Mr Chalit Damrongsak, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and SOM-AMAF Leader of Thailand
Mr David Oberhuber, Country Director Malaysia and Thailand, GIZ
ASEAN Sector Group Leaders,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honor for me to welcome you to this important forum. Before I begin, I would like to extend my deep thanks and gratitude to our colleagues from the ASEAN Secretariat, GIZ and the Swiss Agency for Development for partnering with the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific to make this forum possible. I sincerely hope that this is the beginning of a strong program of future collaboration on this most pressing topic in Southeast Asia.
As you are all aware, climate change presents a daunting challenge for Southeast Asia. Already over the last fifty years the region has experienced a range of observed climate changes including declining precipitation, increasing water scarcity, rising average temperatures and growing frequency of extreme weather events such as storm and flood. These changes, and those yet to come, pose a real and undeniable threat to the agro-ecosystems and natural resources that underpin the region’s agriculture sector; the livelihoods of its rural communities; and, by extension, food security. Given this threat it should come as no surprise that coping with the impact of climate change on agriculture and food and nutritional security is one of FAO’s five strategic priorities for the region.
Climate change will complicate and compound existing development problems in the region such as population growth, rapid urbanization, increasing competition for natural resources, environmental degradation and, most importantly, food insecurity. Despite the remarkable progress of ASEAN member states in tackling undernourishment, it is estimated that 65 million people in the region still lack the means to access the minimum amount of calories deemed necessary to live a full and productive life. While the true impacts of climate change in the region are still unknown, what is certain is that those who are already food insecure and lack coping capacity are, and will continue to be, the most vulnerable.
FAO’s ultimate vision for the region is food security. Natural resource constraints, including limited availability of productive land and water, and stagnating agricultural productivity in some parts of the region mean that we will need to work even harder in the future to eliminate remaining food insecurity and realize this vision. Preparing the region’s farmers to feed a growing population with more constraints in the face of a changing climate will require development of smarter agricultural systems that employ better knowledge, sustainable intensification practices and, in some cases, better on-farm capital to overcome resource limitations and improve resilience. In many cases this will involve the wholesale transformation of existing agricultural production and distribution systems. Investment will play a crucial role in facilitating this transformation.
The governments of ASEAN member states and farmers cannot be expected to have access to all the resources required nor technical solutions to address every problem. We need to find innovative ways to co-operate, collaborate, and pool public and private knowledge and finance streams – both donor assistance and private investment - to build climate-smart food production chains. We also need to ensure that investment is channeled into activities that will yield the necessary improvements in agricultural productivity, while delivering local and global environmental benefits.
FAO and our development partners, many of whom you represent here today, have decades of experience promoting, supporting and investing in the development of more productive agricultural systems that also safeguard the natural resource base for future generations. In a number of instances, we have already identified tools, policies and approaches that will help our member countries make the transition to climate-smart agriculture in the ASEAN region. Forums such as this, which aim to soften institutional walls, facilitate collaboration and prioritize action are increasingly essential if we are going to effectively build on the work we have already done and meet the challenges posed by climate change.
I believe that with its Multi-Sectoral Framework on Climate Change (AFCC): Agriculture and Forestry towards Food Security, ASEAN has provided us with a solid blueprint to address the challenges ahead. In light of this, from my perspective this forum has two clear tasks ahead of it. The first task is to deepen and strengthen communication between ASEAN’s agriculture sector group experts, development partners and regional experts around the key focus areas of the AFCC and on technical approaches to sustainably improve agricultural production and distribution systems in the context of climate change. The second and perhaps more difficult task will be to come up with concrete ideas for actions that will take the AFCC forward, strengthen cross-sector collaboration and ultimately deliver universal, long-term food security in the region.
By addressing these tasks through your interaction and collaboration here over the coming two days I hope that we will produce a clearer vision of how the AFCC can move beyond a blueprint to program of action with tangible and lasting value for the people of the ASEAN.
I am proud to see that we have gathered a formidable range of experts for this event. It is my sincere wish and expectation that your discussions here over the next three days will identify concrete actions to address the issues that I have outlined briefly here this morning.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Once again, I want to reiterate my gratitude to the ASEAN Secretariat, GIZ and the Swiss Agency for Development for partnering with the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific to make this forum possible.
It represents a truly unique and important opportunity to come together and chart out a collective vision for a meaningful program of future collaboration under the banner of ASEAN’s regional institutional framework for tackling climate change in the agriculture sectors.
I wish you all the best for a productive meeting.