Bangkok, Thailand, 26 Jun 2014 -- Now is the time for Asia and the Pacific to embrace sustainable and eco-friendly agricultural mechanization, FAO announced today. However, the process must be systematic as there have been negative consequences of agricultural mechanization in the past which resulted in land and environmental degradation. As the agricultural labour force has been declining sharply the need for mechanization increases.
The Asia-Pacific region has emerged as the largest market in the world, in terms of sales of agricultural machinery, implements and equipment. In 2015, it’s predicted that total sales for Asia-Pacific could reach US$ 49 billion. According to data from the World Bank, that would be more than the combined sales of North America (US$ 27 billion) and Western Europe (US$ 20.5 billion), as recorded in 2010. This boom is largely driven by Asian countries that are presently on the verge of completely replacing draft animals as sources of farm power with tractors – either four wheeled or two wheeled – or a combination of both depending on the country. Diesel and/or electrical motors for powering irrigation pump-sets as well as equipment for harvesting, post-harvest handling and processing will also increasingly replace more manual methods.
“This is indeed a great achievement and one which should continue in the 21st century. On the other hand, there is a need to ensure that agricultural mechanization makes use of region’s natural resource base in a sustainable way, in order not to jeopardize environment in the future,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative.
Konuma made the remarks at the beginning of a two-day Asia-Pacific High-Level Multi-Stakeholder Consultation on Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization Strategy (SAMS). Participants are represented by 21 countries, with a total of nearly 80 participants involving governments, regional institutions, representatives from the private sector, civil society, development partners and academic and research institutions.
The challenges of mechanization
“The transformation taking place in mechanization across the region, however, will not be achieved without overcoming significant and parallel challenges encountered along the way and without adding environmental sustainability in approach,” Konuma warned.
As the farm power situation is being transformed, attention is turning to issues related to the sustainability of agricultural systems. The environmental, socio-economic and demographic trends which are likely to occur in the region over the next three to four decades will exert considerable pressure on agricultural systems to implement more sustainable agricultural mechanization strategies – or ‘SAMS’. The new paradigm of “sustainable production intensification” as described in a recent FAO publication titled Save and Grow, recognizes the need for productive and remunerative agriculture that conserves and enhances the natural resource base and the environment, and which positively contributes to the delivery of environmental services. Sustainable crop production intensification must not only reduce the impact of climate change on crop production, but must also mitigate the factors that cause climate change by reducing emissions and by contributing to carbon sequestration in soils.
Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization Strategy (SAMS)
The Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization Strategy (SAMS) which was fully formulated based on consultations and hard work in the past 3 years since 2011, has been presented at this meeting for finalization. The meeting is also expected to discuss a way to promote a regional networking in countries and concerned institutions by creating a platform to enhance concerted efforts and promote partnership.