UN forges links between researchers and farmers to promote food security

The first panel discussion had representatives from a range of areas, including farmers, academics and civil society.

Asia-Pacific farmers to get better access to latest technology and training

Farmers across Asia and the Pacific could soon have access to new and innovative technologies that would help them meet the region’s demand for increased food production and food security, a UN-convened meeting announced today.

Leaders in agricultural research and extension services from across the Asia-Pacific region and representatives from civil society, private sector and international organizations today concluded an Expert Consultation on ‘Strengthening Linkages between Research and Extension to Promote Food and Nutrition Security.’

The consultation, attended by over 40 delegates from more than ten countries, discussed ways to connect research results and new technologies on food and agriculture production with farmers on the front lines of Asia’s food production systems. The need for such transference of information is critical. By 2050, the FAO estimates that food production will need to increase by 60 percent, a target that cannot be met unless we harness our research and transmit it to farmers’ practices.

The consultation was convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific) and the Centre for Alleviation of Poverty through Sustainable Agriculture (CAPSA), a regional institute of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). The two-day meeting addressed the current challenges faced by farmers in the region who require stronger support to realize research results and new agricultural technologies for application in a practical and meaningful way.

The meeting was co-sponsored by the Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), and the ‘Network for Knowledge Transfer on Sustainable Agricultural Technologies and Improved Market Linkages in South and Southeast Asia’ (SATNET Asia), a European Union-funded project.

An emerging and growing middle class in the Asia-Pacific region, which co-exists with persistent hunger in many countries, is demanding a system of more diverse and quality food production and processing. Meeting those demands will require more meat, dairy, fruit and vegetable products. In this context, it is important for farmers to adopt new agriculture technology, but they will require technical assistance in order to do so.

“We urgently need to rebalance our investment priorities and policies in order to give more attention to the development of agriculture and the rural sector,” said Mr. Shun-ichi Murata, Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP.

Mr. Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative in Asia and the Pacific explained that the promotion of agricultural research is important to enable future food production increases and attain food security for our future generations, even as arable lands are almost fully exploited in the region:

“But agricultural research alone can't produce more food, unless research results and technologies are effectively transmitted to farmers for practical application,” said Mr Konuma. “Hence the importance of agricultural extension services, through an enhanced participatory approach, innovative technological application, such as ICT and increased involvement of private sector. These approaches must be fully recognized and further promoted,” he added.

Participants agreed upon an Action Framework to guide future efforts of stakeholders in enhancing research-extension partnerships in the Asia-Pacific Region. In particular, the Framework will contribute to more sustainable food systems and improved farmers’ productivity, thereby helping address the United Nations ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ – a global initiative that encourages all partners to scale up their efforts and turn the vision of an end to hunger into a reality. The Action Framework highlights both national efforts as well as regional collaboration to overcome common challenges.

“The creation of a regional network for agricultural extension will ultimately benefit small farmers, fishermen, pastoralists and foresters in this region by strengthening the interface between research and the users of research," said Dr. Katinka Weinberger, Head of CAPSA during the closing session of the Expert Consultation.

The meeting also assessed existing linkages between research and extension systems in member countries to identify opportunities for enhancing their integration. The important role of farmers' groups, civil society and private sector organizations, including information and communications technology service providers was particularly highlighted in this context.