TO RESPOND effectively to issues of hunger and malnutrition in the Asia-Pacific region a new agricultural approach is needed, a senior official with the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said.
This approach must be resilient enough to withstand challenges of population growth, increased pressure on natural resources including soils and water, the loss of biodiversity, and the uncertainties associated with climate change, he said.
Asian countries typically use far more chemical pesticides and fertilisers in agricultural production than those in most other parts of the world – and that will need to change, according to speakers at the three-day “Multi-stakeholder Consultation on Agro-ecology in Asia and the Pacific” this week in Bangkok.
The regional consultation, convened by the FAO, brought together more than 150 food producers, country representatives, scientists and representatives from civil society and the private sector from across the Asia-Pacific region as well as specialists from as far away as South America and Europe.
“This event is taking place just ahead of COP21, the global climate-change conference, to be held in Paris next month. The whole world will be expecting positive outcomes from COP21 and, in that context, this regional event in Bangkok is timely, as adapting practices in agriculture are crucial for adapting to climate change,” Vili Fuavao, FAO deputy regional representative, said on Tuesday, the opening day.
“Agro-ecology is a powerful approach that helps food producers to adapt to climate change by enhancing soil fertility as well as biodiversity, including local seeds, and thus increase resilience.
“Asian agriculture has proved it is dynamic and flexible,” Fuavao said. “But now is the time to move toward more ecologically friendly approaches to arrive at food systems that produce more, with less environmental cost, notably reducing soil erosion.
“In this, the International Year of Soils, we should make that our goal,” he said. Regional dialogue with international goal
This technical meeting by the FAO and its partners is, in effect, a follow-up of an International Symposium on Agro-ecology held by the US agency on September 18-19, 2014, in Rome. During that first meeting it was recommended that any work on agro-ecology would have to be based on local realities and their economic, social and environmental conditions.
As a result, three regional meetings were scheduled this year: for Latin America and the Caribbean (in Brasilia, Brazil, June 24-26); for sub-Saharan Africa (in Dakar, Senegal, November 5-6); and this meeting for Asia and the Pacific (in Bangkok, November 24-26).
The approach of agro-ecology incorporates the traditional knowledge and skills of communities around the world while integrating ecological, agronomic, economic and social research.
Many agro-ecological experiences exist in all regions of the world and policies on agro-ecology are already in place in many countries in Latin America and Europe.
Like the other two regional meetings, the Bangkok consultation aims to promote dialogue on science and share experiences of implementing agro-ecology practices. The objective is to assess the current state of agro-ecological practices in Asia through experience sharing among the stakeholders.