Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

OPENING REMARKS

by

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

delivered at the

Roundtable on Developing Environmentally Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization Strategies (SAMS) for Countries in the Asia-Pacific Region

FAORAP, Bangkok, Thailand
8 December 2011

 

Mr. LeRoy Hollenbeck, Head of UNAPCAEM,
Distinguished representatives from the diplomatic missions and from regional organisations
Ladies and Gentlemen:

It is my pleasure to welcome you all here today, to participate in this Round Table on Developing Environmentally Sustainable Agricultural Mechanisation Strategies for Countries in the Asia-Pacific Region, organized jointly by UNAPCAEM and FAO. FAO is particularly pleased to collaborate with UNAPCAEM in the organisation and implementation of this Roundtable.

At a global level there is no alternative but to increase agricultural productivity or crop yield per unit area; and associated total and individual factor productivities, or  biological output per unit of total production input, and output per unit of individual factors of production such as energy, nutrients, water, labour, land and capital,  to meet global food, feed and biofuel demand and to alleviate hunger and poverty. This scenario, indeed poses a great challenge for this region where population density is in many areas very high and population growth continues, while land and water resources are getting to their limits for providing food and other agricultural outputs.

Agricultural intensification has, until now, had a negative effect on the quality of many essential resources such as soil, water, land, biodiversity and ecosystem services resulting in declining yield and factor productivity growth rates. Another challenge for agriculture is its environmental foot print and the impact of climate change. Agriculture is responsible for about 30 % of the total greenhouse gas emissions of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide and methane, while being directly affected by the consequences of a changing climate.

The new paradigm of “sustainable production intensification” recognizes the need for productive and remunerative agriculture that conserves and enhances the natural resource base and environment, and which positively contributes to the delivery of environmental services. Sustainable crop production intensification must not only reduce the impact of climate change on crop production but must also mitigate the factors that cause climate change by reducing emissions and by contributing to carbon sequestration in soils. Intensification should also enhance biodiversity in crop production systems both above and below the ground in order to improve ecosystem services for better productivity and a healthier environment. This concept is very well described in the recent FAO publication titled “Save and Grow”, which explains how agricultural practices in the future, could still result in increased production while conserving the natural resource base.

The functionality of environmentally friendly agricultural management practices is highly dependent on suitable mechanization technologies. Agricultural mechanization removes the drudgery associated with agricultural labour, overcomes time and labour bottlenecks to perform tasks within optimum time windows, and can influence the environmental footprint of agriculture, leading to sustainable impacts.

Agricultural mechanization generally addresses issues of farm power and increasing the efficiency of agricultural labour. The impacts of mechanization in the crop sector are, however, varied in that it can have both positive and negative impacts. The positive impact of mechanisation lies in its contribution to reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture, while its negative impact relates to the acceleration of environmental degradation.

While recognizing the importance of market mechanisms, the direction taken by agricultural mechanization should not only be left to market forces, particularly in view of the fact that environmental sustainability is not yet well reflected in market economies. Sustainable Mechanization strategies must, therefore, address much more than the technical and socio-economic aspects of agricultural mechanization.

While it is important to facilitate the establishment of an enabling environment with appropriate infrastructure for the agricultural mechanization sector to flourish and to provide the services necessary for success, it is equally important to provide guidance on the type of technologies used in agriculture to achieve the dual goals of intensifying production and achieving environmental sustainability. The latter is particularly important for this region which is already beginning to face serious environmental challenges to maintain its agricultural production base.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The formulation of sustainable agricultural mechanization strategy is a complex undertaking and is not as straightforward as it may seem, at a first glance. It is firstly important to underscore that agricultural mechanization is not an end in itself, but must be guided by policies and strategies if it is to result in increased productivity from finite resources, with minimal negative environmental impact.

Within the current global economic paradigm the crucial role of the private sector must be recognized. The mechanization technology supply chain from manufacturer to end user must provide livelihood opportunities to all participating stakeholders and this is what will provide sustainability to the process. At the same time the public sector also has a crucial role to play in providing an enabling socio-economic environment within which mechanization technology supply chains can function effectively while reflecting the objectives of agricultural production growth and environmental protection. This will include provision and improvements to infrastructure and utility supply, as well as encouraging the supply of raw materials and markets for end products via supportive fiscal and import duty regimes.

Support for local manufacture and distribution of agricultural machinery is important if local manufacturers are to operate in a friendly environment in which their products can be competitively priced. The supply of manufacturing input supplies should be ensured at prices that permit competitive domestic production. Dealer networks should be encouraged with the necessary local incentives which allow them to function in an equitable economic environment without being subjected to destructive taxation regimes. End users and farmers, should be encouraged to act cooperatively to capture more attractive prices for their products and to improve their bargaining power for inputs, and particularly farm machinery inputs. Access to finance must also facilitated through public sector policies and actions which reduce the risk of exposure of the essential private sector actors.

Political support for local manufacture within a rational agricultural mechanization strategy can have a dramatic impact on the success of local industries, resulting in a positive effect on national agricultural productivity, on world markets and last but not least on environmental sustainability. The success of the Indian and Chinese agricultural machinery industries provides a good example of what can be achieved through the application of judicious supportive policies. Currently, India is the world’s market leader in tractor production, and China is rapidly catching up, with the inclusion of elements of environmentally sustainable mechanization such as the promotion of Conservation Agriculture.

Other good examples of mechanization policies addressing the above sectors exist in the region. The spectrum covered is very broad, ranging from reducing soil degradation by introducing no-till technologies, more sustainable water management with irrigation technologies, to reducing the pressure on production by reducing post harvest losses with better storage and processing facilities.

FAO has, over the past decades, assisted member countries with the development of agricultural mechanization strategies, encouraging private sector involvement and a demand driven, market oriented approach, while at the same time stressing the importance of environmental sustainability of farming.  All of this is very well documented in the FAO publication Save and Grow.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

A key output of our deliberations over the next two days will be the elaboration of a framework for the development of SAMS. We have two full days of discussions and deliberations ahead of us to think around and discuss all of the issues I have highlighted here today within the context of the various scenarios that exist across this region. I would, therefore, like to end by wishing you a productive outcome to your deliberations and look forward to the outputs of this roundtable.

Thank You.