Dr Chaweewan, Deputy Director-General,
Dr Zhou, Team Task Leader,
It is my pleasure to welcome you all to this launching workshop of the ‘Livestock Waste Management in East Asia’ project. As we gather together to plan the way forward, it is worth reflecting briefly on the issues that have brought us to this point.
Over the past two decades, the livestock sector in East Asia has proven to be a tremendous success story. For example, Thailand’s broiler production is now 300 percent higher than the level in the early 1980s. In China, per capita meat consumption has increased by more than 200 percent in just two decades. What used to be a sector based mostly on backyard production has now developed into a vibrant industry that accommodates large, vertically integrated multinationals, as well as small-scale household or village based production. Today, the livestock sector is able to generate high tax revenues for governments through its large-scale units, as well as help contribute to poverty alleviation through income generation at the household level. As rural to urban migration rapidly advances in these countries, the expanding urban population needs to be supplied with a cheap source of protein for nutritional security. This critical need could not be met without the pivotal role played by the livestock sector.
However, when sectors expand at an exponential rate, as has been the case with the livestock sector in East Asia, significant environmental externalities are often a by-product. Animals create waste, and large numbers of animals concentrated in particular areas result in large, concentrated flows of waste, which has become hazardous as observed in many cases. Since the livestock sectors have grown rapidly on the basis of market signals, and without the luxury of planning, the question of waste disposal has never been considered seriously. Traditionally, policy in the region has tended to favour the production side of the sector without consideration of the associated environmental externalities. For instance, subsidized energy prices have helped the transition to large-scale, intensive, peri-urban livestock production. This has resulted in diminished possibilities for manure recycling by application to cropland, which was a feature of smaller-scale, rural-based livestock production in the past.
We are now starting to see some of the negative effects of this development. Almost 50 percent of the estimated excess phosphorous on agricultural lands in the region originates from animal waste. Most of such nutrient surpluses end up in water supplies, or become the point sources of land-based pollutants in coastal areas. To give only one example, in this country the Tha Chin river periodically suffers from critically low levels of dissolved oxygen, about 25 percent of which is directly attributable to waste arriving from pig farms. The three countries participating in the project all drain into the South China Sea, and the biological richness of the sea is threatened by land-based runoff, notably livestock waste. The environmental and public health implications are self-evident.
We could continue to ignore this problem, but to do so would be deeply irresponsible and unsustainable in the long run. It is about time all stakeholders – governments, private producers, the public and international organizations – put their heads together and made a concerted effort to put the brakes on this accelerating environmental pollution problem. These are the very objectives of this project, and it is indeed a worthy and timely one.
Instead of focusing on a narrowly defined approach, the project design is appropriately tackling the problem on multiple fronts: firstly, a technology demonstration component which will pilot manure management technologies on participating farms; secondly, a policy component that will ensure that close attention is paid to livestock waste in environmental and agricultural policies of the three participating countries; thirdly, a monitoring component that will constantly assess progress against goals. Finally, there is a regional support component that will assist countries and synergize their actions. Along with this holistic project design, there has also been great commitment displayed by the participating countries, the World Bank, and ourselves, FAO, in preparing this project. This is greatly encouraging, and indicates a good chance of success for the project.
Indeed, those of you who have involved yourselves from the beginning will recall that it has been a long road to this point of joint action since the project was conceived. Various teams have spent the better part of three years in planning and preparing this project. It has taken numerous missions, evaluation studies, drafting and redrafting of documents, monetary and personnel resource commitment and teamwork to bring this project to its launching point. However, all this investment of resources and energy has been very worthwhile and we can now harness the process and the professional network to develop a good model for the project’s successful implementation in the next five years.
As you negotiate the challenging road ahead of you over the next five years, it is worth remembering at all times that this is an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the solution of a difficult problem. There are implications not only for the three participating countries, but for the entire region. Countries such as Indonesia and the Philippines, with their large livestock sectors, could benefit substantially from the lessons generated by this project. Countries with smaller-scale but growing livestock sectors, such as Cambodia and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, could better plan the development of their sectors.
FAO is greatly enthusiastic about the possibilities for regional synergy and inter-country benefit sharing enabled by this project’s design. This is very much in line with the inter-country cooperation philosophy that is at the heart of our work here at the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific.
I trust your discussions over the next two days will provide good impetus to get the project off the ground. I wish you every success in the road ahead.