The challenge of food security: A new agenda for regional cooperation


Nowadays there are few people who still consider security as a military or political concept. By emergence of new challenges like climate change, virus originated global pandemics; pollutions etc, new security related concepts also emerged. Combined words like bio-Security, environmental security and food security are some of them that we want to further elaborate on them in this letter.
Food security is defined as state of having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable nutrition food. It is worth mentioning that according to UN related reports, food security has declined dramatically in many developing countries.
There are many reasons for food security, inter alia, swarm of desert locusts, lack of water for agriculture and rapidly growing population.
What has severely engaged countries like Iran and Pakistan in recent years is infest of locusts from different sides that threatens food supply for millions of people in these two countries.
This year, southern Iran was reinvaded in winter by infestations along the India-Pakistan border. The unusually warm and wet winter allowed an extra generation of breeding, meaning that the Desert Locust infestations will be much larger than normal and poses a major risk for the region. Once conditions dry out, the remaining locust populations would move to the Indo-Pakistan border. It is predicted that the locust swarm Iran and Pakistan is the worst Desert Locust outbreak in the last 50 years, and can destroy all crops along their way; these swarms can wreak havoc in many provinces in both countries, especially in South Iran and South West Pakistan.
This pest can reproduce rapidly, migrate long distances and devastate crops and pasture. Considering that Iran and Pakistan are simultaneously dealing with COVID-19 will soon start suffering from the consequences of the desert locust invasion, including the food insecurity and loss of livelihoods. In this regard, two countries need more and early cooperation to prevent this disaster. In this regard:
n The best way of preventing such horrible attack, that can damage thousands of hectors of agricultural lands, is early warning, spreading pesticides and countering them before breeding. Investing in this Stage, would have a significant effect on saving people’s livelihoods from the Desert Locust infestations and reduce the rehabilitation costs. Therefore, implementing a better control application would be much more cost efficient. Although this solution needs both budget allocation and regional cooperation, Iran and Pakistan are seriously concentrating on it. In the fight against the Desert Locust, the Plant Protection Organization (PPO) of Iran has been reporting the situation to FAO on a regular basis. According to the recent FAO report on April20, 2020, during the current Desert Locust control campaign that started in late February, the Government of Iran has deployed 500 people in the field, 150 vehicles for survey, 40 vehicles for control, 10 spraying airplanes and more than 30 000 litres of pesticide have been used to treat an equal number of hectares. During March 2020, 536 stops were surveyed. In 317 stops desert locusts were present and in 219 stops, desert locusts were reported absent. Control operations carried out in 217 locations. As of 19 April 2020, PPO has treated more than 100,000 hectares of natural/agricultural lands against Desert Locust. Latest estimations revealed that in order to successfully control the Desert Locust infestations during 2020, about 1,000,000 hectares of rangelands, farmlands and orchards should be treated by the end of the first agricultural season of the current year. An on time and proper cooperation between Iran and Pakistan can help them to overcome the problem.
n Enhancing cooperation with Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and benefiting from its experiences. FAO maintains historical. Locust archives that date back to the 1930s and is the lead UN Agency that operates a centralized Desert Locust Information Service (DLIS). This unit monitors the Desert Locust situation throughout the world and related information. In view of the impending arrival of locust swarms in Iran, FAO has increased its emergency technical cooperation Project (TCP) with Iran to help battle the swarms.
n Reinforce of the previous mechanisms like FAO Commission for Controlling the Desert Locust in South-West Asia (SWAC) that is the oldest of the three regional commissions within the global locust early warning and prevention system. This mechanism was established in 1964 and consists of four member countries: Afghanistan, India, Iran and Pakistan. The issues like how to implement International Plant Protection Convention, plant pest crisis and the negative effect of unilateral sanctions on comprehensive combat of countries like Iran with trans-boundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases can be properly discussed in such events.
n Enhancing bilateral cooperation between Iran and Pakistan. Annual
Iran/Pakistan Joint Survey, which could not be implemented in 2020 due to the COVID-19 travel restrictions, is needed to resume its sessions virtually. In this part also, ministry of foreign affairs of Iran and Pakistan are cooperating closely to enhance the connection between the related focal points.
Conclusion: Iran and Pakistan have proved during the history that can overcome to their common difficulties with joint efforts. This year also, two related officials from our countries will manage the problem by on time and properly addressing the issue of pests. What we should bear in mind is that, crippling sanctions against Iran has drastically reduced resources that were supposed to be allocated to desert locust problem. If Iran won’t be able to control the pests, our brotherly neighbor of Pakistan will also be damaged. So, the subject of sanctions and its consequences is not just Iran and needs raising our voice against them.