University program in Bangladesh wins international award

BLACKSBURG, Va., Aug. 8, 2008 – Innovations that greatly increased crop yields for farmers in Bangladesh have won international acclaim for a Virginia Tech program doing research on pest management. The Asia-Pacific Forum for Environment and Development (APFED) gave its 2008 silver medal to the Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program (IPM CRSP), led by Virginia Tech's Office of International Research, Education, and Development.

In conferring the $7,000 Ryutaro Hashimoto Award on July 25 in Davao, Philippines, Asia-Pacific Forum for Environment and Development Chair Yoriko Kawaguchi cited the Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program’s role in “improving rural livelihoods and promoting sustainable and safer vegetable production in Bangladesh.” Nurul Alam accepted the prize on behalf of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute and The World Vegetable Center, Virginia Tech partner organizations.

Safe vegetable production in Bangladesh is particularly important because, by some estimates, vegetables comprise 40 percent of the Bangladeshi diet. Millions of farmers depend on vegetable farming for their income, and two-thirds of Bangladesh’s 147 million people are employed in the agricultural sector. Ed Rajotte, professor of entomology at the Pennsylvania State University and director of the integrated pest management program in Bangladesh, said, “Vegetables are an extremely important nutrient source in Bangladesh. In addition, farmers receive more income from vegetables per hectare than grain crops, so efficient vegetable production contributes to poverty alleviation.”

One of the program’s most successful developments has been a technique in which farmers place an insect sex pheromone mixture in melon and gourd fields. The pheromone attracts the cucurbit fruit fly, which drowns in the sticky mixture. This practice, which has resulted in much greater crop yields, was one of the innovations for which integrated pest management was commended. The technique works so well that it has been embraced by non-governmental organizations such as CARE and Mennonite Central Committee, which in turn have trained other farmers in the techniques, multiplying the good effects.

The Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program was one of more than 80 programs nominated for the awards, presented annually by the Asia-Pacific Forum for Environment and Development, a Japanese nonprofit organization founded in 2001 to address critical issues across Asia. This year’s gold prize went to Practical Action, a British non-governmental organization, for “Floating gardens as community actions for adapting to climate change.”

The Integrated Pest Management Collaborative Research Support Program, funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development, supports research, education and training, and collaborative partnerships among institutions in the United States and developing countries.