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Policy assistance to governments

Report on an in-depth study of poverty in Asia

Issued in December, the report Poverty Alleviation and Food Security in Asia: Lessons and Challenges is based on the work of a team of experts led by the Policy Assistance Branch of the regional office. The study was financed by UNDP.

Poverty, as both a cause and an effect of food insecurity, continues to be a major challenge in Asia and the Pacific, where the bulk (75 percent) of the poor in developing countries is located. In this region, as elsewhere in the developing regions of the world, poverty is mainly a rural phenomenon: nearly three-fourths of the poor live in rural areas, with the large majority of them dependent on agriculture for employment and income. Agricultural growth thus offers a potentially enormous source of poverty reduction, particularly when the growth is broadly based.

Cover page of the publication

The study assesses recent experiences, policies and select issues on poverty alleviation in Asian developing countries. It shows that the preparation for success in food security and poverty alleviation, which the East Asian countries had made despite the recent financial crisis, was not merely the opening up to the world economy but also the laying of solid foundations for agricultural growth, rural transformation, and social development, especially basic education, nutrition, health care, land reform, and infrastructure. The report is thus useful and timely, as it not only brings out lessons learned, and hence informs country-specific food security policies, but also identifies programmes and measures that can be best carried out at the regional level.

DPR Korea: agricultural investment for recovery

In May, an Agricultural Recovery and Rehabilitation (AREP) roundtable meeting initiated a dialogue at the request of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which had asked for international assistance to restore the country's food grain production, gradually reduce its food aid and promote more diversified and environmentally sustainable farming and natural management practices. A subsequent mission from the FAO regional office went to DPR Korea to confirm the accuracy of initial AREP estimates of food grain requirements and production potential, the feasibility of AREP proposals for achieving food grain self-sufficiency, and the compelling cost-benefit logic of a gradual shift away from food aid. The mission also assisted in prioritizing AREP needs more clearly, in defining implementation arrangements, and in refining thinking about longer-term capacity building and the institutional assistance needs of the agricultural sector.

Besides a presentation of its activities, the mission report includes an overview of developments since the roundtable meeting, a discussion of the enabling environment for AREP, a description of the strategic framework for AREP assistance, and a summary of priority programme and project assistance requirements.

Cambodia's agricultural sector's review draft report

Ravaged by three decades of war, Cambodia confronts enormous development challenges: widespread rural poverty, poor transportation, marketing constraints and internal security problems have created an atmosphere of food insecurity in the country. In March, FAO fielded a multi-disciplinary mission to Cambodia to formulate a coherent policy framework and to devise viable agricultural sector strategies to solve Cambodia's food security problems and alleviate poverty. In addition, the mission identified areas of intervention at both policy and programme levels.

The draft report of the study, Agricultural Strategies and Policy Frame-work for Sustainable Food Security and Poverty Alleviation, was submitted to the Royal Government of Cambodia. It is still under examination by the Cambodian government and its development partners. A final version will be prepared in due course in consultation with the concerned parties.

Policy work in the Pacific

Held in Auckland, New Zealand, from 31 August to 2 September, the Sub-regional Office for the Pacific (SAPA) organised a round-table meeting on the present and future implications of the Uruguay Round Agreements on agriculture and fisheries in the region. Given the low level of awareness on the subject by most Pacific island countries and in view of the complexities of the issues, one meeting was insufficient to build the necessary capacity. A follow-up round table on the same subject was held in the same place from 22 to 26 March 1999. It was attended by all FAO member countries from the Pacific. It enhanced the knowledge of the participants regarding the WTO Agreement and strengthened their position for future negotiations.

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