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FAO pledges greater support to help Pakistan fight Desert Locust emergency

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16/02/2020 Lahore – FAO Director-General QU Dongyu today pledged to help Pakistan fight its Desert Locust emergency after seeing first-hand the devastating impact of the upsurge in the country’s Punjab region.

On a three-day official visit to Pakistan, Qu saw how the Desert Locust upsurge was destroying crops and harming rural communities when he visited the Okara district in Punjab province on Sunday.

The Director-General described it as a “severe outbreak” as he took photos of locusts in the region.

Two weeks ago Pakistan declared a national emergency over locust swarms. The outbreak is also having a devastating impact on seven countries in East Africa with Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, the hardest hit. FAO is on the ground offering assistance with surveillance and support for control operations and protecting livelihoods, as the locust upsurge now threatens to spread to other countries.

On Saturday the Director-General met Pakistan’s President, Arif Alvi, and discussed ways to promote agricultural modernisation and rural development in Pakistan with the aim of transforming the country’s agri-food systems and accelerating progress towards the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Qu also met Khusro Bakhtiar, Pakistan's Federal Minister of National Food Security and Research and together they endorsed a $500,000 Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP) to make FAO’s technical expertise available to national experts in order to strengthen their capacities to combat the Desert Locust infestation and improve locust management.

“Locusts are the oldest migratory pest in the world,” Qu said on Sunday. “They have a high capacity to multiply, form groups and migrate over relatively large distances.”

During his field visit in Punjab province, Qu said he was inspired by the resilience and strength of rural communities in Pakistan.

“Smallholder farmers are using climate-smart approaches & lessons learnt from FAO farmer field schools to find local innovative solutions which contribute to their household food security,” the Director-General said.

He also said he was proud of the excellent work by FAO staff who are bringing their knowledge and resources to the country’s most vulnerable people.

“Our staff are promoting climate resilient agricultural practices in rural communities to support their livelihoods,” he said.