Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

WELCOME ADDRESS

by

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

delivered at the

SRII Asia Summit 2013: SMART Service Innovation for Better Life
"Feeding the Billions – the need for innovations in agriculture"

Bangkok, Thailand
16 September 2013

 

Excellencies, distinguished guests, participants, 
Ladies and gentlemen,

On behalf of Food and Agriculture Organizations of the United Nations (FAO), I wish to welcome you all to this extremely important gathering this morning. In this opportunity, I wish to convey our gratitude to the chair of SRII, and co-organizers ; NECTEC, NSTDA,  Kasetsart University, Ministry of Science and Technology, Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives and Ministry of  Information and Communication Technology of the Royal Thai Government  for their concerted efforts and close partnership with FAO in organizing this 1st SRII Asia Summit. I also wish to thank the all participants from various countries in Asia including those from public and private sectors for their participation, despite of busy schedule.

While the world is producing sufficient food to meet the needs of everyone at this moment, the demand for food is expected to increase sharply by 60 percent ( or by 77 percent if developing countries only) in next 37 years towards 2050 as the world population is estimated to reach around 9.2 billion at that time. This has to be attained under existing and foreseeable constraints such as the stagnation of expansion of arable lands, scarcity of water resources, advancing environmental degradation, negative impacts of climate changes , natural disasters and emerging dideases, competition between food crops and bio-energy crops on the use of limited natural resources such as land and water, increased use of food grains for animal feed and bio-fuel, rapid urbanization and declining agricultural labour force especially young farmers. If we fail to meet this production target, food shortage may occur, and social and political stability as well as world security and peace might be threatened as we witnessed recent past.  Addressing these challenges requires coordinated responses and concerted efforts among all stakeholders including public and private sectors.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Achieving improved and sustainable agricultural production and productivity  growth is largely depending  on the advancement of agricultural research and its effective applications at farmer’s fields through the transfer of technology and innovation.  FAO estimates that 91 percent of  the global food production increase towards  the year 2050 should come from yield increase at existing arable lands based on the advancement of agricultural research, and its application and transmission to farmers through effective research-  extension linkages.  Indeed,  a half  billion small farming family farmers produce most of food consumed in developing countries.  Thus, small scale farming families play a critical role in increasing food production for our future food security. Yet, they are often constrained by access to markets, knowledge, new technology and skills, new inputs, emerging value chains and other opportunities. Moreover, there have been a very little number of young people attracted to be a farmer to feed our future generation.

On the other hand, due to rapid globalization and trade liberalization, sustainable agricultural development requires innovation, as small scale farmers operate in an increasingly complex and uncertainty environment . They have to be flexible enough to adjust their farming practices to meet rapidly changing market demands and other factors.  This provides new risks, challenges and opportunities, and requires continuous adaptation and  innovation.

Innovation is the application of new solutions that meet new requirements, which can be accomplished through more effective products, processes, services, technologies or ideas.  In recent past, Information and Communication technology (ICT) has been playing an important role in promoting innovation in agriculture sector.  Among others, mobile phone has been very powerful.  At present, 6.8 billion mobile connections are established for & billion world population. According to the recent report of Rockefeller Foundation, around 40 percent of all people in developing world have now actively subscribe to mobile services which is significantly higher than that of PC ( 8 percent) and well over 50 percent  have access to mobile phone, even if they are not the owner. In South Asia and East Asia, the growth rate of actual number of people subscribed to mobile services increase very rapidly between 2007 and 2012 with an average annual growth rate of 19 percent and 11 percent ,respectively.  Indeed, mobile phone  technology became a technology  which is widely accessible to all populations and has been playing invaluable role in improving social, economic and environmental development in emerging markets. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very please to introduce that by using mobile phone technology, there have been diverse type of innovations taking place in agriculture sector, which include commodity and stock market price information and analysis, meteorological data collection, advisory services to farmers for agricultural extension, early warning systems for disaster prevention and control, financial services, traceability of agricultural products, agricultural statistical data gathering, etc. I wish to share with you on the details of these activities at tomorrow’s my key note speech. The value of these innovative technologies and services should not be under estimated,  as improving agricultural extension services to farmers using  mobile technology would effectively improve the transmission of agricultural research results for application at farmer’s fields. Timely reporting of  trans-boundary  animal diseases using mobile technology would save large number of lives of animals and minimise financial losses.  Agricultural marketing information available to farmers would not only help farmers to sell their products at better prices, but also provide reliable food price information to policy makers to prevent price volatilities and speculations. These all contribute to enhancing food security.

As a follow up to the World Summit on the Information Society in 2003 and 2005,  “e-agriculture”  was established in 2007  as global network of “Community of practices”  where people from all over the world exchange information, ideas and resources related to the use of  information and communication technology (ICT) for sustainable agriculture and rural development. FAO was assigned to lead the development and subsequent facilitation activities that would truly engage stakeholders at all levels. “e-Agriculture” has a membership of over 10,000 from 160 countries world-wide.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The task of feeding the ever growing population is not going to be an easy task. This coupled with challenges and a shrinking arable land makes it more challenging. ICTs, GIS, remote sensing, precision farming and many other technologies or processes hold great promises and are our arsenal in the fight against hunger and in feeding the billions.

The role that ICT can play as an instrument of change is potentially transformative. Smallholder farmers, particularly women involved in agriculture, have a huge advantage when the right ICTs are induced into the agriculture value chain. The access to the right information at the right time gives them the capacity to make informed decisions that would affect their livelihoods and thereby play a major role in ensuring food security.

Together we must extend successful innovations and good practices widely and think of sensible solutions to address the problem of food security and agriculture.

FAO welcomes opportunities to work with governments, institutes of higher learning and public and private sector organizations. I trust that today’s gathering will bring us closer to create a strong partnership and team work to work together.

Thank you