Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

WELCOME SPEECH

By

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

delivered at the

Regional Inception Workshop for
“Revitalizing Irrigation and Water Governance in Asia”

Bangkok, Thailand
4-5 April 2012

 

Mr. Peter McCornick, Assistant Director-General and Director for Asia, IWMI Headquarters
Professor Gao Zhanyi, President, International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage
Mr Ian Makin and Mr Hans Woldring, Asian Development Bank
Mr John Dore, AusAID
Mr Paul van Hofwegan, World Bank
Ms Salmah Zakaria, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
Distinguished Delegates,
Honourable Guests,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honor for me to welcome you to this Regional Inception Workshop on “Revitalizing Irrigation and Agricultural Water Governance in Asia”.

Irrigated agriculture is essential to the achievement of human development and environmental targets in the Asia Pacific. These targets simply will not be met unless the sector departs from a ‘business-as-usual’ approach and adapts innovative, forward-looking and effective strategies.

FAO and IWMI decided to launch an ambitious initiative to flag and address this at the 1st Asia Pacific Water Summit, building on previous experience and the findings of the Comprehensive Assessment on Water and Food, to prod and enable actors in the region at all levels to take effective action

Today, the need to change the way we manage our water resources has never been greater, and for this reason today’s Launch is particularly timely. Asia’s heavy reliance on irrigation to maintain levels of food production, a rapidly growing population, fast expansion of water scarce areas, erratic food prices and an increasingly unpredictable climate mean that a serious and sustained revitalization of Asia’s irrigation and water governance is essential if we are to meet social, environmental and economic development targets.

Fortunately, the development of the necessary forward-looking and innovative strategies began in 2009 with the IWMI-FAO-ADB study on ‘Revitalizing Asia's Irrigation’ which has been further developed and expanded as part of the Regional Target Plan of Action’ for the 6th World Water Forum 2012 and will be further utilized and promoted during the second Asia Pacific Water Summit in late 2012.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Initiative being launched here today aims to build the capacity of the agriculture sector in the Asia Pacific region so that it can move towards greater food security, poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and climate change readiness.

The recent 2012 World Water Day event was dedicated to the theme of “Water and Food Security” and FAO therefore had the privilege in organizing the global campaign in collaboration with our partners, which was central to our mandate as a UN Organization. However, while awareness as to the seriousness of threats to food and water security is improving, food prices continue to increase and today they stand twice as high as a decade ago. These increases threaten the ability of the Asia Pacific region to improve the lives of more than 600 million people living with hunger and malnutrition. On a global scale, food production needs to increase by 60 percent globally, and by 77 percent in developing countries by the year 2050 in order to feed the projected world population, and 91 percent of this increase is expected to come from existing arable land worldwide. Moreover, there are a little potential for future irrigation expansion with additional 20 million hectare or about 6 percent increase towards 2050, out of which Asia region would have the highest share of expansion of 11 million hectare or 55 percent of the total. These worrying statistics mean the impacts and outputs of this Initiative are of great importance to this region.
 
The conclusions from the recent FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific are very closely linked to the issues and challenges being addressed by this Initiative. The conclusions include improving water management, coping with land and water scarcity, sustainable intensification of agriculture and an emphasis on FAO working in partnership with regional organization, such as many of those represented here today, towards these regional priorities.

To respond to current food and water challenges, the global and regional agenda includes:

  • the ADB-IWMI-APWF-FAO “An eye on Asia” at Stockholm World Water Week in August 2012;
  • the Asia Irrigation Forum in Manila April 2012; 
  • the Publication of AQUASTAT  in Southern and Eastern Asia in mid-2012, and;
  • the 2nd Asia Pacific Water Summit in July 2012.

This busy schedule highlights the urgency surrounding food and water security issues and illustrates that the conditions are ripe for the FAO-IWMI Initiative to commence.

Ladies and gentlemen,

I trust that we are being very ambitious, but there is a need to be ambitious when we reflect on the seriousness of the food and water challenges in this region.

I hope that you all share FAO’s urgency in implementing effective change that has a real and measurable impact on both the way that water is managed and the quality of life for the people of the Asia Pacific.

In recent past, food security and nutrition have been given sufficient attention by the public, yet the importance of water and irrigation is not well recognition. Food cannot grow without water and water is becoming increasingly scarce. We need to voice our concern to the public.

Let us lead by example by showing how real and valuable change can be implemented with effort and determination.

I am confident that over the next two days the people in this room will work closely together to formulate new and innovative solutions to the regions food and water problems.

Thank you for your attention and I wish you all fruitful and productive discussions.