Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

OPENING ADDRESS
by
He Changchui
Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific
delivered at the

Meeting of ASEAN SOM-AMAF Leaders

4 May 2004 – Conference Room FAO Regional Office for Asia and Pacific




Senior Officials and Representatives from ASEAN member countries
Mr. Azmi Mat Akhir of the ASEAN Secretariat
Mr. Andreas List, First Counselor of the European Union
Representatives from other donor countries
Mr. Peter Kenmore, Coordinator of the FAO Global IPM Facility
FAO Colleagues

On behalf of the Food and Agriculture Organization, I welcome participants from member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the delegation of the European Union in Thailand, other donor agencies and FAO colleagues to this important meeting.

In our fight to win the war against hunger, FAO has pioneered several activities to enhance the skills and capabilities of resource poor farmers and fishers to improve their livelihood. In this respect, the Organization has supported farmer education as an integral part of its campaign to address inefficient farm production. Impact studies by the EU funded and FAO implemented Integrated Pest Management Programme for cotton in Asia has revealed that farmers who graduate from farmer field schools, on average have a gross margin increase of US$192/ha as compared to only US$54/ha for similar farmers in the same village who have not attended a farmer field school. The same positive trend is reflected in a 40 percent decline in the unnecessary use of insecticides as shown in an analysis of more than 1 000 farmers in the four participating countries. As a result, farmers have a higher income, less exposure to harmful chemicals, greater sense of self reliance, and better access to services and information that together move the rural sector towards a better quality of life.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The initiative that brought us together today addresses several priority areas of FAO programmes in Asia as reflected in its regional strategic framework, particularly for promoting effective and equitable management, conservation and sustainable use of natural resources. It is also closely associated with FAO’s appeal for inter-country cooperation for the eradication of poverty and enhancing rural development through regional and sub-regional programmes in close association with regional economic organizations such as ASEAN.

At a recently completed high level roundtable meeting held in Bangkok in February 2004, FAO and ASEAN expressed the desire to work closely together to address shared priorities. For example, ASEAN undertook several initiatives to deal with the socio-economic impact of the Asian economic and financial crisis on disadvantaged segments of society. Indeed, regional cooperation in human capital development offers unique opportunities for sharing of best practices in and capacity building for employment promotion, manpower planning, skills training, social monitoring, and design of emergency social safety nets. Supporting initiatives are implemented in the frameworks of the ASEAN Plan of Action on Rural Development and Poverty Eradication and the ASEAN Action Plan on Social Safety Nets to ensure that measures are taken to protect the most vulnerable sectors of the communities.

Ladies and gentlemen,

For FAO, our present meeting is another most important and promising effort for formulating further collaborative programmes in pursuit of objectives we all share. In addition, I applaud the exemplary participatory approach adopted by all partners present here to pursue the achievements of our goals through collaboration. Allow me to elaborate on a few details of this cooperation.

SOM-AMAF Leaders in each of the ASEAN countries were consulted on their views and priorities concerning farmer education. This was followed by a period of formulating the project proposal that is before you. It was submitted to the SOM-AMAF Leaders for their review and the feedback has been very good. In this third stage, it is appropriate that SOM-AMAF leaders from the ASEAN countries gathered here discuss and re-affirm their support for this document. FAO is very pleased to note that ASEAN and the ASEAN Ministries of Agriculture and Forestry already extended their support and cooperation in the process of developing this document and demonstrated a strong sense of ownership. We are now looking forward to the endorsement of this document by the ASEAN Secretariat and subsequent support for its implementation by donors.

In this respect, I am very grateful to the European Commission for their continued cooperation with FAO in farmer education through the FAO/EU IPM Programme for Cotton in Asia. Indeed, the achievements of the farmers in the field are a tangible outcome of this collaboration aimed at poverty alleviation, protection of the agro-ecosystem and biodiversity, food security and sustainable agricultural development. We look forward to continue this cooperation with the EU to further enhance the achievements made to date.

We also appeal to other donors to join this ASEAN/FAO partnership in the fight against hunger and poverty. Together our efforts to address issues of mutual interest will result in enhanced food security, fair trade and marketing of safe food, and a more sustainable environment and quality of life.

Thank you very much and I wish you all a very successful deliberation.