A brainstorming workshop was organized by Sir Gordon Conway, Professor Emeritus, Imperial College, London to assess the risks associated with a potential growth in pesticide use as Myanmar intensifies its rice production and to identify short and medium term objectives to minimize them. Concerned about Myanmar’s rice intensification repeating the mistakes made in the first Green Revolution, especially with regards to adopting prophylactic insecticide spray strategies, a small of concerned scientists from UK, Malaysia, Germany and IRR spent 2 days in the office of Agriculture for Impact at Imperial College, London getting to know the latest with regards of pesticide misuse in SE Asia, heavy resurgences of rice planthoppers, the economic and social consequences of the pest outbreaks to farmers. Myanmar has a unique opportunity to increase its rice production and export with a difference and an opportunity to make use of experiences learned and implementing ecologically based strategies to avoid the costs and losses associated with unnecessary insecticide use. However, pesticide marketing in SE Asia is presently so intensive and largely unregulated that only a concerted and well-orchestrated effort is likely to prevent this, especially in a scenario where regional and international pesticide manufacturers see a new market growth opportunity. Rice prices in Myanmar are currently low, pesticide use is low, and yield improvement potentials are high with improved agronomic practices. There are interests in export markets and an opportunity to include premium rice such as the award winning Paw San variety as a “Green Product”. Besides the economic, environmental and health value of using an ecological based approach as an alternative can be attractive. However Myanmar rice farmers remain vulnerable to adopting chemicals with poor knowledge, equipment and infra structure. Developing effective and sustainable pest management will require a real understanding of the changing rice system in Myanmar and the rural, political and economic drivers affecting pesticide inputs, adequate incentives within the value chain, substantial improvements in pest control advisory and farmer support, and redressing a lost generation of rice research and extension expertise.
The workshop agreed that the first action should be the organization of a mission to assess the status of rice pest management in Myanmar, the socioeconomic drivers that might affect future pesticide use and the potential for an ecological approach. A request for such a mission would need to come from Myanmar. It was agreed that such a mission should be led by a renowned specialist in sustainable pest management such as Sir Gordon Conway. It should be completed before the end of 2013. Support for such a mission should be explored with UK and possibly other sponsors.
It is anticipated that this mission will recommend a more detailed examination of IPM prospects through an international conference in Myanmar and consultation with the government. The conference should engage rice and pest management researchers and practitioners in Myanmar, but given the limited capacity in this area, it should focus strongly on engaging policy makers around the question of what capacity to develop and how. The conference should consider rice pest management in a broader rice production context. It should explore positive experiences from selected countries in the region, specifically Vietnam and certain Chinese provinces, and different elements of successful IPM and ecological engineering implementation and the pesticide regulatory environment. The conference should be held in the first quarter of 2014 in the capital city, Naypyitaw.
In the medium term, it was agreed that a real need exists for education on new pest management concepts, ecology and IPM. There was an opportunity in Myanmar to establish a new model for plant protection advisory services, which CABI’s “Plantwise” might pioneer with local institutions. There is a need for more background on the current system and its resources and what might happen if private sector-driven pesticide sales became more intensive. A mission and conference could help to generate this information.
Report on the Myanmar brainstorming workshop available here.