Mr Kumar, Vice President for Academic Affairs, AIT
Ladies and Gentlemen,
On behalf of Mr Hiroyuki Konuma, Assistant Director- General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, I am pleased to welcome you all to Thailand and to this expert consultation workshop on sustainable land management regional action programme formulation.
It is a great honour for me to welcome you to this important forum. Before I begin, I would like to extend my thanks to AIT for organizing this workshop. I welcome your collaboration in supporting promotion of sustainable land management under the challenges of climate change for sustainable development in Asia.
As you are all aware, climate change presents a daunting challenge for Asia. Already, over the last fifty years, the region has experienced a range of observed climate changes including: declining precipitation, increasing water scarcity, rising average temperatures and the growing frequency of extreme weather events such as storms and floods. These changes, and those yet to come, pose a real and undeniable threat to the agro-ecosystems and natural resources that underpin the region’s agriculture sector as well as to the livelihoods of its rural communities and, by extension, to food security. Given this threat, it should come as no surprise that coping with the impacts of climate change on agriculture, food and nutritional security is one of FAO’s five strategic priorities for the region.
Climate change will complicate and compound the already existing development problems in the region such as population growth, rapid urbanization, increasing competition for natural resources, environmental degradation and, most importantly, food insecurity. Natural resource constraints, including limited availability of productive land and water, and stagnating agricultural productivity in some parts of the region, mean that we will need to work even harder in the future to eliminate remaining food insecurity.
Unacceptable levels of environmental damage and problems of economic feasibility are cited as key problems of modern agriculture practices. Greater attention is being given to alternative means of intensification, particularly the adoption of sustainable land management (or SLM) technologies. Key benefits of these technologies are increased food production without further depletion of soil and water resources, restoration of soil fertility, increased resilience of farming systems to climatic risks, and improved capacity to sequester carbon and mitigate climate change.
SLM technologies can generate both private and public benefits, and thus constitute a potentially important means of generating “win-win” solutions to addressing poverty and food insecurity as well as dealing with environmental issues. In terms of private benefits to farmers, by increasing and conserving natural capital – including organic soil matter, various forms of biodiversity and water resources – SLM can generate productivity increases, cost decreases and greater stability of production. SLM practices contribute to improving soil fertility and structure, adding high amounts of biomass to the soil, causing minimal soil disturbance, conserving soil and water, enhancing activity and diversity of soil fauna, and strengthening mechanisms of elemental cycling. This in turn translates into better plant nutrient content, increased water retention capacity and better soil structure, potentially leading to higher yields and greater resilience, thus contributing to enhancing food security and rural livelihoods.
At the same time, widespread adoption of SLM has the potential to generate significant public environmental goods in the form of improved watershed functioning, biodiversity conservation and Climate Change mitigation. The technical potential for mitigation from agriculture by 2030 is estimated to be between 4,500 MtCO2e/year and 6,000 MtCO2e/year, which can be reached by reducing greenhouse gas emissions – of which agriculture is an important source representing 14 percent of the global total – and increasing soil carbon sequestration, which constitutes 89 percent of agriculture’s technical mitigation potential. Many SLM technologies can increase the levels of soil organic matter, of which carbon is the main component, therefore delivering significant Climate Change mitigation co-benefits in the form of reduced greenhouse gas emissions and increased carbon sequestration. Improving productivity would also reduce the need for additional land conversion to agriculture, which on its own represents almost as much greenhouse gas emissions as those directly generated from agricultural activities.
Despite the capacity to generate both public and private benefits, the adoption of SLM practices has been relatively slow globally. Thus, there is considerable interest in a better understanding of the benefits, costs and barriers to adoption of these practices.
This expert consultation workshop will address these issues and challenges for an effective regional solution and synergistic actions through formulation of ASOCON Action Programmes for the SLM which is to contribute to the three Rio Conventions. Through your interactions and collaboration over the coming two days, I hope that we will produce a clearer vision of how ASOCON can move beyond a blueprint to a programme of action with tangible and lasting impacts for sustainable and climate resilient agriculture in the region.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I wish to reiterate my gratitude to AIT and the ASOCON Coordination Unit for partnering with the FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific to make this forum possible.
I wish you all a productive meeting.