A two-day international webinar was held in the Department of Plant Protection, Karachi (DPP) on 28-29 January, 2022. The webinar was jointly arranged by Asian Development Bank (ADB), Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) and Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR) through Department of Plant Protection (DPP). The main topic of the webinar was global best practices experience sharing and preparedness for response to desert locust attacks in future. The event was graced by the virtual presence of Hon'ble Syed Fakhar Imam, Federal Minister, Ministry of National Food Security and Research, and Mr. Yong Ye ADB country Representative in Pakistan. The event was also virtually participated by Noriko Sato, Senior Natural Resources Specialist of ADB, Dr. Munawar R. Kazmi, Country Manager Pakistan, Dr. Babar E. Bajwa Senior Regional Director Asia (CABI), Australian Plague Locust Commission (APLC), Centre for International Agricultural Research, and other dignitaries.

The Federal Minister thanked ADB, APLC, CABI and DPP for jointly arranging the webinar on global best practices experience sharing. He mentioned that Locust attacked the country after 27 years and described the key steps taken by the federal Government during and after the Locust attack. He mentioned that Pakistan is ranked among 10 most vulnerable countries to climate change. The minister added that the support of international community with Pakistan is an example of great international cooperation. Moreover, the upcoming World Bank Locust Emergency And Food Security (LEAFS) Project is in pipeline, which shows the commitment of the Government of Pakistan under the leadership of Prime Minister of Pakistan Mr. Imran Khan, which took up the challenge on war footing grounds and declared a “National Emergency” to meet the crises. A National Action Plan (NAP) was developed and implemented in all the provinces through National Locust Control Centre (NLCC) chaired by the Federal Minister, MNFSR. The Pakistan Army, NDMA, PDMA and all the Provincial Agricultural Departments participated and were actively engaged.

Speaking on the occasion, the representative of ADB country director welcomed the all participants to this Knowledge-Sharing Webinar. He warned that although the recent locust plague seems over, but we all know that it may again up-surge whenever the weather conditions will be conducive. He shared that other countries are adopting twenty-first century pest management systems for ensuring high quality safe agricultural products and increasingly our export sector must meet the latest standards if our products are to be welcomed in world markets.

Dr. Munawar Kazami, the country director of ACIAR, shared that Locust is a common problem between Pakistan and Australia and described the support provided by Australian government to agriculture sector of Pakistan. Ms Noriko Sato, Senior Natural Resources Specialist, ADB, presented the overview of ADB support to food security and agriculture in Pakistan. She specifically mentioned the objectives of ADB current knowledge and support technical assistance for MNFSR and four provincial agriculture in adopting technologies and advance practices to manage the impact of Covid 19, locust attack and climate change on agriculture productivity and value chain. She informed that the event is supported by valuable contributions by Government of Netherland and others.

The officials of Provincial Agriculture 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 also grace the occasion and shared their experience and operations to combat the locust upsurge during 2019-20. In the technical session ADB’s economists Dr. Takashi Yamano and Dr. Babur highlighted the impact on Farm Household in Pakistan. They concluded that long-term investment is needed for capacity building of Government officers’ farmers and non-Government entities. The experience and lessen learn on locust management during 2019-20 was shared by Dr. Riffat Sultana.

Dr. Chris, Director APLC, Dr. David Hunter and Mr. Heath McRae, presented the technical talks during the second day of the webinar. They covered the various technical areas i) international best practices, on locust & pest management and national system, ii) principles of sustainable pest monitoring and management, iii) the locust biology, ecology in locust surveillance & treatment programs, and iv) key aspects of international best practices in locust management and its application to Pakistan. All the participants and young entomologists from DPP showed great interest and gave a positive feedback for all the technical material presented during the technical sessions. The joint efforts and contributions of DPP and ADB knowledge and support technical assistance for developing SPS strategy were also presented in detail. Improvements in regulatory environment, laboratory capacities and border management were presented in detail during both days of the Knowledge Sharing Webinar by Dr. Robert Black, Mr. David McKeller and Mr. Kamal Sharyar. They also highlighted the DPP’s engagement in modernizing the sanitary and phytosanitary measures to facilitate trade and improved food security in Pakistan.

In the wrap-up session Dr. Muhammad Tariq Khan, Director General, DPP highlighted the importance of webinar, presentations and discussions. He thanked the international experts for sharing new techniques and recommendations for the locust management in future. He mentioned that despite the fact that locust control is a mandate of DPP, the canvas of locust threat was much more than the available material and manpower resources in DPP then. He expressed the need for the collaboration and cooperation in future as well to meet such problems. He highlighted the strong support of Tahir Khurshid, Federal Secretary, MNFSR strengthen relevant departments.

The strategies agreed during international webinar will prove a step to move forward in right direction for the preparedness and early warning for locust and other trans-boundary or invasive pests but it will also help the Pakistan to move in right direction to strengthen the national Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) system for enhanced trade with international partners.