Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

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

Workshop on
ICT/ICM for National Agricultural Research Information Systems
in the Asia-Pacific Region

Organized by FAO, APAARI, GFAR and AIT
At the Asian Institute of Technology, Bangkok, 14-16 September, 2010





Distinguished guests and participants
Ladies and gentlemen,

        It is indeed a great pleasure and an honor to be here with you this morning to address this important workshop on ICT/ICM for national research information systems in the Asia-Pacific region. I welcome you all on behalf of FAO and on my own behalf, to the workshop which is being hosted at the Asian Institute of Technology, a partner and also a venue for many FAO and APAARI activities and meetings. 

        I note with interest the attendance by many participants from countries in both Asia and the Pacific sub-region, all of you experts in your fields which will provide a high level of sharing and learning at the workshop as well as the opportunity for strengthening and expanding linkages and networks critical for important follow-up after the workshop.

Ladies and gentlemen,

        The world is currently facing many challenges, one of the most critical being that related to chronic hunger and poverty as currently more than one billion people are chronically hungry. Our Asia and Pacific region is home to two-thirds of the world’s hungry, totally some 642 million in 2009.   Added to this problem is that of food insecurity due to the rapidly growing population which is projected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050 from the present level of 6.8 billion.   There is thus an urgent need to curtail this problem of poverty and hunger.  We at FAO and in the United Nations family, for your information, are currently undertaking a campaign, referred to as the One Billion Hungry Campaign to create awareness of this very grave situation and to encourage countries and leaders to do more to address the problem.  You all can play a role!

        It is indeed in this context that your workshop focus is very relevant as information and knowledge is vital components and as tools in the fight against hunger and rural poverty. Fortunately, in the Asia-Pacific region, there is increasing recognition by governments to the importance of the use of information communication technologies or ICTs in agriculture which is very encouraging.  This is important as access to information and knowledge and having the right information at the right time can make a difference to farmers and rural communities be it for technical production, marketing, or post-harvest information or as warning against potential diseases and weather related concerns along with relevant actions to take to name but a few. .The advances in Information Technologies over recent years have made this possible. .  It is no longer a luxury but a necessity to employ and use such tools.  However, despite the potentials ICTs have presented there remain many challenges and gaps regarding access and affordability especially by rural poor people who are still the majority.  Bridging the many divides facing them regards technology access, availability, and affordability, technical capacity etc still remains.

        Workshops such as this that focuses on enriching the ICT and ICM collaboration between partners and to gain from each other's experiences thereby contributing to the development of agriculture and development in general is important.  Having said this, we need also to move forward and urgently with concrete projects and activities to not only institutionalize use of ICTs in our national agricultural research and extension systems that combines the relevant traditional media with the modern along with relevant management and financial support strategies but especially to ensure that the rural people and communities, the poor and hungry, are served.

        FAO continues to welcome the opportunities enabled via workshops and meetings such as this, to partner with APAARI, GFAR and institutions of learning such as AIT as well as with you from our member countries, to address challenges and to identify and use opportunities for which our collaborative attention and partnership can make a difference for our farmer clients.

        I wish you a successful workshop and wish you also an enjoyable stay in Thailand.