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IAEA Superior Achievement Award 2017 - Mediterranean Fruit Fly Eradication in the Dominican Republic

IAEA Superior Achievement Award 2017- Mediterranean Fruit Fly Eradication in the Dominican Republic

Awardees in a group photo with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano (centre). (From left) Mr Saul Perez Pijuan, Ms Maria Julia Barrionuevo Cornejo, Mr Javier Romero Bastante, Ms Carmina Jimenez Velasco, Ms Eva Ciurana Casademont, Mr Yukiya Amano, Mr Rui Cardoso Pereira, Mr Jorge Hendrichs, Ms Elena Zdravevska, and Mr Walther Enkerlin Hoeflich. (Photo: IAEA)

The team from the Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture, Department of Nuclear Sciences and Applications, and the Latin America and the Caribbean Division, Department of Technical Cooperation, was presented with the prestigious IAEA Superior Achievement Award for its exceptional commitment, dedication, professional rigour and initiative. The team members worked side-by-side from 2015 to help the Dominican Republic eradicate a major agricultural pest, the Mediterranean fruit fly, using nuclear techniques.

The presence of the Mediterranean fruit fly (Ceratitis capitata Wied.) was officially reported in the Dominican Republic in March 2015. The pest had already spread to over 2000 km2 in the eastern part of the country, constituting a major outbreak. The outbreak was located in the Punta Cana region, a top tourist destination where agricultural production is non-existent. The production sites of horticultural commodities were more than 200 km away from the large outbreak. Nevertheless, trading partners immediately banned the export of most fruits and vegetables, causing a loss of US $40 million in the remaining nine months of 2015 and putting 30 000 jobs at risk.

Mediterranean fruit fly surveillance, Dominican Republic, July 2017.

At the request of the Dominican Republic, and given the high risk and potentially devastating effects of this infestation, the IAEA, in cooperation with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and through its Technical Cooperation Programme, reacted promptly by authorizing emergency funds, conducting capacity building actions and placing a long-term expert on-site to train staff and implement the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) to eradicate the pest.

As an emergency response, the Government, through its Ministry of Agriculture, established the Moscamed Programme in the Dominican Republic, providing the required financial and operational support to perform all required activities.

Preparing for aerial release of sterile Mediterranean fruit flies, Dominican Republic, July 2016.

The IAEA, FAO and USDA immediately joined hands to assist the country in establishing a national monitoring network to delimit the distribution of the outbreak and initiate an eradication campaign with support from regional organization such as OIRSA and IICA. The Guatemala-México-USA Moscamed Programme played a major role in assisting through technology transfer, which included the area-wide application of the SIT and other integrated pest management components. A Technical Advisory Committee of international experts chaired by the Joint FAO/IAEA Division was fundamental in providing technical guidance to the Ministry of Agriculture in the Dominican Republic.

The last Mediterranean fruit fly was detected in January 2017 and official eradication was declared in July 2017. The Dominican Republic is now on the list of countries that have successfully eradicated the Mediterranean fruit fly. It has successfully developed the capabilities for area-wide application of the SIT and has become a source of training and technology transfer for other countries in the region that are increasingly exposed to invasive pest incursions due to increased travel and trade. As a consequence of climate change, these pests increasingly survive in previously inhospitable areas.

Press release on the official declaration of eradication of Mediterranean fruit fly in Dominican Republic, 7 July 2017 (in English and Spanish ).

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