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4.1. Introduction

In Asia and the Pacific region, most of the gains in agricultural productivity have been achieved by progressively improving the application or adaptation of available technologies. Technological innovations intended to help farmers in less favourable circumstances and to sustain development in more favoured areas have been based on an understanding of the physical and biological production environments, the genetic potential for increased productivity, and the socio-economic circumstances in which the farmers operate.

There have been variations from country to country, but in most cases there has been greater emphasis on rainfed agriculture and irrigation, greater attention to nutrient recycling without discounting the crucial importance of mineral fertilizers, and greater attention to traditional patterns of intercropping while not prejudicing the opportunities for mechanization and the use of herbicides. There has been investigation both of the possibility of using integrated and biological control of pests while exploiting suitable opportunities for the proper use of chemical pesticides, and of breeding for stress tolerance in crops and livestock without restricting performance under favourable conditions. The farming systems of the small producer are now better understood, but the problems of large-scale production have not been neglected; and there has been greater attention to the basic food commodities while recognizing the place of cash crops in income generation.

Broadly, the aims of research and technology development have been to raise productivity in ways that contribute to increased rural incomes while neither worsening existing fluctuations in production nor reducing the potential of the environment to sustain production indefinitely into the future.

4.2. The contribution of FAO: overview

Food security and sustainable agriculture have been improved in Asia and the Pacific region as a result of several contributory factors: attention to issues affecting rural poverty and the development of human resources, support for agricultural research and extension, and the development and adoption of appropriate technology for agricultural development. The experience and expertise of FAO in topics ranging from the broad socio-economic to the very specialized and technical issues relating to the agricultural sector, together with FAO’s close and extensive knowledge of the local, national and regional situations, have had a visible impact in the member countries. Within the mandate of the Field Programme, FAO has implemented a number of projects, as described below, in support of sustainable agriculture and the development of the forestry and fisheries sectors. Table 3 shows the support given during the period 1970-1990, for some selected countries for which data were available.

4.3. Land reform and land tenure

Some recent FAO work has focussed on issues associated with land tenure or reform. In the Philippines, technical support to the Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (SARC-TSARRD) project has substantially helped to improve the tenurial status and livelihood of more than four million ‘agrarian reform beneficiaries’, the least developed rural households which live below the poverty line in rural Philippines. Many of these beneficiaries were landless labourers and tenants, but are now owners of small tracts of land in various parts of the Philippines. They required a package of support services to improve the productivity of their farming activities and increase their income. These support services related to institutional credit and infrastructure facilities, water for irrigation, post-harvest facilities and improved marketing linkages, etc. The project adopted a development approach based on Farming Systems Development, adapted to local conditions, to help this group gain access to the necessary support services. This approach has been very successful and thousands of farming households have benefited. Infrastructure such as roads and bridges has substantially reduced the costs of transporting their produce to market and of water for irrigation; it has facilitated second crops, and improved the farmers’ access to institutional credit from local banks, to agricultural technologies and practices, and to improved seeds and planting materials, among other things.

Table 3: Number of FAO projects running during 1970-1990 in eight countries in Asia and the Pacific region, and their cost (US$)


No. of Projects

Amount in US$



107 427



110 000 000



125 000 000



13 300 000

Sri lanka


24 439 825



30 000 000



75 000 000



194 200 000

The success of the project is evident in Umpucan ARC, where the average annual household income of these farming households was Peso 30 000 before the project. After the project’s intervention, the household incomes of the residents gradually increased up to about Peso 110 000 annually. This success story in Umpucan has been replicated in other ARCs. While the activities in the Philippines have focussed mainly on the livelihoods of poor farming households within ARCs, most project activities and their resulting accrued benefits lie within the wider context of rural development. This approach has also resulted in increased productivity and income and in a higher level of programme sustainability.

4.4. Development of agricultural research and extension

The support of FAO programmes has enabled research and extension in Asia and the Pacific region to be developed. Institutions have been established or augmented and personnel, whether institutional employees or farmers, have been trained in a range of skills. Research and extension facilities are not always developed for their own sakes, however; technological innovation is often a major part of the final outcome of a project.

4.4.1. Research

From its start in 1961, the FAO Fertilizer Programme has, in almost all countries in which it has operated, included a phase of simple fertilizer trials and demonstrations in farmers’ fields, coupled with training courses for extension workers and field days for farmers. As a rule, these have been followed by pilot schemes for the provision of fertilizers to ensure that farmers had access to the inputs demonstrated. The programme has helped to determine the rates of fertilizers suitable for the crops grown locally (in trials) and to make the effect of fertilizer on crop yield and farm income known to as many farmers as possible (by demonstrations).

In fact the FAO Fertilizer Programme is one of the very few sources of information on fertilizer effects over a period of more than 30 years under a great variety of conditions and specifically on food crops grown in many countries of Asia. Over 100 000 Fertilizer Programme trial and demonstration results had been made available until 1990.

When the FAO Fertilizer Programme started in 1961 as a cooperative effort between FAO and the international fertilizer industry under the Freedom From Hunger Campaign, it was generally accepted that a large part of the population in the developing world was threatened by malnutrition or starvation in the immediate future. Grain production in Asia has grown faster than the population. This has been due largely to a substantial increase in crop yields per hectare made possible by improved methods of cultivation, the introduction of superior varieties and increased fertilizer use.

It is difficult to assess how much of this achievement can be credited to the FAO Fertilizer Programme and projects but certainly several thousand trials and demonstrations have been laid down on farmers’ fields, coupled with training courses for several thousand extension workers by 1986. Country projects were operational in China on balanced fertilization, in Cambodia on support to handling, distribution and proper use of fertilizers by farmers, and in Pakistan on the promotion of sound plant nutrition strategies and related fertilizer policies. In India, a TCP project was initiated to develop integrated plant nutrition systems methodology. A Japan-funded project on the improvement of efficiency and environmental impact of nitrogen fertilizers through their effective management has just been completed in Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Likewise, an agro-retailers training programme has been implemented in Bhutan, Nepal, India, Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand.

4.4.2. Extension

The need to strengthen the functional structure of extension services has been important and so a number of FAO activities have concentrated on appropriate skills development, training of extension personnel in key areas, technology transfer for poverty eradication and the development of training materials for environmental education. Support has also been given for administration and organization in extension, farming systems development, and the monitoring and evaluation of extension systems for sustainable agricultural development. Field Programme support has been provided in varying forms to various countries, and its impact has been significant there, just as in the following success story in China.

For modern agricultural outputs to keep pace with China’s projected population growth and for China’s goal of being self-sufficient in food production to be realized, the Government recognized that a modern state-of-the-art agricultural education system was essential. With the support of the FAO Field Programme, it selected six key middle schools - three agricultural schools and three animal husbandry and veterinary schools - in North-west China to be strengthened. These schools were to serve as demonstrations to other similar schools to produce better-trained farmers and extension technicians, so they could respond to the country’s need for enhanced knowledge and skills in theoretical and applied science and technology.

The major impacts of the programme support were: (i) improved teaching methods, moving from a teacher-centred to a student-centred approach, (ii) increased curriculum development capacity, with a greater emphasis on learning-by-doing, practical skill building and competency based assessment, (iii) improved farmer training methodologies and techniques, (iv) extension to non-project schools, (v) incorporation of government policy and development themes into curricula, (vi) more subjects offered, (vii) increased teaching flexibility and opportunities through better equipped laboratories, and (viii) greater participation of students in the development of educational programmes.

Teaching methodology and agro-technology were the main themes of the comprehensive training programme developed and implemented by the project, providing opportunities for teachers to develop and improve their teaching skills and to update their technical knowledge.

During the project period, eight teaching method courses with 213 participants, and twelve advanced teaching methodology courses with 308 participants, were facilitated by international consultants at the project schools. Fifty-five agro-technical training courses on the different subjects with 1123 participants were held at the project schools. One hundred and eighty three faculty members from non-project schools received training on teaching methodologies. Staff from the six project schools received training on the operation and maintenance of audio-visual and laboratory equipment. An extensive training programme was implemented for school administrators, and more than ninety project school staff members received foreign language training. The number and scope of training opportunities provided to teachers and administrators far exceeded those originally envisaged in the project document.

Besides training, the human resources capacity of the schools was further enhanced through international fellowships, study tours abroad and within China, and advice and guidance provided by national and international consultants. Twenty-four teachers or staff from six project schools and MOA received fellowship training at 15 universities in ten countries. Fifty-two teachers or principals in nine delegations undertook study tours abroad.

The project schools, as well as a number of other schools in China, now have the capacity to develop their own curricula. All the schools in the project have expanded their portfolio of subjects offered to students. Schools have also increased their adult education programmes. Many follow-up training activities have been conducted at non-project schools, further extending the impact of the project.

The project’s support has led to the reform of the agricultural education system in China by showing policy makers the need for reform and the potential benefits to be gained from it. Proposed reforms include the introduction of improved training of teachers, competency-based education, and modular teaching approaches. Student enrolments at the schools have risen during the programme period. Some of this enrolment increase is attributed to the expanded range of courses and subjects offered, attracting more and better students. With more students seeking educational opportunities, enrolments have also increased. Besides professional linkages, in accordance with FAO Programme Action Plans the schools have provided training to 320 students from demonstration extension counties. Each of the project’s schools also has had outreach training programmes in the DCs, ECs and IDCs. The new technologies developed to improve food security and alleviate poverty have been extended to farmers. The interaction of students, teachers, farmers, village leaders and agro-technicians is reported to have been a learning exercise for all concerned with a sharing and building of knowledge and skills. An extensive farming training programme has been implemented by the schools dealing with decision making, crop production technologies, fruit production, integrated pest management (IPM), animal husbandry production, and home economic management

4.4.3. Institutional and human resources development

An enabling environment is a prerequisite for higher productivity, and enhanced human and institutional capacities ensure that higher growth rates are sustained. Accordingly, the FAO Field Programme has focussed on two distinct elements in terms of institutional development:

The underlying principles for human resources development in the agriculture sector have been to upgrade capacities so that ordinary people can take charge of their lives, to make communities more responsible for their own development, and to foster a more pluralistic institutional structure which includes non-governmental organizations and stronger local government. In the context of restructuring, the programme recognizes that development takes place through institutions, including markets, whether private or public. Institution-building in the widest sense is essential.

(a) Pakistan

The Field Programme has supported the building of capacity and institutions in several countries in the region. For example, in Pakistan, FAO has helped the agricultural sector to reform and strengthen certain existing institutions and to establish new ones in other areas of potential. These institutions serve as centres of excellence and provide the required technical inputs on a sustainable basis. Several important institutions in public-sector and community-based organizations which have been supported by FAO include:

In 1975, at the request of the Government of Pakistan, FAO provided assistance to the Cotton Research Institute to strengthen the cotton research programme. This programme resulted in strengthening of the capability of the institute’s research and outreach programme, addressing key aspects related to increasing cotton production. Today Pakistan is the fourth largest cotton producer in the world, maintaining annual cotton production of 9 million bales in contrast to the 1.1 million bales produced in 1947.

During the same year, FAO provided assistance for the establishment of the Poultry Vaccine Production Centre in the Poultry Research Institute, Karachi, and established laboratories to enable the centre to produce 200 million doses of various poultry vaccines annually. It also supported the establishment of the poultry development centres throughout the country under the Coordinated National Programme for Development of Rural Poultry. Under this programme 33 poultry disease control centres and 19 poultry multiplication centres with fully equipped hatcheries were established. In addition the centres distributed about 82 million doses of poultry vaccines.

In 1987, FAO helped in the establishment of the Pakistan Cotton Standard Institute, Karachi. This institute has brought in an internationally acceptable cotton grading system and set a standard for Pakistan seed cotton and lint.

During the implementation of its development programmes in Pakistan, FAO has greatly focussed on community participation at all stages of development. Farmers have been encouraged to form organizations that can continue and sustain the development process of some of the activities, such as local resource mobilization; they can receive better services as a group. Some of the important social institutions promoted and developed through the support of FAO include:

In the context of human resources development FAO has supported 142 officials with scholarships in foreign universities (108 for Ph.D. programmes and 34 for M.Sc. programmes). In addition 429 people have been sent abroad for study tours and short-term training. Some 37 000 government officials and farmers have been given in-service training.

(b) India

In India, since 1971, FAO has promoted scientific capabilities for agricultural development, under the UNDP-funded Post-Graduate Agricultural Education and Research Programmes. These programmes aim to enhance professional scientific competence and to develop facilities for high quality research and training, to tackle the agricultural problems in the country. They have assisted in the establishment of 28 centres of advanced studies in about 23 research institutes and universities. The centres offer post-graduate education and research, in disciplines having priority and relevance to increased productivity, profitability, stability and sustainability, such as soil and water management, crop protection, agricultural engineering, dairy science, avian research, temperate and tropical horticulture, mariculture, agricultural microbiology, plant physiology, dairy processing, plant biotechnology, animal biotechnology, immuno-biotechnology, irrigation management, land resource management, soil fertility and plant nutrition, agricultural meteorology, seed technology, agroforestry, inland fisheries. They also give overall agricultural education and research management training, and include faculties concerned with matters such as food and nutrition and child development. As a follow up of this programme, with the assistance of the World Bank, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has continued to strengthen the NARS through support from the National Agricultural Research Project and the Agricultural Human Resource Development project. As part of these two projects, FAO continues to provide assistance under Trust Fund arrangements for overseas training of scientists in the chosen specializations.

(c) Myanmar

In Myanmar, recognizing that the country needs highly qualified agriculturists in adequate numbers, FAO has provided support for institution building through various projects and programmes, including the following noteworthy examples.

(i) Institutes of Agriculture, Veterinary Science and Forestry

The Institute of Agriculture, the Institute of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Science and the Institute of Forestry form the centre of higher education. The undergraduate and postgraduate educational and training facilities have been assisted and strengthened by UNDP and FAO with provision of equipment and award of fellowships. Currently annual admissions average about 300 for agriculture, 150 for veterinary and 50 for forestry.

Agricultural Research Institute at Yezin

The Agricultural Research Institute, currently called the Central Agricultural Research Institute, had, as a matter of expediency, primarily focussed on rice research. Later, however, the relatively low yields of rice, food legumes and Austrial crops (cotton, jute, sugarcane) dictated the need to establish well-coordinated crop-orientated research programmes. Accordingly FAO, through support from UNDP, implemented the project called Strengthening of Agricultural Research Institute. The objectives of the project were the establishment of a firm research base, capable of addressing the research needs of rice, oil crops and industrial crops, and generating increased production. As a result of project implementation, six new divisions were established: Cereals (excluding rice), Oil crops, Food Legumes, Sugarcane, Fibre and Horticulture. The crop improvement programmes associated with the project led to the establishment of a good varietal base for rice, cotton, food legumes, jute and sugarcane. Plant introductions considerably improved the range and quality of elite plant material available within Myanmar, and new methods of management, improved technology and better cultural methods were evolved. Significantly, the project also paved the way for further concerted approaches for oilseeds, sugarcane, wheat and maize.

The project for the Central Agricultural Research Institute also made available 16 fellowships, covering 159 person-months. The institute has been strengthened qualitatively and has collaborated closely with international institutes such as IRRI, ICRISAT, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), CIMMYT and INTSOY. A firm base has now been established to meet the challenges of essential research.

Forest Research Institute

The Field Programme has assisted in enhancing the functional capacity and efficiency of the Forest Research Institute, and resulted in the establishment of seven divisions: (a) the Forest Management and Silvicultural Division, (b) the Research and Administration Division, (c) the Botany and Tree Improvement Division, (d) the Protection Division, (e) the Natural Resources Division, (f) the Wood Properties and Utilization Division, and (g) the Forest Industries Process Division. Many research results have been published and proved to be impressive. The Forest Research Institute has been built up as a nucleus for meeting the forest sector’s conventional research needs. Its professional capacity of 29 staff officers has been upgraded with the provision of study tours and fellowships, including 8 M.S. degrees.

(ii) Technical and vocational training

Institutional support and human resources development assistance have been provided through the project called Technical and Vocational Forestry and Forest Industries Training. Its objectives were these: to improve and extend training courses and training facilities of the Myanmar Forest School and Timber Corporation Training Centre; to review and establish appropriate syllabuses for the formulation of long-term training plans for lecturing staff; to strengthen library facilities; and to arrange overseas training. The project established a relevant curriculum and established three levels of training: (a) Forestry Induction Course (8 weeks) for new recruits, (b) Technical Course (2 years) for in-service staff, and (c) Basic Forest Officers Course (8 weeks) for newly recruited forestry graduate staff. The project provided (14) months of training courses, covering all levels.

(d) China

In China, support has been provided for establishing the Shaanxi Fruit Crops Research Centre of the Shaanxi Academy of Agricultural Sciences. It facilitates research on fruit yield and quality, plant protection, diagnosis of nutritional status, fertility maintenance and post harvest handling and storage. Training has been an important component of the programme support for virus-free fruit tree propagation and fruit diversification for integrated farming systems. A total of 110 training courses have been implemented, involving the farmers in Luochuan demonstration and Fuping extension counties. Of the farmers involved in the training, 33.9 percent are reported to have been women. This has made a significant impact because the involvement of women in training courses greatly increases the confidence of the women to participate in technical and production discussion in the demonstration areas.

Programme support has helped increase the capacity of the institution, through staff training, equipment upgrade and the development of national and international linkages. It has enabled the Centre to establish a system for the production of virus-free fruit tree production. Fruit diversification in the province, particularly in the mountainous regions, has been accelerated and there has been promotion of fruit production and the export of fruit to other parts of China and neighbouring countries.

(e) Integrated pest management

For integrated pest management (IPM), FAO has played a key role in building training capability in Asia. Since 1990 the FAO Intercountry Programme for IPM in Rice has been helping government and non-government organizations in the region to plan and implement IPM programmes which are based on Farmer Field Schools. These are schools without walls, where groups of farmers meet once each week throughout a cropping season to study what is going on in their fields. Participants learn about the ecology of their crop and, as a result, they acquire the ability to make management decisions which are efficient and healthy.

Phase IV of the Intercountry Programme started in 1998 with funds from Australia, Netherlands and Norway. In designing the new phase, FAO has given recognition to the huge progress which has been made over the last decade in developing IPM training capability in Asia: hundreds of thousands of farmers have already graduated from IPM Field Schools in countries such as Indonesia, Philippines and Viet Nam. Consequently, Phase IV gives more attention to community-based IPM programmes which are organized by farmers after they have completed a farmer field school. Also in the last decade some of the 12 member countries have established a self-reliant capacity to plan, manage and implement training.

National Integrated Pest Management project BGD/95/003 has established 1222 farmer field schools in 120 Thanes of 40 districts in the past three years during which 30 550 farmers have been given direct training on rice IPM and 234 000 have been given exposure to IPM through field days. The IPM training given to IPM trainers and the farmers is totally field orientated, participatory and discovery-based, and relies heavily on non-formal approaches to education so it is attractive and acceptable to farmers. A recent study assessed the impact of IPM training given by this project. It found a tremendous increase in knowledge of crop pests and their parasites and predators, in understanding of the crop ecosystem, safe and effective pest management practices, and the adverse effects of pesticides. The farmers are much more able to make right crop management decisions, now. More importantly, it found that the IPM-trained farmers have reduced their pesticide use by 81 percent.

The FAO Programme for Community IPM, wherein farmers are the instigators of IPM rather than just the recipients, has recently helped to establish the Asian IPM Trainers Team (also known as "the A-Team") which is undertaking assignments across the region. At present the team has roughly 50 members, coming from Cambodia, China, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.

By the mid-1990s, IPM Trainers from the Philippines and Indonesia had already played leading roles in conducting Training of Trainers courses in Bangladesh, Cambodia, India and Viet Nam. By 1996 it was apparent that the demand for such support would increase across the region. The limiting factor for many skilled trainers was English language skills. The Government of the Netherlands responded to this need by providing funding through FAO for two groups of experienced IPM trainers to study English in the United States. These six-month intensive courses in 1997 and 1998 were attended by a total of 30 trainers from Cambodia, China, Indonesia and Vietnam.

During the last 18 months, the graduates of these courses have greatly contributed to the development of IPM programmes in the own countries and abroad. The A-Team’s achievements include:

The A-Team has enabled the FAO Programme for Community IPM to be far more flexible and effective than it could have been if it relied only on international "experts". The members of the A-Team have in-depth experience in conducting training for IPM trainers. All are dedicated to using approaches that empower farmers. They share a common vision and goal, and have been willing to work in conditions which most "experts" would find extremely trying.

4.4.4. Extension-research linkage

There is much to be gained from the linkage between research and extension. Not only does extension allow research to be put to good use, but there can also be a two-way exchange of information. For example, when extension workers and farmers are trained in particular skills, they can more easily identify farm problems that need research, and they can also make on-farm observations which supply useful data. This is particularly valuable during pest control work.

Pests and diseases have been the most consistent causes of reduced yields in most countries of the region. This is primarily due to the intensification of agricultural production practices and the replacement of generally low-yielding but disease-resistant traditional cultivars by more susceptible modern varieties. The use of pesticides has had two negative effects: new pests and diseases have appeared because of the impact of pesticides on non-target species, and prolonged exposure to pesticides has led to genetic adaptation or natural selection for pesticide-resistant pest strains.

Aware of these problems the FAO Field Programme has supported the countries of the region since 1980 through the FAO regional project called Rice in South and South-East Asia. In its first phase, the project very successfully launched a survey programme which identified several prominent natural enemies of rice insect pests. This programme encouraged farmers to reduce the indiscriminate use of synthetic pesticides. It also encouraged a dialogue with the concerned government authorities to consider the withdrawal of government subsidies on synthetic pesticide distribution.

During its second and third phases, the project introduced another effective programme of farmer training in integrated pest management (IPM). To date, more than two million Asian rice farmers have acquired skills for making decisions in the application of IPM. The project’s development programme has gone through several evolutionary phases and is currently in Phase IV, Community IPM. Government and non-government organization trainers now have a new role to play in supporting farmers who are managing their own IPM development activities.

The result of the above mentioned evolution is an increase in the quality of IPM activities and a significant movement towards IPM being sustained by local initiatives. Today farmers in the region are quite receptive to new development programmes in the field of crop pest management.

As part of the Technical Cooperation Programme of FAO, the Republic of Maldives was supported in strengthening its biological pest control. Increasing pest attacks were causing heavy damage to plants, particularly vegetables, in many islands. The country was provided with the means of identifying insects and pests, with a view to controlling them by the introduction of their natural enemies. This biological control has become well established in the Maldives, where environmental protection is a national priority.

In India, support has been provided for the development of plant quarantine and inspection facilities, particularly infrastructure and specialized facilities for large scale quarantine operations and staff training. In line with the priority for sustained increase in food crop production, the Government of India introduced in 1990 a new seed policy which facilitated, amongst other things, the entry of seed and other genetic material into India. Accordingly, the Government is now having to up-date its plant quarantine procedures. Personnel have been trained for preventing the expected introduction (and exit) of exotic pests and pathogens during large scale importation (and export) of plants and seeds under the new policy. The concept of pest risk analysis forms the basis of these new procedures.

In the Pacific island countries, support has been provided for the regional management of fruit flies. In the Cook Islands, Fiji, Samoa and Tonga, FAO became involved in regional activities on fruit flies and their management in September 1990; in January 1994, Solomon Islands, Federated States of Micronesia and Vanuatu were included. In April 1997, the activities were expanded significantly to encompass all 22 Pacific island countries and territories.

These are among the major achievements during the period 1990-1999:

The research-extension linkage can be seen in other examples of FAO programme support in Asia and the Pacific region. During post-harvest and agro-processing projects in China, described in the next section, human resources development was also ensured. The project engineers who were involved with designing a silo facility learnt a great deal about the civil, mechanical and electrical engineering requirements of a steel silo complex. The project staff who took part in fellowships and study tours and in-service training, broadened and deepened their experience. The FAO Field Programme also provided support to the Corn Centre in Jiin Province of China, a corn research institution. Among other things the support provided modern physical facilities and staff training to serve the technical needs of the Jiin province starch industry as well as the industry of the entire country.

Within the framework of programme support for agricultural development in arid and semi-arid areas of North-west China, support was provided for the project called Research Demonstration and Extension of Sustainable Farming Systems for Rainfed Agriculture in the Loess Plateau. The project addressed a variety of problems by developing improved cropping patterns, crop management techniques, water conservation and harvesting, etc. The research results were disseminated to the farmers through an improved participatory extension system. As a consequence there was a significant increase in the incomes of farmers in the project counties. Project implementation resulted in 24 percent more grain yield per unit area, and grain self sufficiency improved by more than 400 kg per capita; per capita income increased by 26-31 percent. The project led to the adoption of sustainable natural resources management practices; as a result, forest coverage increased by 16 percent, grass coverage by 17 percent and water use efficiency by 24 percent, while the soil erosion of cultivated land reduced by 20-24 percent.

4.5. Technology for sustainable agriculture

The support of FAO programmes has stimulated technological advances in a range of areas of agricultural development in Asia and the Pacific region. In the following examples of technology for sustainable agriculture, extension is implied, if not mentioned, as means of transferring the technology to farmers and other users.

Technical assistance has been provided to countries such as China, India, Viet Nam, Nepal and Bangladesh, and they have developed their capacities to produce high-quality seed of wheat, maize, sorghum, millet, potato and hybrid rice. Countries of the region have also been assisted in developing national seed programmes, as outlined in the next section.

(a) Bangladesh

In Bangladesh, the Government has adopted FAO’s Compact Block Front-line Demonstration Model as a nation-wide programme to accelerate cereal production so that Bangladesh can attain self-sufficiency in food grains. New varieties and appropriate technology packages introduced by the Thana Cereal Technology Transfer & Identification project (TCTTI) have ensured a high degree of crop productivity. In recognition of the role of women in agricultural development, special training programmes have been organized for women, in seed collection, storage, food processing and in income generating activities aimed at poverty alleviation.

An FAO sub-regional jute and kenaf project has provided the basis for strengthening seed production, processing, storage certification and quality control for these two fibre crops.

(b) Myanmar

In Myanmar, the Field Programme since 1977 has provided support to crop and food crop development in order to increase productivity and rural incomes. Among the outcomes of a project that focussed on crop development were the following:

Eight new varieties of maize were released and had a significant impact, providing double the average yields of 2501 kg/ha for some townships. Sorghum varieties AG460 and AGS11 from ICRISAT proved to be significantly higher yielding than check variety 1S8965, while maturing 6-8 days earlier. Jute (capsularis varieties BC8O and 89 and olitorious varieties BO 7, 18 and 23), yielded ranging from 1346 to 4053 kg/ha.

A project that focussed on food crop development strengthened applied and adaptive research on important legumes and coarse grains, and at the same time enhanced the capacity of MAS for transferring research findings to farmers, through intensive use of field demonstrations. There was found to be little indigenous germplasm for coarse grains and food legumes, and yields were of poor quality. The shortfalls were made up by accessions from ICRISAT for coarse grains and legumes, and from IITA, the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and IRRI for legumes. The project collected altogether 1316 samples of germplasm, comprising accessions for sorghum (224), millet (58), black grain (34), green grain (55), butter bean (22), pigeon pea (212), chick-pea (276), winged bean (16), cowpea (178), lentil (173) and kidney bean (68).

(c) India

In India, FAO has assisted by introducing hybrid rice technology. The technology has been developed successfully only in India and China, and is estimated to increase rice productivity by about 25 percent when applied at a large scale.

Soil is a vital natural resource but its capacity to produce is limited. Use of micro-nutrients has been promoted in rice-wheat growing areas where soil organic matter has fallen considerably, and biofertilizers are now being used as a result of development supported by FAO. Productivity has been improved as a result of water and soil conservation techniques developed in watershed programmes.

The oilseeds production scenario in India has changed dramatically, with the nation achieving self-sufficiency and becoming a net exporter instead of being a net importer. In a span of just a decade, annual production has gone up from 11 Mt in 1986/87 to 25 Mt in 1996/97. This transformation has been termed the Yellow Revolution. Assistance from FAO through a TCP project was significant in advising the government on a production and processing strategy for oilseeds. Another TCP project assisted small farmers in Karnataka to adopt new varieties of oil palm and to set up an appropriate processing plant for the area. In the current UNDP-funded and nationally executed programme on oilseeds and pulses, FAO continues to provide technical assistance for improving the productivity and nutritive value of oilseeds, oils, oil meals and pulses. Under the same scheme, the sectoral study on farming systems, maize and pulses is leading to policies and programmes for the development of the oilseeds and pulses sector in the future.

With FAO assistance, a national phytotron facility has been established at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute for the conduct of genetic control of biological characters to improve the productivity of cereals, pulses, oilseeds and other crops. The advent of biotechnology as a powerful tool has opened new vistas in breaking the genetic yield barriers. New crops and new plant types that should suit the various requirements of intensified agriculture can now be researched with the phytotron facility.

(d) China

In China, within the ambit of the project called Agricultural Development in Arid and Semi-Arid Areas of Northwest China, support has been provided for virus-free fruit tree propagation and fruit diversification for integrated farming systems, to lay the foundation for establishing new orchards, renewing old ones, diversifying fruit production and improving fruit quality as part of a sustainable farming system.

Prior to FAO programme support, most of the trees planted in orchards were of poor quality with high levels of virus infection coupled with poor growth and management, both in nursery and in orchard. The limitations to productivity could not be overcome solely through improved management. It was estimated that the use of virus-free trees alone in new plantings could improve productivity by at least 20 percent. Almost all the field implementation took place in Shaanxi Province. The project adopted and promoted technologies chosen after analysis of the problems specific to that area. The farmers wanted disease-free apple varieties of good quality with higher production per tree. They were provided with the virus-free Fuji apple, and were given training in orchard management for increased productivity, better harvesting, post-harvest storage, packaging and transport.

Secondary nurseries located in Tongchan, Yanan and Boaji were provided with 100 000 budwoods of virus-free apple rootstocks and scions. In addition, 7 000 000 virus-free apple seedlings were also supplied to the major apple producing counties in Shaanxi. These seedlings helped to set up 70 000 mu (4670 ha) of virus-free apple orchards during the project period. It must be pointed out that the approach was mainly product- and technology-driven. Although land that had been used for grain cultivation was turned into apple orchards, it was reported that the production of grain did not decrease. In fact, in some areas it increased, and this was attributed to the use of plastic mulching technology, improved seed varieties, mechanization and better farm management.

The project has moved the currently used agro-technologies one step closer to the concept of sustainable agriculture. There is a growing awareness that the use of legumes as inter-crops in the orchards improves soil fertility, and that straw mulching and drip irrigation in some instances improve water use efficiency and conserve water resources. The project has contributed to increased farm incomes and an improved quality of life. Food security has also greatly improved.

In China, no attention had been given to providing small and medium sized machinery suitable for terraced hillsides and mountainous agricultural areas. Many farmers in North-west China are poor, partly because of small landholdings and low agricultural production. It was realized that if appropriate small- to medium-scale machinery could be developed and used, production would increase, leading to higher incomes and reduced poverty. Accordingly, Field Programme support was provided for the design and extension of small and medium sized agricultural machinery. A workshop equipped with machine tools was built to produce small and medium sized prototype machinery. Farm machinery was introduced from Italy for testing and demonstration in Yuzhong County. Eighteen kinds of small and medium sized farm machines have been designed, tested and manufactured. They include equipment for seed sowing, pesticide spraying for crop protection, fertilizer injection, harvesting, land preparation, water pumping by hand, microirrigation and the processing of agro-products. Hundreds of these machines have been given to farmers in the demonstration county for trial and use.

(e) Post-harvesting, storage and processing

Lichi and longan have long been highly-valued fruits in China, and now the market demand for these fruits is very high as a result of improvements in people’s incomes. The fruits are consumed fresh or canned, as juice or as dried fruits. However, they are very sensitive and require correct and careful post-harvest handling and treatment because they are very difficult to keep fresh during transport and distribution to the market. Over 20 percent of the fruit is lost annually, and post-harvest losses after rainfall are much higher. This has a severe negative impact on farmers’ incomes. Support was therefore provided through the Technical Cooperation Programme of FAO and was clearly a factor in improving the production management and post-harvest treatment of lichi and longan in Guiping City. The support programme also showed that it is possible to increase output and improve small-scale processing in all the 40 cities and counties in the Autonomous Region, with the aim of promoting fruit production, reducing losses and increasing economic value. By increasing farmers’ income through improved production and efficiency in processing, it has encouraged their investment in lichi and longan and agricultural production, to ensure sustainability and food security.

The increase in cereal production in the years after China adopted the Household Contract Responsibility System in 1978 made it necessary for the Chinese Government to adjust its grain marketing policies and modernize its grain storage and distribution facilities. The FAO Field Programme assisted in this process by procuring and then constructing and evaluating an integrated grain storage facility at Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province. Three separate types of steel silo were evaluated to determine the most appropriate type for the Chinese situation. Before 1985, only 4 percent of the total national storage capacity was in silos, most of them made of concrete, brick or mud and straw. The few steel silos that did exist were locally manufactured and were considered to be below a standard acceptable for safe grain storage. The overall support strategy was based on the establishment of a working grain silo facility followed by research and training programmes and an extension component. Prior to 1985 China had not successfully developed steel silo technology and therefore the support from FAO was an effective means of rapidly introducing that technology to the country.

The FAO Field Programme also provided support to the Corn Centre in Jilin Province, China. The major output of the project was a functional pilot facility with the capability for applied starch technology research and pilot scale production of starch sweeteners, modified starches and fermentation products. Probably unique to Asia is the pilot facility for the manufacturing of corn sweeteners, e.g. high fructose corn syrup and crystalline products, and maltodextrins. The pilot plant offers ample opportunity to demonstrate, to interested industries, the unit operations of the process and the effect of variation in raw materials and process conditions.

Through systematic developmental research, a number of products and conditions for their production at 1-20 kg quantities, have been determined at pilot scale. Products developed and produced at the Corn Centre include a range of sweeteners (High Fructose Corn Syrup 42 and 55 percent; corn syrup solids); modified starches (pregelatinized waxy corn starch; thin boiling starches; oxidized starch; starch esters and ethers; adhesives); fermentation products (highly concentrated alcohol by yeast fermentation; metal enriched yeast; fodder yeast from corn steep water; lactic acid); and other related products (oil from high oil corn; manufacture of a water resistant paper system for corn seedlings).

4.6. The roles of public and private sectors

In recent years, the world has focussed on reducing public sector expenditure and encouraging the private sector to have a role in development. In this vein, FAO has assisted countries of Asia and the Pacific region in developing national seed programmes, integrating public and private sectors: in Pakistan this has included a long-term seeds sector development programme; in Afghanistan, the development of a project for quality seed production; in Malaysia, the implementation of a seed and planting material production and certification programme; in Indonesia, a feasibility study on the soya bean seed industry and the development of a national soya bean seed programme; and in Bangladesh and Nepal, comprehensive vegetable seed production projects contributing to reduction of seed imports and improved availability of vegetable seeds in local markets.

In Bangladesh there has been a major shift in the domestic vegetable seed production in the country. A package of technology provided by the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) and the parastatal organization BADC has been integrated with the activities of an organized vegetable seed production system developed through FAO’s technical assistance project. Approximately 350 Mt of good quality vegetable seed is now being produced in the country annually; less than 25 Mt was produced during 1986. From importing 100 percent of requirements prior to 1995, Bangladesh is now annually meeting 75 percent of its domestic requirement for okra and radish seeds. The country has also started exporting good quality seeds of Yardlong bean (100 Mt) to South East Asia from its domestic production. The institutional capabilities and physical facilities of BADC and BARI have been greatly strengthened for the production of good quality breeder and foundation seeds, and BARI has released 23 improved varieties as a result of project support. Compared to the annual production figures of 1991, four-fold increases in breeder and foundation seed production have been achieved by BARI and BADC, respectively. The project has been highly successful in developing a system of organized vegetable seed production in the country, replacing hard currency imports and creating rural jobs and business opportunities.

4.7. Macroeconomic policy and agricultural development

Economic viability, food security and the allocation and sustainability of agricultural resources are macroeconomic issues when they operate at national or regional level. The FAO programmes that develop agricultural technology and sustainability have influence at this scale: they affect the allocation and productivity of land, return on capital invested, food security, and the socio-economics of nations, although sometimes their primary focus may appear to be at local level.

At the regional level, the aim of the Farmer-centred Agricultural Resource Management (FARM) programme has been to make resource-poor farming communities economically viable in rainfed areas, while ensuring sustainable resource management. The programme has significantly contributed to the development of human and institutional potential and helped to achieve a farmer-centred approach to agriculture.

The FARM Programme is transforming ideas about rural development, from the old mode to a new one, as illustrated in Table 4.

Table 4. Old (left) and new (right) ideas about how to achieve rural development

Earlier agricultural development approach

FARM development approach

Priority to irrigated areas

Priority to rainfed and upland areas

Increased level of investment in physical capital

Investment in building human resources capacity

Technology driven

Aiming for people’s participation

Intensive short-run resource use

Long-term sustainable resource use

Priority to cash crops

Priority to economic viability and food security

Single-disciplinary and sectoral approach

Multi disciplinary and systems approach

Neglect to environmental protection

Protection and regeneration of environment

Central control top-down assistance approach,

Community control self-reliant approach.

Marginalized and stereotyped role of women

Gender equity and role of women as partners

Segmented and fragmented approach

Integrated and networking approach

With regard to food security, FAO has been involved in projects in Laos, Sri Lanka and Viet Nam, and particular attention is being given to FAO’s further cooperation with ASEAN in the same field. More significantly, during 1994 a new initiative was launched, namely the Special Programme on Food Production for Food Security in low-income food-deficit countries. China, Nepal and Papua New Guinea were selected as the initial participants. Additional countries are being considered for this special programme.

The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) has been a flagship of the FAO Field Programme. Its impact has been significant in terms of increased production and income. For example, its first phase in China has resulted in a number of achievements, including, among other things:

The programme is now in its expansion phase in participating countries of Asia and the Pacific region. A number of networks have been established to promote exchange of information to facilitate increased production. These include: the Asian Network on Food Legumes and Coarse Grains, the Asian Soybean Network, the Tropical Asian Maize Network, the Asian Network on Medicinal and Aromatic Plants, and the Asian Network on Sericulture Research and Development. A Root and Tuber Crops Network for the Pacific Island countries has also been initiated.

As a final example of FAO contributions towards sustainable agricultural development in Asia and the Pacific region and their effects on macroeconomics at a national scale, consider the results of the work on pest control, and on fruit fly eradication in particular in Pacific island countries and territories.

The fruit fly activities have been instrumental in removing constraints to trade brought about by the loss of ethylene dibromide. New quarantine treatment technologies for fruit fly hosts, such as non-host status and forced hot air treatments, have allowed the export of mango, breadfruit and papaya from Fiji to New Zealand (and soon to Australia) and mango and papaya from Cook Islands to New Zealand. A range of products from Tonga, Vanuatu, New Caledonia and Samoa may be exported in the near future. A very successful eradication programme was commenced in Nauru for Oriental fruit fly, Pacific fruit fly, melon fly and mango fly. Oriental fruit fly and melon fly may have been eradicated, and a programme for the other two species is continuing. Fresh ripe mangoes and other fruits are available to the people of Nauru for the first time in about 15 years. Legislation (Agricultural Quarantine Act) has, for the first time, been drafted in Nauru. A recent benefit:cost study revealed that for the funds spent on the fruit fly activities there was a rate of return on investment of 28 percent, based on increased production and export of fresh fruits and vegetables.

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