Many people are unaware of the numerous contributions that applied nuclear science and technology are making to sustainable development around the world. As the agency in the UN family responsible for accelerating and enlarging the contribution of atomic energy to peace and development, the IAEA works to both advance the knowledge base and exploit this knowledge to tackle the most pressing global challenges -- poverty and disease, natural resources management and environmental degradation.
At this year's World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Secretary-General Kofi Annan pointed out that peace and prosperity cannot be achieved without partnerships involving governments, international organizations, the business community and civil society. I share his view that no development institution can operate successfully alone.
This brochure highlights IAEA's co-operation with UNDP in the field of natural resource management. The stories illustrate how partnerships help people in developing countries make more productive use of existing resources while preserving their environment. The IAEA recently adopted a new strategy for technical co-operation that addresses sustainable development priorities in developing countries with the objective of promoting tangible social and economic benefits. In implementing this new direction, the IAEA will continue to co-operate closely with UNDP and other members of the wider development community to further progress in its developing member states.
As Administrator of UNDP, I have always placed co-ordination of the United Nations System's operational activities at the centre of UNDP's mandate. Pulling together the United Nations family's wealth of expertise lies right at the heart of United Nation reform. The examples of successful projects outlined in this brochure provide showcases of how well the United Nation System's operational activities can work. They illustrate how the co-ordination role and field level leadership of the UNDP, especially as founder and manager of the resident coordinator system, can be successfully combined with the expertise of a technically oriented United Nations System agency.
Access to food, energy and clean water for a growing population are all essential in the fight against poverty. Nuclear techniques based on isotopes and radiation can provide important tools and techniques in addressing such basic human needs. Seen against this background, we welcome the Agency's decision to focus its technical co-operation programme towards the application of existing capabilities in pursuit of development solutions.
UNDP will continue to build its partnership with the IAEA with the aim of helping developing countries achieve the related goals of eradicating poverty and combatting environmental degradation.
"The technical co-operation activities of the IAEA are a direct
contribution to development, helping countries in the critical
areas of water, health, medicine and food production."
UN Secretary General Koffi Annan
For more than four decades, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has been fulfilling its mandate to "accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace health and prosperity throughout the world". In the developing world, the primary task has been to build the basic capacity of Member States to understand and safely employ nuclear science and technologies.
This brochure illustrates how communities across the globe are deriving sizable economic and social benefits by putting the atom to work in solving everyday problems. It also shows how these benefits are multiplied through collaborative efforts and effective partnerships between UN agencies, notably between United Nations' Development Programme (UNDP) and the IAEA. The alliance with UNDP has been particularly fruitful for several reasons. As a leading development co-ordinator and policy-advisor, UNDP has helped to ensure that the quality of IAEA technical co-operation is high and that projects are closely aligned with national development priorities. Likewise, UNDP's programmes have benefited from the expertise and capabilities of IAEA and its counterpart structure. But the foremost beneficiaries have been developing countries themselves. As the stories below demonstrate, they have derived new jobs and better livelihoods, more food to feed their families and the vital information they need to fight pollution, disease and poverty.
Partnerships with UN Organizations are critical to sustaining nuclear science and technology in developing countries. The stories in this brochure provide evidence of the value of a few specific techniques and why their impact should be multiplied through strengthened collaboration.
Joint field activities are currently being forged with UNICEF, World Food Programme and several other United Nations organizations. The IAEA and its Member States are looking to develop further strategic alliances and we invite all our associates to join in efforts to improve the quality of development programmes and quality of life through effective partnerships.
Isotope techniques are identifying better ways to use natural resources; ones that might otherwise be discarded. In Indonesia, UNDP and IAEA joined forces to promote a nutritional supplement for animals that is produced from local agro-indusctrial by-products. The supplement "blocks" have dramatically improved health and productivity of livestock and contributed to more sustainable livelihoods for rural communities across the archipelago.
Over the last few decades, Indonesia has achieved rapid economic advances and substantial reductions in poverty. Still, almost 50% of the country's population depend on agriculture for their income. Agricultural productivity has trebled in the past 25 years, making Indonesia self-sufficient in rice and many other basic foods. But the country still relies heavily on imports for meat and dairy products. For example, over three-quarters of Indonesia's milk supply was imported in the mid-1990s.
Back in the early 1980s, UNDP embarked on an integrated project designed to find solutions to productivity problems in several key areas: plant breeding; soil fertility and plant nutrition; entomology; agrochemicals; and animal production and health. The IAEA was the executing agency for the project which transferred and applied a range of nuclear techniques for agricultural research and development. The UN agencies formed a partnership with the Centre for Application of Isotopes and Radiation (CAIR), a part of BATAN, the National Atomic Energy Agency of Indonesia.
By 1986, a new project component on animal nutrition had been added. Teaming up with UNDP and IAEA was a group of scientists lead by Dr. Cornelia Hendratno of CAIR. Her group was principally concerned with the poor productive and reproductive performance of the country's livestock.
While the use of ruminants varies widely across rural Indonesia, farmers in all parts of the country rely on animals for their subsistence. Unfortunately several problems were contributing to poor ruminant productivity. First, less than 11 percent of all land devoted to agriculture was available for pastures. Second, most of the available feed, such as rice straw, was nutritionally poor.
Ms. Hendratno had participated in an FAO/IAEA Coordinated Research Program (CRP) on "The Use of Nuclear Techniques to Improve Domestic Buffalo Production", conducted from 1979 - 1984. In this programme, scientists from various Asian countries sought to discover the nutritional needs of ruminants, and to identify and use local resources to encourage animal growth and productivity.
It was already known that urea (a natural compound available in urine) can provide the small amount of nitrogen needed by animals to convert food substances into protein, which is essential for growth, milk production and reproduction. Yet urea alone was bitter in taste and therefore unpalatable to animals. The challenge, therefore, was to come up with a nutritional supplement that would:
Within the CRP, the idea arose to produce a nutritious mixture of substances in the form of an appetizing block that animals would lick rather than eat all at once.
Tracer isotopes were used to discover the effects of various nutrients and nutrient combinations on ruminants. Placed in vitro, it was possible to trace the changes of rumen microbial growth and activities as affected by different diets and thus arrive at the optimal UMMB composition of locally available material for each project location.
With support from the UNDP/IAEA project, Ms. Hendratno and her team created the first Urea Molasses Multinutrient Block (UMMB) suited to the needs of Indonesia's livestock. The beauty of the block is that it utilizes what would otherwise be considered natural "waste" products such as rice, wheat, or maize stubble and bran, fish and other bone meal, and even dead cassava leaves.
In the ensuing field trials, positive results were visible within three months. The block rapidly gained popularity.
In co-operation with BATAN and the Directorate General of Livestock Services, the IAEA followed up in 1994 with a project to enhance the extension process and evaluate the impact of UMMB in the provinces of Central Java, West Java and West Nusa Tenggara. This activity recorded outstanding results both in terms of productivity and extension, and was reformulated into a Model Project for 1997-98, with the goal of extending the results to six areas in Eastern Indonesia.
A dairy farming promotion programme at Cilawu village in the Garut district of West Java provides a vivid illustration of UMMB's potential to improve the lot of rural communities. In 1991, the settlement consisted of 25 farmers with a total of 27 dairy cows. Thanks to UMMB, by April 1997, 49 farmers were tending 290 cows, meaning an average 10-fold increase for each. As a direct result, income has increased on the average from Rp. 75,000 to Rp. 400,000 per month.
As of April 1997, over 1,300 small farmers were feeding blocks daily to approximately 3,000 animals throughout the three provinces. And UMMB is being adopted by more and more families. Another positive aspect is that UMMB production has already created new industries and jobs, especially for women farmers and unemployed youth. In addition, a number of individual farmers able to make an initial investment of US$ 200.00 for raw materials, make blocks for their own use and for sale to neighbours.
Since the first promising results, the Indonesian government has been aware of the technology's potential and has provided financing and effective strategies for extending UMMB. The Directorate of Livestock Services has provided loans to farmers in the form of young beef calves, and loans to purchase UMMB ingredients. The profit from the sale of the mature animals is divided between the farmers and the Government at 60:40.
A second scheme provides would-be and marginal farmers with a plot of land and 2 pregnant dairy heifers free of cost. After 5 years, 2 animals are to be returned to the Government. All others are kept by the farmer.
According to the joint FAO/IAEA Division, production, use and extension of UMMB are now sustainable in Central and West Java and West Nusa Tenggara. During 1997-1998, the IAEA is participating in extension endeavors for six new sites in areas in East Java, in Sumatra, on Sumbava Island and in South Sulawesi and involving 4,500 farms and over 10,000 animals.
To maximize impact, extension work will emphasize quality control in block production while adaptive research will optimize the use of locally available raw materials. Moreover, to support the extension of the UMMB technology throughout rural areas in Indonesia, the IAEA is presently negotiating the terms of collaboration with Indonesia's "Income-Generation Project for Marginal Farmers and the Landless", which is supported by UNDP, the International Fund for Agricultural Development and the Asian Development Bank.
The IAEA is conducting UMMB projects in ten more Asian countries and in five African countries.
Rinderpest is a merciless killer of cattle. The highly infectious virus has threatened food security in Africa and West Asia for decades. But through the co-operative efforts of governments, organizations and individuals, this scourge is being eliminated in Africa. Pioneered under a UNDP/EU-funded project in Tanzania, the isotope-related ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) technology enables the critical post vaccination monitoring. IAEA has been providing technical support for the extension of ELISA throughout Africa, while inter-agency collaboration plays a key role in the remarkable success of the Pan African Rinderpest Campaign (PARC).
No issue concerns Africa as much as food security. Problems affecting food supplies across national borders necessitate regional mobilization, and livestock has received special attention in such regional efforts. The reasons are simple: nearly 80 percent of Africa's population rely on agriculture for their income; 75 percent of these farmers own livestock; and Rinderpest is perhaps the single largest threat to livestock.
When the disease strikes, it can wipe out up to 90% of the cattle in an area. In numerous African epidemics, rinderpest wrought widespread devastation, depriving farmers and herders of milk, meat, hides, income and draught power. Despite the existence of a vaccine since the 1920s, lack of regional co-ordination doomed earlier eradication efforts to failure. Moreover, no technology was available for continent-wide seromonitoring.
Indeed, rinderpest had been virtually eliminated from Africa in the 1970s, but success was proclaimed prematurely and the vaccinating process ceased too soon. Millions of cattle in 22 African countries were vaccinated at the cost of over US$ 50 million. But rinderpest resurged with a vengeance between 1979 and 1983, when an epidemic afflicted more than 100 million cattle. In Nigeria alone, 500,000 cattle died, costing the country nearly US$ 2 billion.
It became clear to Africa's leadership that the only way to defeat Rinderpest would be a comprehensive region-wide undertaking. Thus in 1986, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) launched the Pan African Rinderpest Campaign (PARC) aimed at complete eradication across the continent. PARC was conceived as a two-pronged effort combining the regional activities of a co-ordination unit and national projects in 35 participating countries.
The OAU was joined by a host of development partners: the European Union (EU) is PARC's main sponsor, while a consortium of other international and bilateral donors, and wide assortment of organizations, institutions and individuals are contributing. The IAEA has been the main source of technical support for the use of ELISA in PARC's post-vaccination disease monitoring.
Rinderpest can only be passed from animal to animal. If there is no living carrier, the virus disappears. One vaccination, moreover, protects a cow from the disease for life. When at least 85% of a bovine population is vaccinated the virus is predictably extinguished.
Previous initiatives failed because they were unable to sustain high enough levels of immunity. It was evident to PARC's leadership that a series of technology-based procedures had to be developed, standardized and systematized to reach continent-wide success at the village level. PARC's programme, therefore, involves three steps: mass vaccination; observation and surveillance, i.e. seromonitoring; and final certification. Remarkably, complete eradication is now in sight.
Mass vaccination has meant reaching millions of cattle across vast expanses. In this phase, trained national and local personnel drove to remote villages in vaccine-equipped vans, preceded by promotional campaigns, and farmers and herders travelled from far and wide to have their cattle vaccinated.
For particularly remote and risk-prone areas, PARC developed an approach involving Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) and community participation. Community representatives have been trained by veterinary authorities as Community-based Animal Health Workers (CAHWs) to deliver basic animal health care and to vaccinate.
Effective seromonitoring becomes especially important in the final stages of eradication. A standardized system was needed to determine the effectiveness of the campaign and to detect any new outbreaks of the disease. The surveillance process required two systems, the first being international standards that countries have to attain to achieve final, certified verification of eradication. The "OIE Pathway", a 5 to 7 year post-vaccination series of declarations, was thus established by the OIE (Organisation Internationale des Epizooties), with technical support from the IAEA and other partners.
A technology-based method for systematically travelling the pathway was also needed. Therefore, a post-vaccination monitoring technology and system was developed. This pivoted on having a method that could test reliably for rinderpest and be simple and inexpensive enough to be used on a large scale.
Successful application of the ELISA technology in the UNDP-EU Tanzania project during 1984-1986 led to PARC's decision to employ this technique throughout its campaign. The IAEA was asked to join the partnership and provide the main technical support.
It was evident at once that ELISA had multiple advantages. A diagnostic instrument developed with the use of isotopes, ELISA can measure the response to rinderpest vaccination, verify immunity levels, detect any remaining foci of virus activity after vaccination and ultimately confirm that rinderpest has been eradicated.
The reagents in ELISA are used in such small quantities that mass-producing the test is very inexpensive. With ELISA, information can also be processed quickly. The tests can be produced in a travel kit and can sustain the sometimes long and hard journeys to laboratories in developing countries. The ELISA technology has the additional benefit of being adaptable for diagnosis of almost every animal disease.
The biggest challenge was to develop the institutional linkages to make the seromonitoring strategy work. The IAEA provided training for national veterinary staff across Africa to be able to use ELISA as a monitoring tool and to establish a feedback system. The Agency was also responsible for quality assurance, ensuring the correct functioning and usage of the ELISA technology. Co-ordination meetings are held annually to present data and conclusions from each country. The counterpart staff trained by the IAEA are now providing the bulk of technical support for seromonitoring in Africa.
The anti-viral campaign has been executed in 35 countries over the past 11 years. Five years ago, 14 of those countries were still infested. Now PARC is concentrating efforts on East Africa, where the last pockets of the disease are being identified.
For example, rinderpest outbreaks were confirmed in Kenya in 1996 and PARC, FAO and the Kenyan Government co-operated swiftly to locate contaminated areas and commence with emergency vaccination.
The IAEA has been instrumental in a UNDP/EU/FAO-funded emergency control effort in Tanzania during 1997-1998. UNDP's project focuses on a rigorous surveillance strategy, including an ELISA laboratory being established at the Veterinary Investigation Laboratory in Arusha, with the assistance of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division in Vienna. The ELISA technology is crucial for understanding the current outbreak, identifying its source and the routes it has travelled and locating specific areas where vaccination and seromonitoring are needed. It is hoped that both Tanzania and Kenya will be rinderpest-free by the end of 1998.
Clinical diagnoses of rinderpest were also made in 1996 in Southern Sudan. Thanks to the strength of PARC, however, the disease is rapidly being brought under control.
In Ethiopia, where there are more cattle than in all of West Africa, eradication is in sight. The last rinderpest outbreaks were recorded in 1995.
The benefits of rinderpest eradication far outweigh the efforts and costs. Major outbreaks of rinderpest usually last about 5 years and result in average cattle losses of 30 percent. A new rinderpest pandemic in Africa could cost up to US$ 960 million per annum. Under PARC, approximately 45 million cattle are vaccinated yearly at an annual cost of US$ 36 million. Studies show an annual cost-benefit relationship of about 25 to 1.
For the six West African countries which have halted vaccination, the total cost savings over 5 years will be approximately US$ 30 million. As for benefits from healthier livestock, one study on Mali reported that since PARC began, annual beef output has been increased by 21 percent milk off-take by 33 percent and hides by 17 percent. Yearly herd growth increased from less than 1 to 8.5 percent. The total value of cattle products is estimated to have increased by 18 percent and net income per animal has been increased by 37 percent.
Support to PARC through IAEA Model Project RAF/5/043 has been recognized as a success. During an IAEA-convened seminar in 1997, PARC's partners (OAU, EU, FAO, USAID among others) declared that the complete eradication of rinderpest was achievable in the next 3-5 years.
The fight against rinderpest in not limited to Africa. Six years after the launching of PARC, and following parallel efforts in South Asia and the Middle East, a landmark meeting in 1992 announced that "global eradication of rinderpest is achievable in the foreseeable future". The IAEA is again involved in the Global Rinderpest Eradication Programme (GREP), established under the auspices of FAO's EMPRES (Emergency Preparedness Programme) to co-ordinate world-wide activities. The target date for worldwide eradication is 2005, with final certification in 2010.
PARC has become a model for dealing with animal diseases, such as contagious bovine pleuropneumonia (CBPP) - currently the most serious transmissible transboundary disease in Africa. An anti-CBPP campaign is now being developed with funding from the EU and the World Bank. ELISA has already been adapted for CBPP and the IAEA co-ordinates a programme for monitoring CBPP with ELISA technology involving 12 countries.
In December 1995, Chile's long battle with the Mediterranean fruit fly was officially declared over, marking a major victory for the country's farming community. The ministry of Agriculture expected annual exports to increase by 50% to US$ 1.5 billion by the end of the decade. Chile is the only Latin American country recognized as "fruit fly free" by Japan, one of the world's most lucrative fruit markets. It is also one of only 4 countries considered a Pest Free Area (PFA) by the US Department of Agriculture. Radiation technology provided the tool enabling an environmentally clean victory over the medfly.
The Mediterranean fruit fly, or medfly, is one of the world's most destructive farm pests. It lays its eggs in fruit and vegetables, causing them to rot, larvae-infested on the ground. The medfly has menaced Latin America's fruit industry since its invasion early this century, depriving countries of food supplies and valuable export opportunities. The foremost victims have been small farmers, rural workers and the natural environment.
Medfly control and eradication became a priority issue in the 1990s for many governments in Latin America. Many have sought technical and financial support from the IAEA and UNDP, as well as from FAO and Interamerican Institute for Agricultural Co-operation (IICA).
Agriculture is vital to Chile's US$ 44 billion economy. But by the 1980s, it was clear that the presence of medflies in Chile posed a major obstacle to developing the fruit and vegetable export industry. The Ministry of Agriculture launched a concerted extermination campaign using chemical and mechanical methods, i.e. pesticides and destruction of fruit, which required great sacrifice by the farmers. The medfly was confined to the Arica province in the northern tip of Chile by the end of 1980, but its presence there was enough to preclude the country's chances of winning significant export clients.
After several years of costly and unsuccessful control campaigns in the Arica province, the Government of Chile approached UNDP and IAEA for assistance in using the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) to eradicate the medfly. The two agencies facilitated the launch of Chile's national SIT programme by bringing all concerned parties together in a series of meetings to discuss strategy.
The IAEA supported eradication efforts from 1987-1995 in a national programme initiated and funded in large part by Chile's fruit growers. Initially, sterile medflies were imported from Hawaii, Guatemala, and Mexico and released across Arica. Field results were so impressive that Chile decided to build its own plant. With contributions from an IAEA Technical Co-operation project, Chile built a factory for producing sterile medflies in the Arica near the border of Peru, which was inaugurated in August 1993. By December 1995, the medfly had been eradicated from Arica.
Chile's US $ 50 million battle against the medfly is rapidly paying dividends. Fresh fruit is Chile's third largest export product. Its agricultural exports were worth US $ 1 billion annually in 1996; with the medfly eradicated, annual exports are predicted to increase by US $ 500 million by the end of the decade. Chile now exports fruits and horticultural products to 50 countries throughout the world, and has recently entered lucrative markets in Asia. It is among the few countries allowed to export fruit to China and Japan.
Medflies wreak havoc by injecting their eggs into maturing fruit and vegetables. One female medfly can produce up to 800 offspring per season. Rather than eliminating growing populations through massive pesticide doses, the SIT strategy is to release sterile medflies over large areas, preferably by air. The benefits of SIT can be summarized in terms of environment-friendliness, efficiency and effectiveness.
Environment: the disadvantages of insecticides are well known: residues in food, soil and water pollution and diminishing returns as pests develop resistance. By halting this vicious circle, SIT makes a genuine contribution to sustainable development.
Efficiency: pesticides can't reach every place flies hide; medflies can breed in back yards and even in urban areas where spraying is harmful. Moreover, pesticide campaigns depend on mass participation of farmers, which cannot always be ensured.
Effectiveness: the pesticide treadmill is costly and can amount to an expensive losing battle. SIT is the only pest control method able to achieve complete eradication. SIT is also effective because it is species-specific. Other biological control measures may have serious environmental consequences. For example, if the natural enemy of an insect pest is imported to an area, that parasite or predator might also consume or otherwise harm insects, plants or animals which are essential to ecosystem balance.
The success of SIT in Chile has spurred major new regional activities. A long-term plan has been formulated for medfly control in western and southern Latin America including Argentina, Bolivia, Columbia, Equador, Peru and Uruguay. It aims to secure medfly-free zones or suppression to the extent that exports are possible from major fruit-growing areas throughout the western half of the continent.
Chile is protected from a medfly re-invasion from the south and east by the Andes. But Chileans realize that the medfly could migrate anew from Peru. As part of its efforts to support Peru's development, UNDP and the IAEA helped establish a medfly rearing facility in La Molina near Lima in the 1980s. Though Peru had so far not been able to embark on a national eradication endeavor, the staff and facilities were crucial for the successful launch of a binational effort. In 1990, an agreement was reached between Chile and Peru for an eradication campaign administered by the IICA. The campaign is being carried out in two southern provinces with IAEA providing technical support and capacity- building, including training, for the entire country. Two irradiation plants are planned for the north and south, in addition to the updating of equipment in the La Molina plant.
In the south of Peru, eradication is foreseeable in the near future. In the tropical north however, the medfly shares its turf with the South American fruit fly. The IAEA is supporting Peru in its endeavors to adopt SIT for this variety. The project is still in the R&D stages, but small-scale rearing is already underway.
Argentina is widely known as a meat exporter, but in fact, exports as much fruit as meat. The Government sought assistance to protect its expanding fruit export industry against the medfly and trade restrictions which could ensue because of the pest. An IAEA Model Project targeting fruit fly eradication in the country's Southern Region began in 1994. Even by conservative estimates, Argentina expects to have fully recovered the costs of its medfly campaign by 1999. A 36% profit per annum is anticipated within twenty years of the project's launch.
The IAEA is assisting throughout the world in applying SIT to conquer pests that threaten food supplies and livelihoods. Methods have been developed to apply against a number of key pests, such as the screwworm, various caterpillars and a variety of fruit flies. UNDP and the IAEA have been involved in the joint Mexico-Guatemala cross border campaign to keep the medfly out of Mexico, where SIT has been applied since 1978.
Through IAEA-TC, Jamaica is battling the screwworm. UNDP facilitated the presentation of this new programme by including it in a recent donor meeting in Kingston. The US Government, through the Food for Peace programme, as well as the EU are likely sources of support to this new SIT campaign.
The eradication of the screwworm from North Africa in the early 1990s is considered one of the greatest pest control successes in UN history. Through a massive inter-agency effort, it was possible to eradicate the newly discovered pest using SIT and prevent enormous livestock losses. The Agency provided technical guidance through several projects.
Based on a recent study, direct and indirect losses due to the medfly within Israel, Jordan and the Terrorities under the Jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority total US$ 192 million annually. Under the auspices of the IAEA, national projects were initiated aimed at area-wide control of the medfly using SIT. Eventually, this could lead to the complete eradication of the medfly from the entire region. Project activities started in the Lower Jordan Rift Valley in 1997. Some agricultural areas near the Israeli-Jordanian border had previously been declared Medfly free. Over the next few years, area-wide control of the medfly using SIT will allow the expansion of fruit free areas to include the entire Valley.
The EU is now providing funds for a fruit fly control programme in Madeira, Portugal, where the IAEA helped establish SIT capabilities. In addition, UNDP has requested the IAEA to participate in a fruit fly eradication project in Libya.
California is now using SIT very successfully to protect its US$ 18 billion fruit industry. The IAEA has provided important advice to this campaign through the Science Advisory Panel of the California Department of Food. And last but not least, SIT has also been successfully developed and applied by the IAEA to eradicate the tsetse fly from Zanzibar Island, Tanzania, proving its viability as a weapon against this insidious obstacle to agricultural development in Africa.
"The technological force behind the reduction of rural poverty
has been the development of high-yielding varieties now widely
used in developing countries... in particular China, India, Southeast
Asia and the Pacific and many parts of Latin America and the Caribbean
where advances have been made in reducing rural poverty."
UNDP Human Development Report - 1997
Since the Great Famine some 35 years ago, China has attained unprecedented levels of prosperity. One of the country's most important achievements has been in rice breeding and cultivation. China produced 166 million tons of rice during the 1980s, constituting nearly a third of the world's total production.
Less than 10 percent of China's land area can be cultivated. This means that the country needs to provide more than 20% of the world's population with food while using just 7 percent of the world's farmland. Careful land use and farmland protection are critical, but rapid industrialization has resulted in a dramatic reduction of arable farmland: over the last 30 years, farmland has decreased from 111.9 million hectares to 95 million hectares.
The Government now aims to increase farmlands to 122 million hectares by the year 2000. And about half of China's farmland is now under protection. Yet the question remains: How to get less land to yield more and more food for a growing population?
To produce more food on less space, rice plants have to yield more. Moreover, they have to be able to withstand a variety of adverse conditions. China has been able to develop hardy high-yielding, weather-, disease- and pest-resistant cultivars for specific regions. At present, 33 million hectares annually are devoted to rice, and roughly half this area is planted with high-yielding hybrids.
UNDP and the IAEA have long supported China's scientists in the race for food security. Some advances were made during 1988-1991, with a project on the Use of Radiation and Isotopes in Food And Agriculture. At the Southwest Agricultural University in Sichuan Province, a modern Laboratory of Atomic Energy Applications in Agricultural Sciences became operational. The FAO/IAEA Division conducted training courses through a TC project on "Plant Breeding by Using Radiation Induced Mutations" at the Zhejiang Agricultural University (ZAU) in 1986. Following this, the IAEA, ZAU and the China National Rice Research Institute (CNRRI) embarked on a TC project on the uses of isotopes in agriculture. This collaboration set the stage for a 1995 Model Project, "Induced Mutations for Improvement of Rice", which has helped develop new rice cultivars and extending them to farmers across the country. The project has received the support of UNDP's counterpart as well as the China's Nuclear Science and Technology Committee.
Inducing mutations is a way of hastening the natural evolutionary process. Between November 1995 to March 1996, for example, the Chinese team examined 125 new mutant lines and selected 2 worthy of a large scale test run. Both were lines from "Zhefu" -- a cross-breed mutant of an earlier Chinese variety with a rice type developed by the IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) in the Philippines.
The project's success can be attributed in large part to the reputation and respect the CNRRI has earned. But equally critical was ZAU's President, Dr. Xia Yingwu, a dedicated scientist widely known as the father of induced rice mutations in China. Dr. Xia was instrumental in producing the country's very first mutation breeds in the early 1960s. He is the scientific imagination behind the present project and also the heart and soul of its extension to the rice farmers.
Three tonnes of Zhefu seeds were produced for field trials. "If the plants are promising", explains Dr. Xia, "we organize 'on-the-spot' meetings, and invite specialists to the field. If the response is enthusiastic, they pass the word along to the rice growers and we produce enough seeds for extension."
The IAEA's project was upgraded to Model Project because the performance of the rice and the extension endeavors were so impressive. In 1995, 600,000 hectares were planted in 5 provinces, a 2.5-fold increase over 1994. The increase in yield amounted to approximately 263,000 tonnes, corresponding to a value of about US$ 40 million. As of June 1997, over 1.4 million hectares of new Zhefu varieties had been planted. This constitutes 10% of the rice growing area in the 5 provinces. Currently, the Chinese team is pursuing the development of a Zhefu variety that can survive in rugged mountain areas, where malnutrition persists.
The final phase of the Model Project will introduce newer complementary approaches to enhance the mutant development process, such as the double haploid technique and DNA fingerprinting procedures. But mutation breeding still has an essential role to play. One overall advantage of induced mutation breeding for China is that the infrastructure, knowledge and experience is in place. It is an appropriate technology for many countries which are not prepared for more advanced biotechnology methods, offering an affordable way of achieving food security.
The Agency will continue to provide expertise and expert services to CNRRI and the ZAU, including training in mutation techniques and related biotechnology. The Agency is also providing organizational support to accelerate the extension process in farm communities. The Agency plans to continue its support to this activity in the next few years, in order to demonstrate to its Member States and TC partners just how important this work is and what an impact it can have.
In the early 1990s, the Black Sea -- the major natural and economic resource for over 160 million people -- was declared nearly dead. The Washington Post labelled it "the toilet bowl for half of Europe". Today, all countries sharing the Black Sea have signed a UN-brokered accord and, together with a multitude of donors, launched a rescue mission. The UNDP/GEF Black Sea Environmetnal Programme (BSEP) got underway in 1993. Among the participating partners was the IAEA, which is helping to develop capabilities within the region and providing support, through TC projects, in the use of various nuclear techniques to analyze contaminants and their behaviour, and to increase understanding of the Black Sea's problems.
The Black Sea once supported a rich and diverse marine life. Its coastal inhabitants prospered from abundant fisheries, and millions of visitors were drawn by its beauty. But by 1990, this resource was on the brink of extinction. In less than 3 decades, the Sea's environment had deteriorated in terms of its biodiversity, habitats, recreational value and water quality. Its fish supply had been plundered and it had become a dumping ground for solid and liquid waste.
All 17 countries comprising the Black Sea basin contributed to its near-demise; but the damage has been most seriously felt by the 6 surrounding countries -- Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, the Russian Federation, Turkey and the Ukraine.
Pollutants, including agrochemicals, toxic metals and radionuclides, made their way into the sea either through the atmosphere or river discharges. Increased "nutrients" caused an overproduction of phytoplankton, which block the light reaching the sea grasses and algae. Industrial activity, mining, shipping, and offshore oil and gas exploration further contributed to the sea's destruction. Tanker accidents and operational discharges caused oil pollution, and coastal industries discharged wastes directly, with little or no treatment. Some countries dumped solid waste into the sea or onto wetlands. Urban areas flushed untreated sewage; and poor planning destroyed much of the aesthetics of the coastlines. The Chernobyl accident also aroused concern regarding radionuclides and their bioaccumulation characteristics.
These problems were compounded when several jellyfish-like species, reportedly carried in the ballast water of an American ship, accidentally slipped into the Sea sometime in the 1980s. The new species thrived, devouring fish eggs and other tiny animals that small fish feed upon, and multiplying at a monstrous rate. They quickly reached a mass of 900 million tons as estimated by the GEF (10 times the annual fish harvest from the entire world!).
The first decisive step towards a co-operative framework was taken in 1992 when representatives of the 6 Black Sea countries drafted the "Convention for the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution" with help from the international community. Entering into force in early 1994, the Convention includes a basic agreement and 3 specific protocols aimed at: (1) controlling land-based sources of pollution; (2) curbing the dumping of waste; and (3) forging joint actions in the case of accidents (e.g. oil spills). To launch environmental protection activities and develop a longer-term Action Plan, the riparian countries sought support from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), a special fund established in 1991 and managed by UNDP, UNEP and the World Bank.
In June 1993, the BSEP was established as a 3-year initiative with US$ 9.3 million funding from GEF and collateral funding from the EU, Netherlands, France, Austria, Canada and Japan. Its primary objectives were to: (1) create and/or strengthen regional capacities for managing the Black Sea ecosystem; (2) develop and implement an appropriate policy and legal framework for the assessment, control and prevention of pollution, and the maintenance and enhancement of biodiversity; and (3) facilitate the preparation of sound environmental investments.
The BSEP provided the context for environmental assessment and capacity-building activities. The UNDP took the lead in forging partnerships between the relevant specialized agencies of the UN system and setting up a Programme Co-ordination Unit in Turkey.
As with most problems related to water and marine pollution, isotopic investigations were essential to diagnose the underlying causes. UNDP and the UN Office For Project Services (UNOPS) solicited the assistance of the IAEA, through its Marine Environment Laboratory in Monaco (IAEA-MEL), to backstop pollution assessment work and build capacity among participating countries in applying nuclear and isotopic techniques to analyse and monitor the Sea.
Scientific institutions in the region needed new facilities, know-how and quality control mechanisms. Therefore, the BSEP pollution monitoring programmes encompassed both targeted research and capacity-building. Among six priority activities pursued by BSEP, two Pollution Monitoring programmes were established and a Working Party helped to co-ordinate the first regional assessment of land-based sources of pollution. It also teamed up with WHO (World Health Organization) to conduct a regional survey of beach and bathing water quality.
Radionuclides and environmental isotopes can be used as tracers for assessing the behaviour of contaminants, for evaluating trends in radioactive pollution and in studying physical circulation and eutrophication processes. IAEA thus began to play a critical role in the two pollution monitoring programmes, through several activities implemented for the GEF and the EU. In addition to joint investigations, the Agency provided technical and scientific support for research and capacity building in the Black Sea region concerning both radioactive and non-radioactive pollutants through two projects: a CRP helped set the stage for co-operative scientific work and to provide training; and an IAEA-TC project, which is building capacity in radionuclide measurement and radioisotope assessment techniques (see below).
The assessment of non-radioactive pollutants was carried out under an IAEA/OPS Inter-Agency Agreement within UNDP's GEF administration. The objective was to assist the countries in obtaining high-quality analytical data for special and routine monitoring. IAEA's Marine Environmental Studies Laboratory (MESL) is providing comprehensive technical support including training, quality assurance missions, organization of expert meetings and inter-comparison exercises, production of reference methods, distribution of reference materials and standards and instrument maintenance.
The 1992 "Convention on the Protection of the Black Sea Against Pollution" classified radionuclides among "hazardous substances and matters". An evaluation of the current status of Black Sea radioactivity was required for assessing any radiological effects and, with a view to future studies, for establishing a baseline record and identifying the gaps in knowledge which need to be addressed.
To empower the concerned countries in this regard, the IAEA approved a regional TC Project entitled "Marine Environmental Assessment of the Black Sea", which was designed to support a regionally co-ordinated marine radioactivity monitoring programme over the period 1994-99. As radionuclides are also useful for assessing the fate of pollutants and understanding marine processes, the project also aims to enhance capabilities to use isotopic tools to investigate marine phenomena.
The work of a special pollution monitoring group resulted in the first comprehensive review, "The State of Pollution of the Black Sea". The information serves as a basis for identifying problems requiring immediate action and for the design of long-term monitoring programmes. Toxicity in the Black Sea poses a rising threat to the health of people dependent on its water resources. Waterborne diseases are common all along the Black Sea coast and outbreaks of cholera have caused beaches to be closed in numerous locations.
The GEF-BSEP analysis includes land-based pollution sources in each coastal country and identifies "hot spots" which are contributing to negative effects on human health, ecosystems, sustainability and the economies. Of the 35 "hot spots" for which there are already data, 33 have a rating of 3 or more on a scale of 1 to 6, with 6 being most severe in terms of their threat to public health. Twenty-one of these are rated from 4-6. One of the severe problems is the lack of systematic reporting on the condition of bathing water for the public.
More than 60 plant and animal species essential to the Black Sea ecosystem, including dolphins and seals, are endangered or nearly extinct, as well as 13 types of commercial fish encompassing many species. Wetland communities, home to over 2000 species of plants, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals, are also endangered. Overfishing has depleted the Sea's fish. The study revealed that between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s, annual catch value for the fishing industries declined by at least US$ 300 million.
The sad state of the Black Sea's beaches is causing ongoing loses. In terms of revenue from beach tourism alone, economic evaluation of the effects of pollution in the "hot spots" of each country indicate that action leading to a 20% improvement in Black Sea water quality could generate US$ 550 million in yearly benefits to coastal communities.
The review concludes that: "Abatement of the above hot spots should result in an estimated 74% reduction of total pathogenic bacteria discharged to the Black Sea and will therefore contribute considerably to the improvement of public health".
The BSEP served as a call to action and provided a basis for planning strategies. In October 1996, the Environment Ministers from the 6 countries endorsed the Black Sea Strategic Action Plan, the most comprehensive programme ever undertaken to save one of the world's most polluted seas. "Black Sea Day" was declared in all six countries.
Now armed with the factual basis for understanding the demise of the Black Sea, the participating countries are better equipped to co-operate and design effective countermeasures. The diagnostic component of the BSEP is thus expected to yield immense impact on the region's future.
The Black Sea monitoring system got underway in 1997. Capacity-building along with targeted research continue to be top priorities for the IAEA and inter-agency support. Joint sampling missions between the IAEA and other BSEP contributors are being planned within the framework of the "musselwatch" programme. A second inter-agency agreement was signed between IAEA and UNOPS in 1998. The IAEA is planning for further assistance to riparian countries in carrying out their Black Sea Strategic Action Plan.