Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

FAO Assistant Director-General and
Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific

on the occasion of the
10 to 14 November 2003
Bangkok, Thailand

Representative MOAE, Thailand: Mr. Sahas Ninlapun, Deputy Director General
of Land Development Dopartment (LDD)
UNCCD Assistant Regional Coordinator, Thailand: Mr. Yang Youlin
Distinguished Participants,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO and on my own behalf, I wish to welcome you all to the Regional Workshop on Agro-ecological Zoning and GIS Applications in Asia with Special Emphasis on Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands. The workshop will address the effects of land degradation in the Asia-Pacific region, specifically focussing on the dryland areas, and identify specific methods of land and water resources management to promote sustainable land use for food security.

The World Food Summit of 1996 established a strong linkage between Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development (SARD) and food security. SARD has identified the sound management and use of the available natural resources and the environment as both a prerequisite and a means of achieving the objective of food security. Food security supported by SARD is a major thrust of FAO’s medium term programme.

In Asia and the Pacific region, land and water resources management has been identified by FAO as one of the priority areas for actions to achieve sustainable food security by raising land productivity, reversing land degradation and water loss, increasing biodiversity and enhancing the quality of the environment. Better use and management of land resources increases agricultural productivity while maintaining land and environment quality.

FAO has made considerable progress in the last three decades in putting together, applying and disseminating the essential tools necessary to address these questions. A programme is in place to enhance soil inventories, land evaluation and land use planning, land degradation assessment and land use mapping. The tools developed include the FAO agro-ecological zoning (AEZ) methodology for land resources appraisal and a GIS-based land resources information system integrating the AEZ models. These tools form an integrated approach to help countries plan and monitor the use of their land resources.

As a result of FAO’s technical assistance through field projects, capacity building and publications, the AEZ methodology is well implemented in some countries in Asia. Owing to economic development, increasing pressure on natural resources and related environmental degradation have become important problems constraining development in all the countries of the region. As the range of practical applications of the AEZ concept and characterization for land use analysis and planning has been broadening, it is necessary to extend and modify the AEZ procedures to meet new requirements, such as AEZ/GIS in poverty mapping and natural disaster management combining biophysical and socio-economic information to delineate vulnerable areas for intervention purposes. This includes the need to improve institutional capacity and build a resilient society to handle disaster prevention and mitigation through better land use planning and land management and drought preparedness.

Land degradation is the loss of production capacity of the land, and it affects large areas and many people. About 2,000 million people are living in drylands which cover a large part of the developed and the developing world. Desertification monitoring surveys have confirmed that the area affected by desertification is continuing to expand.

To mitigate the problem, the Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands (LADA) project was initiated in 2001 to develop and test an effective assessment methodology for land degradation in drylands for supporting the implementation of UNCCD. LADA developed a framework for land degradation assessment at global and national levels through a consensus building process. Its purpose is to identify socio-economic environmental benefits accruing from addressing land degradation in drylands in terms of conservation of biodiversity and international waters, and sequestration of carbon. Once the root causes, driving forces and functioning of land degradation are understood, it will be possible to assess and identify the status and trends of land degradation, the hotspots and the bright spots, and to guide integrated and cross-sectoral planning and management in drylands.

The two-year preliminary development phase of methodology development and capacity building was launched in 2002. To test new and integrated methods, three pilot countries, Argentina, China and Senegal were selected for each region where significant desertification problems have been recognized.

Fao is thankful to China for its active participantion in the LADA programme since its inception., The Chinese experience was shared at the land degradation assessment at both the January and November 2002 LADA workshops held respectively at Rome and Beijing. A national LADA Task Force was set up by the National Bureau to Combat Desertification (NBCD), the Department of Soil and Water Conservation, Beijing Forestry University and the Research and Development Centre for Combating Desertification, Forest Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Forest Sciences. It is our hope that the experience gained and the methodology developed through the path-founding activities in China would be disseminated soon to benefit other members of RAP region.

The prime purpose of this workshop is to further promote AEZ and Land Resource Information Systems (LRIS) and their application in the assessment, mapping and monitoring of rural land use in relation to food security and natural disaster management in RAP region. Another objective of the workshop is to explore knowledge on development of policy instruments, national capacities and technologies which are critical in efficient and sustainable management of land resources, especially in dryland areas. The participants will review and share experiences and make recommendations on the future development of the methodology and tools to overcome existing technical constraints, and on promoting the exchange of information, sharing data, expertise and experiences in land information development and management. Furthermore, the participants are also expected to develop country project proposals to address land degradation and sustainable land use planning.

Indeed, you have a challenging task during this week but I believe you will achieve the goal through your collective wisdom.

In concluding, I would like to express my appreciation to all participants for attending this workshop and sharing their knowledge and experiences, and last, but not the least, I wish also to the Land Development Department of Thailand for generously hosting the workshop.

Wish you fruitful deliberations and an enjoyable stay in Bangkok.

Thank you.