Hanoi, Viet Nam, 13 Mar 2012 -- Policy makers meeting this week in Hanoi began debating Tuesday a paradigm shift to producing food that they believe can prevent a looming crisis that could cripple the region’s development and the turn the Asian Century into an era of hunger and undernourishment.
“We have to move beyond the Green Revolution to an Evergreen Revolution, by adopting an approach called Save and Grow,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, regional assistant director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which is hosting a conference of agriculture ministers, senior officials and representatives of civil society from 40 countries in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Save and Grow philosophy proposed by the FAO involves sustainable intensification of agricultural production using methods that conserve and manage natural resources through ecosystem approaches.
It promotes crop and agricultural diversity, conservation of essential natural resources, sustainable strategies for pest control, reducing food loss and waste, disseminating knowledge and empowerment of small-scale producers.
It requires increased investment in agriculture, but the investments have proven positive returns.
“Save and grow approaches applied in developing countries have increased crop yields by as much as 80 percent, while also mitigating agriculture’s effects on climate change,’’ Konuma said. Those kinds of yield increases will be crucial for environmentally sound food production.
Nearly 600 million in Asia and the Pacific are suffering from hunger and malnutrition today. With the region’s population projected to increase by another billion people by mid-century, new approaches to food production are needed.
In most Asian countries the benefits of the Green Revolution that transformed agriculture in the last half of the 20th century, and helped save a billion people from hunger and malnutrition, have been fully exploited.
In Asia there is almost no room for further expansion of arable land, and, at the same time natural resources are diminishing and the environment is being damaged.
The methods outlined in Save and Grow, formally known as Sustainable Crop Production Intensification, are a paradigm shift in advocating that food production must work in harmony with the ecosystem rather than attempting to transform or master it. And that agriculture can be more productive by doing so.
The details of Save and Grow can be found in a booklet of the same name available from FAO or at the 31st FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific at the Melia Hotel from 12 – 16 March.