ISLAMABAD: The World Bank is all set to approve $200 million of loan to help Pakistan fight off locust outbreak that poses a potentially adverse threat to the country’s food security, a top official said on Thursday.
“We have finalised modalities with the World Bank to seek $200 million loan which is expected to be approved by the WB’s executive board within one month period,” the official told The News. “This will build up resources of the ministry of food security and Department of Plant Protection (DPP).”
Sources said a meeting was recently held under the chairmanship of Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Jehanzeb Khan to discuss the national locust control program presented by ministry of national food security and research. This is the first federal agricultural project financed by the World Bank. The project envisages control of the locust outbreak, mitigating negative social and economic impact associated with locust attack and also strengthening the national food security system. The project cost is $200 million, comprising the components of surveillance and control measures, livelihood protection and rehabilitation, early warning preparedness and food security, and project management, monitoring and evaluation.
“There is serious national emergency going on which binds us to reorganise structures. Pests’ control, locust control and animal disease control are the domains wherein federal government can play an imperative role,” Planning Commission deputy chairman said. “Establishment of institutions besides augmented resources are prerequisite to meet the challenges. The issues must be dealt for long term basis keeping in view the broader approach.”
Khan said the pests control program would address the agricultural challenges at national level, wherein federal government would fulfill its responsibilities.
Locust has been spreading in Pakistan since 2019 at an alarming rate and it pushed the government to declare national emergency against desert locust on January this year. A finance ministry’s document said the country received international support amounting to $1.9 million for locust control. Another $ 180 million from Asian Development Bank is in the process.
Food Secretary Omer Hamid Khan told the meeting that cash-based assistance of the national locust control program would enable vulnerable farming households in meeting their basic needs coupled with the resumption of livelihood development. The project also aims to strengthen farmers’ capacity for high value crops, climate smart agriculture technologies and upgrade post-harvest management, he said. The secretary will implement the project by setting up a project management unit under his direct supervision. Provincial governments would lead the project implementation in the affected areas. The national locust control program will span out its activities all over the Pakistan focusing migratory, breeding and infestation routes of desert locusts.
United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization would provide technical assistance in addition to support in international and regional coordination, regional locust surveillance and procurement.
World Bank team will ensure technical inputs, fiduciary requirements and social and environmental safeguards. National and provincial disaster management authorities will support logistics, contingency planning, crisis preparedness and response at federal and provincial level if the locusts’ crisis grows beyond DPP’s control.
After 18th amendment and devolution, provinces have the mandate to maintain basic infrastructure for combating locust, ground operation for the control of locust and logistic support. The federal government at the same time has the mandate for crops protection from locust attack in its international aspect, and for aerial operation.
The federal government has provided more than one billion rupees as its share for stage-I under national action plan from January to June. Provincial governments are also supporting in terms of funds and other resources in combating locust.