Bangkok, Thailand, 22 Mar 2013 -- The promotion of underutilized indigenous food crops such as Sago palm, which has a high starch yield potential and grows in swamps and wetlands with minimal competition from other food crops for land and water use, is of growing importance as the developing world is headed towards serious future food security challenges in alleviating widespread chronic hunger, Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific said today at the launch of the Regional Sago Network for Asia and the Pacific (SNAP).
The establishment of SNAP came at the conclusion of a 2-day expert consultation on the development of a regional Sago network for Asia and the Pacific hosted by FAO and attended by experts from 18 countries in the region.
When Sago is grown under organized farming practices, it has a potential yield of 10-15 metric tons of dried starch per hectare per year. This starch yield per hectare is approximately three to four times higher than that of rice or wheat and that means Sago can play an important role in promoting food security. The sago palm also provides strong economic, cultural and environmental advantages in rural areas where it is grown. It has high potential for industrial use such as the production of ethanol.
The advantages of Sago over other starchy food crops
The developing world faces serious food security challenges in alleviating widespread chronic hunger and meeting the target of increasing food production by 77 percent by 2050 to address the demand of its rapidly growing population. This target must be met under various constraints such as the stagnation of expansion of arable lands and increasing scarcity of water resources and this is where Sago has many advantages over other starch-producing food crops. It can grow in swamps and wet land which are not suitable for agricultural production. It is tolerant to drought and floods. It increases farm household income and employment through the production of confectionery and cookies, roofing material from leaves and the production of woven mats and handicrafts. The Sago worm cultured from old Sego trunks is a local delicacy with high market value. Additionally it contributes to slowing the pace of global warming through its year-round carbon dioxide absorbing function.
Renewed interest the benefits of Sago
However, despite its environmental and socio-economic benefit, traditional uses and industrial potential, few countries have invested in Sago palm. But, recently there has been a resurgence of interest in the Sago palm as crude oil prices and the cost of starch surge. That new interest led to today’s launch of SNAP, which is will be a voluntary partnership of stakeholders – including researchers, policy makers, public and private sector entities and representatives of civil society organizations and development partners from across this region. Its overarching goal will be to enhance the contribution of the Sago palm to food security with four priorities including advocacy of Sago palm and its utilization; fostering knowledge sharing and networking; fostering innovation and developing appropriate policies; and developing strategies and regulatory frameworks.
Konuma said, “SNAP will act as a neutral forum with a common platform, and will encourage concerned countries in the Asia-Pacific region to promote research, development and conservation of Sago palm and to develop policy measures and strategic approaches that facilitate the promotion of concerted regional efforts geared to the promotion of Sago production.”
FAO is a United Nations specialized technical agency responsible for agriculture, food security and rural development. It aims to attain a world free from hunger and malnutrition, where food and agriculture contribute to improving the living standards of all, especially the poor, in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner.