Despite their different locations, professions and specializations, several radiotherapists in Pakistan, cattle herders in Botswana and hydrology experts in Argentina share one thing in common: they have received support and assistance through the IAEA technical cooperation (TC) programme. Each year, the programme releases a set of project success stories to bring just some of its achievements to a wider audience.
“Transferring nuclear technology to developing countries is core IAEA business and one of the most important areas of our work,” explained Yukiya Amano, IAEA Director General, at the first Technical Cooperation Conference, held in May 2017. This transfer is primarily conducted through the Agency’s technical cooperation programme, which is designed to address the development priorities of Member States by building, strengthening, and maintaining capacities in the peaceful, safe, and secure application of nuclear technologies.
Food security occupies a key position in the development strategies of Member States, and its inclusion in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has made it a global priority. In Namibia, where 90% of subsistence farmers depend on rainfall for crop cultivation, the impacts of climate change are threatening food security. Unpredictable rainfall and increasingly arid conditions have taken a toll on the production of staple foods such as cowpea and Bambara groundnut, which are not drought-tolerant.
Through the TC programme, and in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the IAEA successfully trained the first qualified plant breeder in Namibia, as well as technical staff who would subsequently support the implementation of induced breeding techniques. Following a series of field and laboratory experiments, the Ministry of Agriculture, Water, and Forestry was able to release a suite of new, drought-tolerant crop varieties, which will be available for planting by small-scale farmers.
Climate change is not the only threat to food security. In Botswana, transboundary animal diseases represent a substantial threat to the health of animals and people alike. By training personnel, procuring equipment, and supporting the implementation of new, nuclear-derived techniques, a national technical cooperation project helped the Botswana National Veterinary Laboratory strengthen its capacities and become a reference laboratory for the entire Southern African Development Community, confirming the diagnoses of experts from across the region.
Food safety is a central concern to consumers and exporters in Pakistan as well. Following a ban on seafood exports in 2007—instituted by the European Union (EU) upon their detection of hazardous antimicrobials—the Government of Pakistan requested IAEA support in 2010. In response, the Agency launched and implemented a national TC project across two years, concluding with the inauguration of the first food safety laboratory in Pakistan capable of detecting chemical residues, which now analyses more than 1000 samples each year. As a result of these new capacities, the EU has lifted its fish and seafood ban, providing a boost to Pakistan’s food exports.
The attainment of SDG #6, ‘Ensuring availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all,’ is of particular relevance to the population of Tegucigalpa, Honduras. Of the city’s 1.3 million inhabitants, only 30% have regular access to drinking water, due to anthropogenic factors such as pollution. In response to this challenge, a national TC project was launched to train 14 local professionals in the use of isotopes in understanding underground hydrology. These isotopic techniques revealed critical information related to the movement, composition, and age of groundwater aquifers, allowing Honduran authorities to develop sustainable water-use and drilling policies in the region.
For the last 20 years, diseases of the circulatory system have grown in incidence in the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. In support of the Government’s ongoing efforts to address this growing threat to public health, the IAEA launched a TC project to introduce new nuclear medicine technologies with which to conduct early diagnoses of cardiovascular diseases. Through this project, the IAEA installed a new SPECT-CT hybrid imaging machine at the Institute of Pathophysiology and Nuclear Medicine, the sole tertiary healthcare centre in the country. Moreover, a series of staff training events and TC fellowships were organized as part of the project, which helped to improve imaging protocols and the analysis of the resultant images.
The IAEA’s technical cooperation activities support the development priorities of Member States around the world, in a broad variety of sectors and industries, and using a multitude of nuclear techniques and technologies.