Stories tagged: Asia

Experts discuss Asian Food Security in Singapore

Last week in Singapore, leading policymakers and influencers from throughout Asia and the world met to discuss the food security challenges and priorities facing the region at the first International Conference on Asian Food Security (ICAFS), themed ‘Feeding Asia in the 21st Century: Building Urban-Rural Alliances’.

As part of the conference, participants were invited to discuss the six Farming First principles as an approach to sustainable agriculture in the future. The six principles are designed to be farmer-centric, knowledge-based and dynamic so that continual progress can be made in achieving food security in a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable manner.

The three-day conference addressed the four basic dimensions of food security: availability, physical access, economic access and utilisation. Topics discussed in sessions included sustainable growth in agricultural production, resilient food supply chains, the impacts of trade policies, and humanitarian food aid strategies.

With the IFAD reporting that 60.5 per cent of rural Asians living in poverty, hundreds of experts have stressed the importance of increasing food production in a socially responsible and environmentally sustainable manner in Asia, calling for a ‘doubly green revolution’.

And as rice yields in Asia are expected to fall between 17-20 per cent by 2050 due to rising temperatures, policymakers need to ensure that the world’s farmers have access to the appropriate mix of tools, knowledge and technologies they need to boost productivity and maintain viable rural livelihoods. Singapore has already announced funding of US$8.2 million for research into new rice varieties.

Siang Hee Tan, Farming First spokesperson  and Executive Director of CropLife Asia, said:

“Asia’s farmers are small-scale entrepreneurs in the making. If they are equipped and supported to adapt to meet the world’s food demands, they can boost their own livelihoods while driving broader economic development.”

Syngenta and CIMMYT Partner to Help Farmers Combat Crop Losses

As part of GCARD 2010, Farming First hosted a session entitled ‘Better Benefiting the Poor through Public-Private Partnerships for Innovation and Action.’ Within the discussions, our panel of experts addressed several case studies that present different ways that partnerships have helped to empower smallholder farmers around the world.

Marco Ferroni – Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) in 2009 developed a two-year public-private partnership between Syngenta and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) to rapidly identify and map genetic markers for use in wheat resistance breeding against Ug99 stem rust, a fungal disease which can cause devastating crop losses.

The project, funded by the Foundation, will combine Syngenta’s plant genetic profiling expertise with the strengths of CIMMYT’s extensive field research to develop a genetic map of wheat stem rust resistance. This will culminate in the development of wheat varieties that can better resist the disease. The results from this project will contribute directly to the global efforts to combat stem rust, which are coordinated by the Borlaug Global Rust Initiative coordinated by Cornell University. The marker data arising from the research will be published.

This important collaboration brings together complementary skills and addresses a pressing need of farmers in many developing countries.  Ug99 stem rust, which first emerged in Uganda in 1999, is caused by the fungus Puccinia graminis.  It is currently spreading across Africa, Asia and the Middle East with potential to spread further, posing a serious risk to wheat, the world’s third most important food crop.

Along with rice, wheat is a major food crop and is crucial for global food security – it provides 500 kilocalories of food energy per capita per day in China and India, and can provide up to 50 percent of daily calorie uptake in Central and West Asia or North African countries. Wheat yields need to rise 1.6 percent each year to reach required global production levels by 2020, yet investments in wheat technology have lagged far behind those for other cereals.

The scientific objectives of this project are:

1) To identify, characterize and map Durable Plant Resistance Quantitative Trait Loci conferring tolerance to stem rust resistance in wheat.

2) To identify molecular markers flanking the chromosomal regions containing these durable genes to be subsequently used in marker assisted trait selection.

3) To characterise the Sr2 gene complex and understand how this complex of gene(s) interacts with other important genes in wheat.

China, Taiwan Partner for Agriculture Initiative

TAIW0001Over the weekend mainland China and Taiwan produced a common initiative on cooperation in the agriculture sector.  More than 220 officials, experts and representatives from agriculture, fishery and water resources joined the meeting. Chinese state media Xinhua has more:

The two sides will promote the development of new-type agriculture, encourage cooperation in agricultural biotechnology industry, and work to set up a long-standing consultative mechanism on agricultural cooperation, said the common initiative produced by the symposium, held first in Shanghai and then Zhejiang.

Both sides are pushing for this to be a shared venture, where information on agriculture passes freely between the mainland and Taiwan. Sharing knowledge is one of the key principles which Farming First supports and this initiative exemplifies how this can be done on a grand scale:

The two sides will also establish a reporting mechanism to share information on the quality and safety of agricultural products, said the initiative.

According to Xinhua, the symposium was co-sponsored by 10 NGOs from both the mainland and Taiwan.

Interactive Map Celebrates Agriculture’s Success Stories Across the World

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has just launched an interactive world map highlighting some of the many success stories in agricultural development from around the world.  It is part of a wider upcoming launch of their newest publication, Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development, which will be released on 12 November.

The interactive map allows viewers to explore case studies of how agricultural research has benefited individual countries and regions.  Each case study identifies key periods of time, target regions, and a more detailed account of each intervention.  It also provides additional links to related case studies from elsewhere.

The range of case studies includes:

  • Combating cassava diseases in Nigeria and Ghana: This programme has contributed to 40% yield increases and has benefited 29 million local people
  • Introducing zero-tillage agriculture in Argentina: This practice has improved soil fertility, created new agricultural jobs, and helped keep global soybean prices low
  • Improving mungbean yields and resilience in south Asia: Introducing new varieties of mungbeans has helped improve yields, shorten maturity times, and increase resilience to pests to the extent that global production increased by 35% over the past 25 years.

There are many more case studies on the site, which helps create a visual cue for understanding agriculture’s advancements since the mid-20th century.

New Fertilizer Method Uses Technology to Improve Efficiency, Lessen Impacts

Across Asia, millions of rice farmers depend on urea fertilizer to meet the nitrogen needs of the continent’s primary crop. Many farmers still spread urea into floodwaters to fertilize rice. This is highly inefficient – about two-thirds of the fertilizer is lost as greenhouse gas or becomes a groundwater pollutant.

Urea deep placement (UDP) is a more efficient and environmentally responsible method of fertilization. IFDC pioneered UDP research and helped introduce it in Bangladesh in the 1980s. UDP technology has since been spread to other countries in Asia, including Cambodia, Nepal and Vietnam.

Farmers using UDP place urea briquettes into soil near the rice plants. UDP increases nitrogen use efficiency because most of the urea nitrogen stays in the soil, close to the plant roots where it is absorbed more effectively. The net result is that crop yields are increased while pollution is lessened. Farmers using UDP are increasing yields by more than 20 percent while using 40 percent less urea.

By 2008/09, the Bangladesh Department of Agricultural Extension (with IFDC assistance) spread UDP technology to 500,000 hectares (ha) of rice fields, increasing production by 268,000 metric tons (mt) annually. UDP farmers had additional annual net returns of $188/ha.

UDP use reduced Bangladesh’s urea imports in 2008 by 50,000 mt, saving $22 million in fertilizer imports and $14 million in government subsidies. UDP generated an additional 9.5 days of labor per hectare – almost 4.6 million additional days of labor. More importantly, the additional rice has made 1.5 million more Bangladeshis food-secure.

The Bangladesh Government began expanding UDP technology this year to 2.9 million more farm families on 1.5 million ha. By 2011, rice production is expected to increase by almost 1 million mt, ensuring food security for an additional 4.2 million Bangladeshis.

The UDP technology not only improves farmers’ productivity and income, but the need for urea also creates employment opportunities. IFDC engineers developed a simple machine to mold urea into briquettes, and helped establish village-level businesses to manufacture and distribute the machines. Nearly 2,500 urea briquette machines are now in use across Bangladesh.

All farmers seek gains in efficiency and productivity, but nowhere is the need greater than in Africa. Because farmers worldwide face many of the same problems, a group of African farmers, scientists, policymakers, entrepreneurs and extension workers visited Bangladesh to see UDP use first-hand. As a result, the UDP technology is being introduced in Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Togo.

Visiting UDP rice fields in Niger, Chaibou Abdou, Secretary General to Niger’s Minister of Agriculture, said “Spiraling food prices spurred the government decision to boost rice production and reduce costly imports. Niger has 30,000 hectares of land with rice production potential. With UDP this land could supply 30 percent of our needs.”

Green Rice: Climate-Friendly Rice Strains in Thailand

As a response to methane emission from rice production being flagged as part of the global climate debate, Thailand’s agricultural ministry, as reported in the Bangkok Post, has prioritised its research efforts towards developing climate-friendly rice strains.

Prasert Gosalvitra, Director General of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives’ Rice Department said:

We are developing a number of modern rice strains that will reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are generated during rice production.

Traditional rice production practices generate large quantities of methane; a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide.  The Thai ministry is developing strains of rice with smaller food conducting tissues which will assist in reducing greenhouse gas emissions during the photosynthesis process. Additionally, the ministry is researching strains to reduce carbon dioxide during the harvesting process.

Gosalvitra commented that in the future he hopes that this innovation in ‘green-rice’ will help Thai farmers gain access to markets with climate-conscious consumers, notably in the EU.