Govt plans to convert locust swarms into fertilisers

Food ministry proposes to incentivise locust collection through community mobilisation

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ISLAMABAD: The government on Wednesday decided to convert locust swarms into fertilisers in order to tackle the pest invasion in Pakistan, which according to some reports poses a bigger threat to the country’s economy than the coronavirus pandemic.

According to an official statement, the Ministry of National Food Security and Research (NFS&R) has proposed that the locust collection would be incentivised through community mobilisation to control the menace at a grassroots level.

The ministry would be the pioneer in converting the locust crisis into an opportunity by developing its bio-compost through community mobilisation.

“The locust-based fertiliser will have added advantage of more N (9pc) and P (7pc). Initially, locust will be unruffled through community mobilisation under the incentivised scheme,” it stated.

Professionals would also be involved from research, extension, academia and civil society in compost processing activities. Later, standard compost would 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) and Khuzdar (26) will be involved in the execution of the project.

The official statement also said that 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 would be to improve crop productivity by 10-15pc, reduction in the use of recommended chemical fertilisers up to 25pc, improve soil organic matter (SOM), soil fertility and soil health.

The ministry stated that through this scheme organic farming would 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 the first year of the project.

“If 1pc of crop loss is controlled by this project, then there will be a benefit of Rs32 billion. From 100,000 tonnes 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 currently in its approval stage.”

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