Colleagues from UNAPCAEM, Mr. Leroy Hollenbeck and Mr. Eric Roeder,
FAO Colleagues from Headquarters and from RAP,
Firstly, I wish to welcome you to FAO-RAP and to this first follow-up meeting on Sustainable Agriculture Mechanization Strategy (SAMS). I recognize that most of you were here last December, and that there are a few new faces in the group.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Agricultural mechanization plays a critical role in the sustainable intensification of agriculture. Not only does agricultural mechanization reduce the drudgery associated with agricultural labour, but it overcomes time and labour bottlenecks to perform tasks within optimum time windows, and contributes to environmental sustainability by reducing the environmental footprint of agriculture.
It is important to underscore that agricultural mechanization must be guided by policies and strategies if it is to result in increased agricultural production from finite resources with minimal negative environmental impact. The formulation of agricultural mechanization strategies is, however, complex and is not as straightforward as it may appear to be at a first glance.
Within the current global economic paradigm the crucial role of the private sector must be fully recognized. The mechanization technology supply chain from manufacturer to end user must provide livelihood opportunities to all participating stakeholders. At the same time the public sector also has a crucial role to play in providing an enabling socio-economic environment within which the supply chains can function effectively while reflecting the objectives of agricultural production growth and environmental protection. This includes the provision of and improvements to infrastructure the supply of utilities, as well as promoting the supply of raw materials and markets for end products via supportive fiscal and import duty regimes.
Support for the local manufacture and distribution of agricultural machinery is important within a well-defined mechanization strategy. Local manufacturers should not be required to compete in a hostile environment where imports are retailed at a price that is lower than the local costs of production. Raw material supplies should be ensured at prices that permit competitive domestic production. Dealer networks should be encouraged with local incentives that allow them to function in an equitable economic environment without being subjected to destructive taxation regimes. End users, including farmers, should be encouraged to act cooperatively to capture more attractive prices for their outputs and to improve their bargaining power for inputs, and particularly farm machinery inputs. Public sector policies and actions must also facilitate access to agricultural finance to reduce the risk of exposure of private sector actors.
A number of good examples of mechanization policies that address all of these issues, exist across the region . The range of topics covered is very broad and includes: reducing soil degradation by introducing no-till technologies, more sustainable water management through irrigation technologies, improved storage and processing facilities to reduce post harvest losses.
FAO’s work has, over the past decades focused on assisting member countries with the development of agricultural mechanization strategies, encouraging private sector involvement and demand driven, market oriented approaches, while same time stressing the importance of environmental sustainability of farming systems as is highlighted in the FAO publication titled ‘Save and Grow’. FAO has in the past, contributed to a number of meetings hosted by UNAPCAEM.
The Roundtable on Developing Environmentally Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization Strategies (SAMS) for Countries in the Asian Region, jointly convened by UNAPCAEM and FAO in December 2011, however, marked the beginning of collaboration between both UN Agencies to address the issue of SAMS.
This RoundTable which included the participation of representatives of fifteen Asian countries, provided guidance on strategies and good practices for maximizing the benefits and sustainability of agricultural mechanization in Asia.
The RoundTable also demonstrated that Partnerships at all levels - among UN agencies, Governments, donors, private sector and farmers - are key to the successful development of sustainable agricultural mechanization strategies in the Region.
A key output of the RoundTable was the development of Regional framework for SAMS.
It is significant that all countries present at the December meeting recognized the need for sustainable agricultural mechanization. Some countries also expressed a dire need for a more structured and regionally integrated approach to mechanization.
The task of today’s informal follow-up meeting is to develop strategies for putting the SAMS framework into action. Responsibilities for actions to be taken at all levels and among partners need to be clarified. At the end of today we would like to have in hand an action plan that lays out a plan with a 5-year horizon, for a regional SAMS along with national level work plans. All key actors and stakeholders associated with the plans must be identified.
I would like to end by wishing you very productive deliberations in the development of this action plans and I look forward to learning of the outcome of your deliberations later today.