FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Connecting poorer farmers with modern market value chains can revitalize Asia-Pacific’s rural economies – FAO

07/03/2016 Putrajaya, Malaysia

A UN Food and Agriculture Organization report presented today, suggests that governments across the Asia–Pacific region should provide an enabling environment to support the integration of the agricultural outputs of poor, smallholder farmers into modern efficient value chains, offering them a chance to improve their livelihoods and revitalize rural economies.

The report was presented at the 33rd FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC33), underway in Putrajaya, Malaysia 7-11 March.

Agriculture is the largest employer in the developing countries of Asia–Pacific. But, because most farmers in the region are poor, self-employed subsistence farmers, they are unable to market their produce through modern value chains. This makes it more difficult for them to break out of poverty and contribute to the region’s overall rural economic growth.

The report examines the important role that agriculture plays in reducing rural poverty across the region and recommends strategic approaches to develop value chains that can improve livelihoods and revitalize rural economies.

Why many small farmers – particularly women – are being left behind

Despite sustained economic growth and impressive progress, especially in East and Southeast Asia, poverty in the region remains a major challenge, particularly in rural areas where the vast majority of poor people depend on agriculture production for their subsistence. According to the FAO report, “Small farmers, landless and marginal farmers and their families comprise the main category of rural self-employed in the region's agriculture sector, where they hold 60 percent of agricultural land.”

“Most poor rural farmers do not belong to farming organizations like farmers groups and cooperatives, so they are underrepresented in the community and prevented from participating in political and economic advocacy. Their use of out-dated technologies, deficiencies in rural infrastructure, a general lack of safe storage facilities and affordable transportation combine to reduce their productivity, resulting in high levels of post-harvest losses and produce that is of uncompetitive quality,” said Rosa Rolle, an FAO senior specialist in agro-industry and post-harvest techniques.

“The role of rural women in agriculture should also not be underestimated,” said Rolle.  “Women have major roles in food production, selling and buying food, preparing and cooking food and ensuring family nutrition. So, it is really important to integrate both men and women working as small farmers into modern value chains, because that leads to increased agricultural output and improved food security.”

Rolle pointed out that many of the rural-urban migration trends involve men moving to the cities, leaving women behind to work the land. Yet many of these women do not have the tools, the training or equal access to credit and land ownership to take proper advantage of the situation.

Revitalizing the region's rural economy will depend on public incentives and investments to create an enabling environment for small farmers and particularly marginalized and vulnerable groups to access inclusive and efficient value chains. The Pacific Island Countries could focus on domestic markets to correct import substitution and nutrition security problems.

The APRC is FAO’s regional governing body, bringing together Ministers of Agriculture and their senior officials from 46 countries in the region. This 33rd Session of APRC is hosted by the Malaysian Government’s Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry.


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