The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2020 as the “International Year of Plant Health” (IYPH).

According to the world body, protecting plants amounts to protecting life.

In a statement on the organisation’s website, it said this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment, and boost economic development.

“Plants are the source of the air we breathe and most of the food we eat,” the UN has said. 

The importance of plants notwithstanding, the United Nations said, “we often don’t think about keeping them healthy” and this can have devastating results.

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that up to 40% of food crops are lost due to plant pests and diseases annually.

This leaves millions of people without enough food to eat. That is not all.

There are serious damages to agriculture, which is the primary source of income for rural poor communities, which is a concern to the UN.

All these are coming at a time climate change and human activities, have altered ecosystems, reducing biodiversity and creating new niches where pests can thrive.

Even worse, international travel and trade has tripled in volume in the last decade and can quickly spread pests and diseases around the world causing great damage to native plants and the environment, the UN argued. 

To this end, the United Nations holds that protecting plants from pests and diseases is far more cost-effective than dealing with full-blown plant health emergencies.

“Plant pests and diseases are often impossible to eradicate once they have established themselves and managing them are time-consuming and expensive.

“Prevention is critical to avoid the devastating impact of pests and diseases on agriculture, livelihoods and food security and many of us have a role to play,” the world body said.