OPEC Fund extends grant to combat Red Palm Weevil in the Middle East
The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Fund for International Development has approved a grant of $350,000 to help finance Phase III of a Red Palm Weevil elimination program spearheaded by the Arab Organization for Agricultural Development (AOAD).
The aim of the initiative is to step up Integrated Pest Management (IPM) activities to strengthen coverage of present national control campaigns.
The date palm is vital to the Middle East, with an estimated 50 million trees producing some 1.2 million tons of dates annually, of which around one half is exported. Additionally, the fruit provides a staple food source.
Date palms also help prevent desertification as they are highly adaptable to drought and poor soil conditions. One of its biggest threats, however, is the Red Palm Weevil pest, which was first detected in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in 1985. Since then, the insect has spread to surrounding countries and has decimated thousands of trees. Although chemical insecticides are effective in controlling the pest, concerns have arisen over their environmental impact.
In 1996 the AOAD, in cooperation with national research institutions, launched the program Bio-control Technologies as Essential Components of IPM to Combat Red Palm Weevils in the Middle East. Phases I and II, which were carried out between 1997 and 2002 were successful in reducing insect numbers using several bio-containment methods. Other achievements included building fully-equipped bio-control laboratories and implementing a wide range of capacity building and institution strengthening measures.
Under Phase III, emphasis will be geared towards technology transfer of bio-control methods to farmers through the assistance of specially trained agricultural engineers and extension agents. National teams, which will be provided with operational supplies and equipment, will be formed to carry out technology transfer in the nine participating countries; namely, Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Palestine, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Additional research will be conducted to develop in-vitro, mass production of the pathogen, and toxicological studies carried out. Establishing linkages with other national programs in the region and international institutions in developed countries is also envisaged. — (menareport.com)
© 2004 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)