FAO's field programme delivery in the Asia-Pacific region during 1998 was of US$52.2 million, a 15 percent decrease over the previous year. Major programme countries in dollar terms were Afghanistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and the Philippines. Compared to 1997, delivery was sharply reduced in China and India.
The major funding sources for the field programme remained the Trust Funds (largely under multi-bilateral arrangements) with US$26.9 million — down 5 percent — and UNDP, down 20 percent at US$15.7 million.
Expenditure under FAO's own regular programme financing modality for field operations, the Technical Cooperation Programme (TCP), stood at US$7.1 million.
The field programme's main sectors of activity were crops (US$20.6 million), forestry (US$10.1 million) and livestock (US$5.8 million).
Some 315 professional staff members worked for projects during 1998 with the backing of more than five hundred short-term consultants.
1998 Delivery by Sector (US$ million)
Most of the 800 million people who are chronically undernourished live in low-income food-deficit countries (LIFDCs), more than eighty countries which do not produce enough food to feed their population and cannot afford to bridge the gap with imports. Over half of these countries are located in Africa and nearly a quarter in Asia, where the food situation justifies urgent action and requires additional funds to finance rural development projects.
FAO's Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) responds to the urgent need to boost food production in these countries in order to cut costs and facilitate access to food by the poor communities in rural and urban areas. It is being implemented in 39 countries and under formulation in 34 others.
The programme sets out to help these countries to control water resources through micro-schemes which will protect them from the vagaries of the weather (drought and flooding) that cause serious fluctuations in annual output levels; boost the crop, livestock and aquaculture productivity and production of small farmers, so that they can feed their families and secure a surplus to increase their earnings; identify the socio-economic constraints on the production, marketing and processing of agricultural commodities; develop economically viable production systems for each ecological zone that generate projects with attractive internal rates of return; establish national sectoral agricultural programmes and investment plans ensuring both food security and a balanced diet for all.
A village project in the Philippines to intensify fruit and vegetable production
There are 19 LIFDCs in the Asia-Pacific region covered by RAP. These are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Korea DPR, Lao, the Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan and Vanuatu. In addition, Myanmar, which is not classified as an LIFDC, has requested FAO assistance to increase food production under SPFS.
In the Asia-Pacific region, SPFS is operational in seven countries (Cambodia, China, Korea DPR, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and Papua New Guinea), under formulation in five countries (Bangladesh, India, the Maldives, Philippines and Sri Lanka), and in the pipeline in the remaining eight countries.
A women's group in Samoa to start commercial beekeeping
Among the first batch of Asian countries implementing SPFS, China and Nepal completed Phase I in 1997 and were continuing with Phase II in 1998.
|Water control and irrigation work in China has resulted in less drought, water wastage, waterlogging and soil erosion||Nepalese women farmers trained to produce quality seeds|
That silk has a good international reputation for its beauty and distinctive character. But the demand for raw silk, growing yearly by 10 to 20 percent, is higher than domestic production, as the country lacks a silkworm disease-free seed/egg production system. Cocoon productivity is very low, e.g. less than 15 kg of fresh cocoons per box of silkworm eggs (compared to 35 kg per box in Korea and Japan).
Since 1990 the Sericulture Extension Centre, located in Chumphon - a traditional non-sericulture area in Thailand -, has promoted sericulture as an income-generating activity for disadvantaged social groups, including disabled women and men. With US$235 000 funding from FAO's Technical Cooperation Programme, the project will provide the services of international and national sericulture experts, equipment, materials and supplies, as well as training. By June 1999, the Sericulture Extension Centre is expected to have the technical and managerial capacity for the production of disease-free seeds and for hybrid egg multiplication as well as for farmer training.
Mr. Dong Qingson visits Chumphon
During a ceremony at the Department of Agricultural Extension in Bangkok on 15 January, the project was signed by the then FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, Dr Soetatwo Hadiwigeno, and the Director-General of the department, Mr Chavalvut Chainuvati.
In the Philippines, 1998 saw the successful implementation of a project to nurture sustainable agrarian reform communities as part of the technical support required by agrarian reform and rural development in the country. This joint project of the governments of the Netherlands (the donor) and the Philippines, and FAO as executing agency, was carried out through a trust fund. Building upon an Italian-supported project in operation since 1990, it became operational in 1997. Both projects aim at laying out an effective institutional base to speed up agrarian reform.
A major component of the project was to help improve the linkages between agrarian reform beneficiaries (the producers) and agribusiness enterprises as a means to maximize farmers' income. The project provided a framework comprised of three main activities: setting up a mechanism to match the requirements of both parties; establishing a network of investment and marketing assistance officers at central, regional and provincial levels; and disseminating market information through agribusiness-related bulletins, brochures and the like.
The above approach, developed and tested by the project, was found to be effective and practical and has been institutionalized through the launching of the Investment and Marketing Assistance Programme, which is one of the main programmes of the Philippine Department of Agrarian Reform. The latest assessment shows that it consists of 333 marketing and other agribusiness tie-ups between 176 agribusiness firms and more than 21 000 farmers.
The economic turmoil which has taken place in Thailand and other South east Asian countries since mid-1997 has brought into sharp focus the realities of the urgent need for sustainable employment for all categories of workers, in particular the disabled. Considering all the factors involved, such as the level of physical activity required, the relatively low investment cost, the regular returns from an investment and, of prime importance, the ready marketability of the product, which is in high demand and enjoys steady prices, mushroom cultivation appears to be the most suitable enterprise for people suffering from any of a wide range of disabilities.
Disabled people in agriculture
To achieve this, a US$183 000 TCP project was approved for the establishment of a training programme for disabled people on mushroom production in one of the vocational training centres, at Ubon Rachathani, Thailand. Elawat Chandraprasert, Director-General, Department of Public Welfare, Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, and Dr Soetatwo Hadiwigeno, the then FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, signed the project document on 29 July.
In September, the FAO-Japan co-operative project on improving agricultural statistics in Asia and the Pacific became fully operational. The project, which is an offshoot of the 16th session of the Asia and Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics held in Tokyo, Japan, in October 1996, covers 17 member countries. It will last four years and will consist of indepth studies of the system of statistics on food and agriculture in participating countries, with the aim of improving the availability and reliability of data. It will also study the feasibility of a system of data exchange among member countries.
Throughout 1998, the Thai Affairs Section at the regional office continued to liaise with the FAO National Committee in the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives for the hosting by Thailand of study tours, training courses and fellowships. This training is funded by FAO-implemented projects from around the world. More than sixty trainees visited Thailand during the year, most coming from countries of the region (Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Iran, Jordan and Sri Lanka). The duration of the training varied from seven days to eight months.
Indeed, Thailand, with its many comparative advantages in several sub-sectors of developing countries' economies (agriculture, horticulture, livestock, fisheries, etc) continues to draw many young scientists and agriculturists from other countries. Thai expertise and hospitality go hand in hand to further enhance this interesting programme.
November saw the successful completion of a two-year pilot project over two sites in Bhutan, for which FAO had budgeted a US$249,000 contribution, with the regional office providing technical backup in cooperation with headquarters. Called “Kitchen Gardening for Better Nutrition”, the project was designed to generate an integrated approach to kitchen gardens through the promotion of low-cost, ecologically sound cropping systems. Its implementation showed that kitchen gardens improve rural household food supplies and nutrition, and its methodology effectively demonstrated the need to link agricultural undertakings to nutrition and health activities. The kitchen garden programme is already being replicated in all blocks of the pilot districts and is to be extended to seven other districts which are recognised as food-insecure or have developing markets. Followup by the Bhutan government has been secured primarily under the Integrated Horticulture Development Programme funded by UNDP until 2002.
Asia has the highest growth rate in meat production in the world, and the setting-up of a regional Centre for Meat is a regional priority. So, during the 17th meeting of the Intergovernmental Group on Meat, held in Cape Town, South Africa, on 12–14 November, FAO presented a project profile on the development of value-added meat products in Asia and the Pacific.
The proposed project, which would last three years and cost less than US$1 million, may lead to the setting up of an Asia-Pacific Regional Development and Training Centre for Meat Processing, to be located in Manila, where UNDP/FAO and the Philippine government already established an animal products development centre in 1993.
The meeting, which gathered some eighty participants from most UN member countries, approved the profile - a precondition for the funding of such a project through the Common Fund for Commodities (CFC), whose representatives further encouraged the submission of a project document in the prescribed CFC format to the meeting of the CFC consultative committee to be held in June 1999.
At the invitation of the chairperson of the Royal Project Foundation in Chiang Mai, Dr Prem Nath, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, travelled to the Royal Angkhang Agricultural Research Station in Northern Thailand on 2 and 3 November. Guided by Mr Suthat Pleumpanya, Director of the Highland Agricutural Development Division and Office Manager of the foundation, Dr Nath observed the research and extension activities of the station at Doi Angkhang, in particular the newly introduced temperate-zone fruits, selected vegetables and herbs, and the forestry research plots. He learned about the support from FAO received by the foundation over the last six years, and the successful implementation of a technical cooperation programme (TCP) project for the introduction of an agricultural extension campaign for the hill-tribe population in this region. He witnessed the prosperity of the horticultural developments in several hill-tribe villages and the achievements of cut-flower farms around the Huey Luck development station.
From 4 to 6 November, Dr Nath was the guest of Maejo University and visited the offsprings of an earlier TCP project on cooperative promotion, such as a women's sewing group and a chicken-rearing cooperative at Luang Maerim district. He was also impressed by the excellent handicraft produced by cooperatives, and had the opportunity to visit orchid and butterfly farms in the area.
In between the two missions, Dr Nath also delivered the opening statement at the regional workshop on decentralized rural development and the role of self-help organizations in Chiang Mai on 4 November, organized by the Sustainable Development Group of RAP.
For the past two years, the Thailand-UN Cooperative Action Plan has been in operation in Thailand. Thai-UNCAP focuses on enhancing the skills in participatory planning and implementation at the tambon level, as well as in coordinating and enhancing synergy among development projects of different organizations.
Recognizing the specifics of the five pilot areas, Thai-UNCAP is applying different strategies in pursuing the community-driven, people-centred development in Petchaburi, Pattani, Yannawa district in Bangkok, Mahasarakham (where FAO is the lead agency) and Payao.
A Partnership Board meeting was held in Payao on 3–4 November, under the chairmanship of HE Mr Chuan Leekpai, the Prime Minister of Thailand. The RAP Deputy Representative, Mr Dong Qingsong, led the team from the Thai Affairs Section at the regional office. The summary evaluation of the progress achieved so far resulted in the prime minister's order to replicate the UN-CAP coordination mechanisms in all other provinces in Thailand.
The Giant African Snail (Achatina fulica) continues to be a problem pest in Samoa in food crops such as root crops and vegetables, and in fruit such as papaya and banana. The snail was introduced accidentally in 1993. FAO assistance was provided for the eradication of this pest. Metaldehyde was imported for the control of this pest, but it was not very successful.
Recently a farmer discovered large numbers of snails dying of natural causes. Investigation revealed that the giant African snails were attacked by predatory flatworms, thought to be a local species. Identification at James Cook University by well-known biologists revealed that the flatworm was Platydemus manokwari, a species not known to have been introduced into the country, but now unofficially found in Samoa. Farmers are now successfully getting rid of the giant African snail on their farms with the assistance of the flatworm.