Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

Keynote Speech


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

delivered at the

Asia Irrigation Forum

Manila, Philippines
11 April 2012


Dr. Harukiko Kuroda, President of Asian Development Bank,
Dr. Prabhu Pingali, Bill and Merinda Gates Foundation,
Mr. Carl Lewis, FAO Goodwill Ambassador,
Distinguished participants,  Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great pleasure for me to participate in this extremely important gathering and wish to convey, on behalf of the new Director-General of FAO Mr. Graziano da Silva, our heartfelt appreciation and gratitude to ADB President Mr. Kuroda for organizing this forum and inviting FAO as one of close partners of ADB.  FAO shares your views on the challenges and drivers which are shaping the revitalization of irrigation and drainage in Asia, and of the task which lies ahead of us all to ensure food security and nutrition. Many of you in this room share these views and the understanding that this requires change in the way we look at irrigation and drainage, and how the irrigation and drainage sector will need to perform in the future.

In Asia and the Pacific region, despite of the fastest economic growth, there were 578 million undernourished people in 2010, which represented 62 percent of the world total. Ninety one (91) percent of them live in just 6 countries (India, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, and Philippines). The world population is projected to reach 9.2 billion by 2050. For Southeast Asia, nearly 63 percent of total population is expected to live in urban areas by that time (2050).  Overall, world agricultural production would need to increase by  60 percent between 2005/07 and 2050 to meet the demand of growing world population. This has to be achieved under a stagnated expansion of arable land. Arable land is expected to expand by some 70 million ha, or only less than 5 percent towards 2050. Such expansion would happen mainly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.  The size of arable land in some of Asian counties such as China and Vietnam started to decline, while the competition of the use of land and water between food production and other use ,especially bio-energy production is increasing very rapidly.

Consequently, at global level, about 91 percent of the increase in production is expected to come from increases in yields from existing arable land.  Thus irrigation became prime important to enable grow food 2-3 times in a year from the same land.  Then, a question arises “ do we have enough water to support the projected increase in production?”. Agriculture uses about 70 percent of the water resources of the planet, while water scarcity is advancing.  If we are to increase food production by 60 percent by 2050, without no doubt more water will be needed. Thus, investment in irrigation system and improving the productivity of irrigated agriculture would hold a key role for future food security in the region.  According to recent FAO projections, the world total area equipped for irrigation is expected to expand by about 20 million ha or 6 percent between 2005/07 and 2050. More than a half of  irrigation expansion is projected to occur in South Asia (3 million ha increase) and East Asia (8 million ha increase). 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I would like to build on the remarks of President Kuroda. He has mentioned an investment of 20 Billion US Dollars in the sector since 1968. FAO estimates that total cumulative gross investment in irrigation needed until 2050 in the region amount to about 500 Billion US Dollars.

While low income countries would still require investment support from multilateral development banks, the bulk of the investment will need to come from other sources. From governments. From the farmers themselves and they have shown that they can invest and pay for services when production is profitable. Can we mobilize investment from the private sector and other sources?

Multilateral development banks could usefully focus their assistance into an enabling environment that promotes not only mobilization of financial resources from all sources for investment and management, but also would be able to ensure that investment is effective: providing achievable road maps, thinking very hard on where investment is needed, working on improving the quality of investments, identifying the best options, providing and aligning incentives of all players, developing the necessary capacities at all levels, and monitoring the progress through multiple angles. Investment is not only brick and mortar.  I am very pleased to note that the purpose of this forum focus precisely on these issues.  

As an immediate follow up to this forum, we suggest to develop a common regional system for monitoring of investment and results. I hope that you will give consideration to this proposal.

President Kuroda has already used a very important key word “ Services”. I would like to add a second key world “ Productivity”. Raising water productivity is the key goal to achieve. Ensuring that farmers receive or can procure the necessary services to raise water productivity and that management focuses on service provision is the nature of the challenge.

I learned that this would be the first ADB event dedicated to irrigation and drainage. This is very significant. We highly welcome the move.

In 2007, FAO and our partner the International Water Management Institute launched a regional initiative to revitalize irrigation and agricultural water governance at the 1st Asia Pacific Water Summit. Last year, we had to twist some arms to insert the word “food” somewhere on the agenda of the 2nd Asia Pacific Water Summit. How things have changed!

Last week, in Bangkok, FAO and IWMI organized the kick-off workshop to launch the process of development of this regional initiative. Many of those who joined us in this undertaking are here today. We were extremely pleased with the high level of the participants, the ambition and innovative character of the initiatives that participating countries intended to contribute, and by the level of energy in the room of all partners.  Something is happening.

Ladies and gentlemen, 

this is why, today, I am optimistic that we are at a sea change. Let us all move ahead and channel this energy into resolute action. I am calling on all of you to join us in support the initiative we are launching. And let the future record that, in April 2012, at our two events and with all of us here, the irrigation and drainage revitalization started in Asia.

Who inspired us for this today is Mr Carl Lewis, FAO’s Goodwill Ambassador. Mr Carl Lewis is a champion who has inspired future generation to emulate and surpass his accomplishments. He is a champion and the spirit of the regional initiative I have just mentioned is to highlight and support champion country initiatives that inspire other countries.

Mr Carl Lewis is also a champion without blemish. We in Asia like to think of ourselves as the champions of economic growth, but our record is blemished, by 600 million hungry children, women and men still exist.

We can’t be a loser in our battle  against hunger and malnutrition.  Food is our basic right for survival and for our future political and social stability, and world peace .  And  most importantly, food can’t be grown without water.

Let’s work together and create a strong partnership to deliver more productive irrigation services throughout  the region.

With these few words, I wish a fruitful discussions and successful outcomes, and wish to introduce our champion, the champion in our spirit forever, FAO Goodwill Ambassador Carl Lewis.

Thank you.