Mr. Apichart Jongskul, Secretary-General, Office of Agricultural Economics,
Deputy Secretary-General of OAE & OAE officials,
Representative of Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Ministry of Natural, Recourses and Environment, ADB, KU, farmers, and other partners,
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is a great honor for me to open this very important workshop on ‘Climate Change Adaptation Strategies for the Thai Agriculture Sector’. Before I begin I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the Office of Agriculture Economics for organizing the workshop today and to each of you for dedicating your valuable time to what I anticipate will be a timely and practical event.
As you would all be aware, Thailand’s economy has developed and modernized dramatically in recent decades. But the role of agriculture cannot be forgotten or underestimated. Agriculture is still a crucial source of employment and income for the country’s largely rural population. It accounts for roughly 11 percent of national GDP and employs nearly 40 percent of the working population. Thailand is also one of the most important agricultural countries in Southeast Asia and a significant exporter of a wide range of commodities and food staples such as rice.
The threat posed by climate change to Thailand’s agriculture sector is considerable. Climate change will alter the basic elements of the agro-ecosystem that underpin Thailand’s agricultural production base, such as temperature, rainfall, land and water resources and biodiversity, with potentially negative effects on agricultural productivity, rural livelihoods, the national economy and food security. Poorer smallholder farmers, who constitute 75 percent of Thailand’s remaining poor, will be the most vulnerable to changes in climate. Action to anticipate these changes, plan and adapt is needed now. Inaction will significantly increase future costs.
Ladies and Gentlemen
Already there exist win-win adaptation strategies that will address climate change while also contributing to sustainable development in the agriculture sector. These include strengthening local adaptive capacity by providing public goods and services, such as better climate information, research and development on climate-resistant crop varieties and other techniques, early warning systems, and efficient irrigation systems. Such strategies imply a vital role for Government in providing an effective policy framework based on reliable information and appropriate incentives for farmers and agriculture industries to enhance their adaptive capacity. Developing these policy frameworks will require better foresight and planning to direct policy makers toward appropriate, practical and proactive measures.
FAO is already working hard to prepare countries for the challenges ahead and develop their capacity to adopt effective climate change adaptation and mitigation strategies at the global, regional and national levels. My colleague will talk more about FAO’s perspective on climate change and its role in promoting more effective adaptation and mitigation strategies later this morning.
In Thailand, FAO has partnered with the Office of Agriculture Economics to implement a technical cooperation project that will strengthen the Thai Government’s capacity to assess the impacts of climate change on the agriculture sector and identify practical adaptation solutions. As part of this work we have already started developing models and tools for policy makers to better assess the impacts of climate change on the Thai agriculture sector and identify where specific adaptation measures are necessary.
The purpose of this workshop is to draw upon your considerable collective knowledge and experience to better understand how we can act on the information and data produced by the climate change models and tools being developed. During the proceedings you will hear from a range of experts who will stimulate us to identify appropriate policy, institutional and technical approaches and options for climate change adaptation in a range of agriculture sub-sectors. It is our expectation that the models and tools being developed and the adaptation measures you identify today will be used to guide future policies and climate change adaptation strategies for the Thai agriculture sector. Given the role that Thailand plays as a leading role of producer and exporter of agricultural commodities in the region, I also believe that our work here will navigate a direction for FAO’s future efforts to build regional capacity on this important topic and maximize role of Thailand as a leader of Asia.
I am very pleased to see the spectrum of expertise present at this workshop today and the broad partnership prevailing among the Thai Government, international organizations and academic institutions it implies. I trust you will revel in this unique opportunity to take an active role in guiding Thailand’s future efforts to tackle climate change in the agriculture sector.
I wish you all the best for a fruitful workshop.