Thursday, May 19 2022

A two-day international webinar was held at the Department of Plant Protection, Karachi (DPP) on January 28-29, 2022. The webinar was jointly organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Center for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) and Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) through the Directorate of Plant Protection (DPP). The main theme of the webinar was sharing experiences on global best practices and preparing to respond to locust attacks in the future. The event was honored by the virtual presence of Hon. Syed Fakhar Imam, Federal Minister, Ministry of National Food Security and Research, and Mr. Yong Ye, AfDB Country Representative in Pakistan. The event was also virtually attended by Noriko Sato, Senior Natural Resources Specialist, AfDB, Dr. Munawar R. Kazmi, Country Director Pakistan, Dr. Babar E. Bajwa, Senior Regional Director for Asia (CABI) , Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC), Center for International Agricultural Research, and other dignitaries.

The Federal Minister thanked AfDB, APLC, CABI and DPP for jointly organizing the webinar on sharing experiences on global best practices. He mentioned that the locusts attacked the country after 27 years and described the key actions taken by the federal government during and after the locust attack. He mentioned that Pakistan is ranked among the 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change. The Minister added that the support of the international community to Pakistan is an example of great international cooperation. In addition, the next World Bank Locust Emergency and Food Security (LEAFS) project is under preparation, which shows the commitment of the Pakistani government under the leadership of the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Mr. Imran Khan, who noted the challenge on a war footing. and declared a “national emergency” to deal with the crises. A National Action Plan (NAP) has been developed and implemented in all provinces through the National Locust Control Center (CLNC) chaired by the Federal Minister, MNFSR. The Pakistan Army, NDMA, PDMA and all Provincial Departments of Agriculture participated and actively engaged.

Speaking on this occasion, the representative of the AfDB Country Director welcomed all participants to this knowledge sharing webinar. He warned that although the recent locust invasion appears to be over, we all know it could crop up again whenever the weather conditions are right. He shared that other countries are adopting 21st century pest control systems to ensure safe, high quality agricultural products and that increasingly our export sector must meet the latest standards if our products are to be well. accepted in world markets.

ACIAR Country Director Dr Munawar Kazami said the Desert Locust is a common problem between Pakistan and Australia and described the support provided by the Australian Government to Pakistan’s agricultural sector. Ms. Noriko Sato, Senior Natural Resources Specialist, AfDB, presented an overview of AfDB support to food security and agriculture in Pakistan. She specifically mentioned the objectives of current AfDB knowledge and technical assistance for MNFSR and four provincial agricultures in adopting advanced technologies and practices to manage the impact of Covid 19, Desert Locust attacks and of climate change on agricultural productivity and the agricultural value chain. She informed that the event is supported by valuable contributions from the Government of the Netherlands and others.

Heads of Provincial Agricultural Extension Departments (Dr. Anjum Ali – Punjab, Dr. Ali Nawaz Channar – Sindh, Dr. Arif Shah – Balochistan, Mr. Naveed Khan – KP) and DG Pest Warning Punjab Dr. Muhammad Aslam are also honoring the occasion. and shared their experience and operations to control the locust upsurge in 2019-20. In the technical session, AfDB economists Dr. Takashi Yamano and Dr. Babur highlighted the impact on farming households in Pakistan. They concluded that long-term investment is needed for capacity building of farmers, government agents and non-governmental entities. Experience and lessons learned on Desert Locust management in 2019-2020 were shared by Dr Riffat Sultana.

Dr. Chris, APLC Director, Dr. David Hunter and Mr. Heath McRae gave the technical presentations on the second day of the webinar. They covered the different technical areas i) international best practices, on locust and pest control and national system, ii) principles of sustainable pest monitoring and management, iii) locust biology, ecology in locust monitoring and control programmes, and iv) key aspects of international best practice in locust control and its application in Pakistan. All the participants and the young DPP entomologists showed great interest and gave positive feedback for all the technical material presented during the technical sessions. The joint efforts and contributions of DPP and AfDB knowledge and technical assistance to the development of the SPS strategy were also presented in detail. Improvements in the regulatory environment, laboratory capacities and border management were presented in detail during the two-day knowledge sharing webinar by Dr. Robert Black, Mr. David McKeller and Mr. Kamal Sharyar . They also highlighted DPP’s commitment to modernizing sanitary and phytosanitary measures to facilitate trade and improve food security in Pakistan.

During the wrap-up session, Dr. Muhammad Tariq Khan, Director General of DPP, highlighted the importance of webinars, presentations and discussions. He thanked international experts for sharing new techniques and recommendations for future locust management. He mentioned that despite the fact that locust control is a mandate of the DPP, the canvas of the locust threat was much more than the material and human resources available to the DPP at the time. He expressed the need for collaboration and cooperation in the future also to solve these problems. He underlined the strong support of Tahir Khurshid, Federal Secretary, MNFSR to strengthen relevant departments.

The strategies agreed at the international webinar will prove to be a step in the right direction for preparedness and early warning for locusts and other transboundary or invasive pests, but they will also help Pakistan move in the right direction to strengthen the health and national system. Phytosanitary system (SPS) for the improvement of exchanges with international partners.

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