Writer: Rojana Manowalailao, ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems
High level representatives from Agriculture Ministries of ASEAN Member States recently discussed the emerging bamboo locust outbreak in Lao PDR to seek cooperation in tackling a potential cross-border problem.
At a recent Steering Committee Meeting of the ASEAN Sustainable Agrifood Systems (ASEAN SAS) in Malaysia, ASEAN delegates voiced their strong concerns over the spread of the locust wave in Laos and requested support from relevant parties including ASEAN SAS before the issue would get out of control for the region.
“Last year [in 2015] we used more than 28 tons of insecticides [to control the bamboo locust]. “There were outbreaks in three provinces. But this year , there are outbreaks in five provinces,” said Dr. Phanpradith Phandala, Director of Planning and Cooperation Division from Department of Agriculture of Lao PDR.
“We request ASEAN SAS to provide technical support on the application of bio inputs to manage the bamboo locust. Laos has to use a lot of chemicals to control the locust although the country has a ‘green agriculture’ policy. But since it is an outbreak and the [affected] areas are very big, we will have to resort to chemical sprays,” said Dr. Phandala.
The yellow-spined bamboo locust was first detected in Laos in October 2014 in Luang Prabang province, before spreading to Phongsaly and Huaphan provinces. Locusts were reported in 140 places in 2014, but in 2015 they had been recorded in more than 500 locations in 14 districts of the three provinces, despite increased efforts to stop them.
During the first invasion of the locusts in 2015, over 4,300 ha of crops were damaged or destroyed in Luang Prabang province and Huaphan province alone. This included upland rice, maize and Job’s tears, and almost 3,500 families were affected by the locust outbreak.
Dr. Surmsuk Salakpetch, Deputy Director General of Department of Agriculture, Thailand told the meeting that Thailand would set technical cooperation with Lao to find ways to control the pest.
“Based on Thailand’s survey in Laos, the outbreak is in the bamboo forest in the mountainous area and it is very difficult to control. Based on the research, we can use poisonous bait and biological control against adult bamboo locusts.
“If we do not do something effective, it will be a problem of this region because the locust can move quickly. They are attracted by food like bamboo, corn, banana leaf and rice. We urgently need to control this pest, otherwise it will spread to other [ASEAN] Member States,” said Dr. Surmsuk.
The Department of Agriculture of Thailand and ASEAN SAS will support Laos in developing control options, Dr. Thomas Jaekel, Chief Technical Advisor of ASEAN SAS said.
However, a major issue is coordination and national governmental structure.
“Locust is a migratory insect. It is a large scale pest and requires coordination of pest management over large areas. Such type of insect cannot be managed by single farmers. In terms of logistics, the affected sites are remote places in the forest. The question is who is going to deliver bait. Who is going to teach farmers to use poison bait? Who is coordinating with the farmers? Who will pay for the gasoline required to visit sites?
“Furthermore, it needs basic governmental infrastructure and communication and required an overarching management approach. And, support from the [national] government is highly needed,” said Dr. Jaekel.
This was the 8th Steering Committee Meeting of ASEAN SAS, held in Kuala Lumpur on 7 and 8 December 2016. It was meant to update Steering Committee members on the overall status of project implementation and required consideration on important issues. Fourteen delegates from eight ASEAN Member States including Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam attended the Meeting.