‘”The International Year of Plant Health” [in 2020] will highlight the importance of plant health to enhance food security, protect the environment and biodiversity and boost economic development,’ said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo.
Today, up to 40 percent of global food crops are lost annually due to plant pests. In terms of economic value, plant diseases alone cost the global economy around USD$220 billion annually and invasive insects cost around USD$70 billion.
The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the United Nations International Computing Centre (ICC) have delivered an innovative solution for developing countries to ensure plant protection in their international trade. Mr Prado Nieto (Chief Customer Relationship Management, ICC), Mr Venkat Venkateswaran (Chief App Delivery, ICC) and Mr Craig Fedcock (IPPC Advisor at International Plant Protection Secretariat/FAO-IPPC) are working on a joint project that facilitates the exchange of data related to plant health, which was, in the past, normally done on paper. However, using paper certificates leads to loss of plant nutrition and loss of food.
As a part of the new system developed by the IPCC, electronic phytosanitary certificates, in lieu of paper certificates, use safe standards in the arrival and clearance of plants across national boundaries. The IPPC and ICC have developed and are operating a centralised hub (in essence a cloud) to facilitate the exchange of certificates and operating a Generic ePhyto National System (GeNS) web-based system for countries without the infrastructure to produce, send, and receive certificates.
This also makes it cheaper and easier for developing countries to make food trade more effective. Sri Lanka, along with Ghana and Morocco, are early adopters for implementing the GeNS system; these countries expect efficiencies in exportation and importation of plants and plant products to increase trade benefits. Next year is the year of Plant Protection and is recognised by UNGA; thus, hopefully people will realise the importance of healthy plants.
As a vision for 2025 and beyond, ICT can act as a driver for development - as seen in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with the great potential to accelerate progress and to develop knowledge societies, bridging digital divides with innovative technology.
Accordingly, ICTs are identified as targets in the SDG goals for education, gender equality, infrastructure, and in the implementation goal as a cross-cutting tool to be utilised for the achievement of all of the SDGs.
IPPC and ICC will continue to partner with cross-cutting innovation labs as well as technology providers who are already delivering innovative cost-efficient UN shared systems, as well as cloud solutions, AI, BI, IoT, Big Data, blockchain technologies, virtual reality, GIS systems, ID harmonisation and the like.
By Mili Semlani