthen detection and response to pest outbreaks, and (4) enhance availability of safer plant protection products.
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