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South-South Cooperation boosts expertise to protect plant health and livelihoods in Cambodia and Sri Lanka

Field demonstrations of China’s new technologies show how effective surveillance and pest management can contain Banana Fusarium Wilt, a disease impacting banana production and exports in Cambodia. ©IPPC Secretariat

12/09/2023

Smallholder farmers are important food producers globally. However, they often struggle to meet international standards on trade and related plant health requirements. Bridging the gap between smallholder farms and the global market is now more important than ever. Through South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) programmes, producers, exporters and technical experts are brought together to share valuable know-how and work together to strengthen agricultural production.

One key, but often overlooked area, for this critical expertise is plant health and plant protection.

Robust and up-to-date phytosanitary measures are crucial to regulating and preventing the introduction and spread of pests to plants and plant products. The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) is a multilateral treaty that aims to protect plants by preventing the introduction and spread of pests, and the IPPC Secretariat hosted at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), works to ensure all countries have the capacity to implement phytosanitary measures, thereby facilitating trade of agricultural products.

One FAO-China South-South Cooperation (SSC) project is putting farmers at the centre of this process. Ensuring that agricultural products meet the required phytosanitary standards needed for international trade offers farmers an opportunity for earning additional income. The SSC project brought Chinese experts to Cambodia and Sri Lanka to share new technologies and products related to plant health and best practices in their use.

Here are two examples of how South-South Cooperation is helping farmers meet phytosanitary measures and ensure plant health:

Fighting Banana Fusarium Wilt disease in Cambodia

For decades, farmers in Cambodia have been struggling with Banana Fusarium Wilt,a devastating disease affecting their second largest agricultural export, according to the World Trade Organization. Banana Fusarium is a soil-borne fungus that causes the lower leaves of the banana plant to wilt and turn yellow. As the disease advances, more of the leaves become yellow and die, leaving behind a “skirt” of dead leaves. The spread of this disease severely impacted banana production and exports in tropical areas of Southeast Asia, including Cambodia.

To combat Banana Fusarium, the IPPC Secretariat, implemented a project with the help of experts from China to improve Cambodia’s entire phytosanitary system. The project commenced in 2019 with a Phytosanitary Capacity Evaluation, which helped to identify the gaps in the phytosanitary system. This information was then used to organize training courses on phytosanitary techniques and technologies in integrated pest management (IPM) to combat the disease.

Fifteen selected Cambodian National Plant Protection Organization officers learned monitoring, early detection and laboratory identification techniques, as well as IPM techniques. They also learned about the process for detecting and quarantining Banana Fusarium upon entry of imported bananas.   

Thanks to this training, farmers detected the disease at an earlier stage, enabling them to implement control measures before it could spread and cause significant damage. These new technologies showed how effective surveillance and pest management could contain Banana Fusarium and prevent its spread.

Experts led a training and field investigation to better prevent and control the spread of fruit flies, the main insect pest impacting mango production and exports in Sri Lanka. ©IPPC Secretariat

Preventing and controlling fruit flies in Sri Lanka

Through the SSC project in Sri Lanka, Chinese plant health experts offered training courses and field demonstrations on trap monitoring, morphological and molecular diagnosis, heat and irradiation treatments and IPM techniques that control fruit flies, a rampant pest in Sri Lanka’s mango plantations. Participants from the National Plant Quarantine Service learned to set up and check fruit fly traps in an orchard.

Since then, they have moved on to implementing better pest management techniques of fruit flies and improving the phytosanitary standards in the country because antiquated legislation of plant protection was harming the volume of exports. The country was still relying on an ordinance dating back to 1981, falling behind the current international norms. Now, with a targeted approach to boost phytosanitary capacities, the SSC project has helped Sri Lanka significantly improve its international and cross-border trade.

With this new pest surveillance methods, diagnostic techniques, plant health treatments and environmentally friendly IPM, the capacity of prevention and control of fruit flies in Sri Lanka has been greatly improved.

South-South Cooperation is a framework for spreading knowledge and expertise among developing countries. The FAO-China SSC project, implemented together with the IPPC Secretariat, demonstrated how strengthening the phytosanitary capacity allowed for safer and smoother trade in both Cambodia and Sri Lanka.  

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