Mr Chalit Damrongsak, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives of Thailand
Distinguished delegates and participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great honour for me to welcome you to this important workshop. Before I begin, I would like to extend my deep gratitude to the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Government of Thailand for hosting this important gathering. I also wish to express our special gratitude to each of you who are attending this workshop, given recognition to the importance of the Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) and join in our important efforts and undertakings, despite of busy schedule in your own country. This orientation workshop on GIAHS for Asia and the Pacific is specifically organized to promote the awareness of GIAHS in the region and provide an opportunity to new interested countries to learn the experiences from the countries which have been implementing GIAHS in recent past. I trust that this workshop would facilitate the promotion of GIAHS in this region with increased degree of interest, formulation of quality proposals and expansion of number of GIAHS participating countries in the future.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Today, a major challenge facing humanity is how to achieve a sustainable agriculture that provides enough food and ecosystem services for present and future generations in an era of population pressure, rapid urbanization, climate change and accelerated environmental degradation. Indeed, the world population is projected to reach over 9 billion by 2050 and global food production is expected to increase by 60% by that time to meet the growing demand and to feed all people, against various constraints and great uncertainties such as the stagnation of agricultural productivity growth, decline of arable lands and water resources, negative impact of climate changes and rapid bio-energy development and it negative impact to food security. If we are not able to meet the food demand of growing population in the future, our world peace and security would be seriously threatened.
On the other hand, looking at the past centuries, to survive and coping s with extreme weather events and climatic variability, farmers living in the world have developed and/or inherited their own farming practices managed in ingenious ways, allowing smallholders to meet their subsistence needs in the midst of environmental variability, without depending much on modern agricultural technologies. The stubborn persistence of millions of hectares under traditional farming is living proof of a successful indigenous agricultural strategy, and constitutes a tribute to the “creativity” of small farmers throughout the developing world. Today, well into the first decade of the 21st century, there are in the world millions of smallholders, family farmers and indigenous peoples practicing resource-conserving farming, which is testament to the remarkable resiliency of these agroeco-systems in the face of continuous environmental and economic change, while contributing substantially to conservation of biodiversity, household food security and traditional cultural heritage. Many of these agro-ecosystems are unique in their attributes and maintain a specific landscape in rural areas.
Against these backgrounds, since 2002, FAO has launched and implementing a global initiative on dynamic conservation and adaptive management of GIAHS. It aims to identify and ensure global recognition of the importance of these unique traditional agricultural systems for food security and sustainable development.
These indigenous and traditional agricultural systems (e.g. GIAHS) have resulted not only in outstanding landscapes, but, more importantly, in the preservation of globally significant agricultural biodiversity, maintenance of resilient ecosystems, and preservation of valuable traditional knowledge and cultural heritage, as well as for the promotion of sustainable rural development with a revitalization of rural economy and agriculture where young generations have an opportunity to play an important role.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Currently, there are 26 GIAHS sites which were approved by FAO in Africa, Latin America and Asia. In Asia and the Pacific region, the participating countries are limited to China India, Japan and the Philippines while some countries are in the process of formulating GIAHS proposals.
In May 2013, an international forum on GIAHS was held in Noto, Ishikawa, Japan where participants from around the world have shared their knowledge on the fundamental values of GIAHS as well as shared their experiences on managing and revitalizing local economies through GIAHS initiative. The Forum was highlighted by the presence of the FAO Director General.
FAO is committed to support our member countries in identifying and formulating GIAHS proposals, and bridge the countries for enhancing cooperation and partnership through South-South Cooperation or North-South cooperation through twinning approach.
Finally, I sincerely hope that this workshop would facilitate us in strengthening our cooperation and collaboration among countries in Asia and the Pacific in promoting GIAHS; an extremely important undertaking, in promoting network of countries and people to share the impacts and values of the initiative, and strengthening our concerted efforts to ensure food for all and eradicate poverty and hunger from the planet.
I wish you all the best for a productive meeting.