A High-Level Policy Dialogue on Enhancing Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture in Response to Climate Change was held last week in Can Tho (in the Mekong River Delta region of Vietnam) as part of the APEC 2017 Food Security Week.
The APEC economies form one of the leading food export regions in the world, and have fields with some of the highest agricultural production in the world. The region also hosts a rapidly growing population on an incredibly expansive geographic area.
This year’s focus – the links between agriculture and climate change – was pointed out by the Vietnamese Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, Tran Hong Ha, who said:
“climate change is one of the greatest challenges to mankind in the 21st century, which has had serious impacts on agricultural production and the livelihood of the global population, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region”.
The Minister continued:
“The situation will be exacerbated unless we have more effective and robust response measures backed up by a comprehensive cooperation with the international community in general and the APEC region in particular”.
The event focused on four key areas:
- Food security for sustainable agricultural development;
- Smart agriculture in climate change adaptation;
- Post-harvest management; and,
- Hi-tech application.
As an outcome of the week, the Cần Thơ Statement on Enhancing Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture in Response to Climate Change was adopted, which identifies:
“Food security is and will remain a critical issue for the international community in general and the APEC region in particular”.
The week showed the importance of enhancing cooperation in research and development, particularly through food and nutrition security, and reducing food losses. Across the APEC economies there are significant differences in production capabilities, human resources and levels of technological innovation. Improving cooperation would result in fostering the unique strengths and comparative advantages of each economy. Deputy PM Dung from Vietnam proposed facilitation of an equal consumption market through multilateral trade, given the importance of trade activities to promote sustainable agriculture for food and nutrition security.
Deputy PM Dung said:
“How to ensure food security and sustainable agriculture in response to climate change is one of the most pressing issues facing not only Vietnam but Asia-Pacific and the world at large”.
The week also promoted ideas of sharing key information on natural resource management, particularly cross-border water resource management, and strategies to boost rural-urban development. This involves engaging both the public and private sector to invest in regional infrastructure, telecommunications, service delivery and transport. Public-private partnership models (PPP) are set to enhance investment in sustainable agricultural investment across the region.
The outcomes of the week involved the adoption of three key documents which are set to continue efforts to enhance food security in the region. These are:
- Food Security and Climate Change Multi-Year Action Plan 2018-20 (MYAP) – which aims at developing approaches which recognize the interrelations and sensitivities between food security and climate change.
- Action Plan on Rural-Urban Development to strengthen Food Security and Quality Growth (AP) – which addresses food security through a rural-urban development approach centered on inclusive economic development, sustainable natural resource management, social aspects and administrative efficiency.
- Cần Thơ Statement on Enhancing Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture in Response to Climate Change – which recognizes the broader linkages between food security and further development challenges, particularly through trade. The statement emphasizes the importance of trade for global food security, and highlights the role of APEC economies in the global agricultural value chain. The statement addresses food security through sustainable agriculture and aquaculture, climate change adaptation, agricultural trade and investment, development of regional markets, food loss and waste management, sustainable resource management and rural development.
The meeting also had particular importance for Australia and Vietnam. The Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), signed an agreement for continued long term cooperation in agricultural research. The ten-year framework fosters continued collaboration to address core barriers to agricultural development: food safety, climate change, improving soil fertility and crop efficiency, improving market engagement, improving the value from forests, and aquaculture. ACIAR programs across APEC countries, particularly in the Mekong River Delta demonstrate the value of research and information exchanges in promoting application of modern science and technology to increase agricultural productivity, which boosts food/nutrition security, farmers’ incomes and economic growth.
It’s great to see food security in the spotlight, particularly at the economic and ministerial levels. The first meeting of APEC economies specifically targeting food security was in 2010 in Niigata, Japan, where the first comprehensive regional food security plan was developed (Niigata Declaration on APEC Food Security). Meetings to update regional food security plans have since been held biannually – the 2012 meeting in Kazan Russia (Kazan Declaration), the 2014 meeting in Beijing China (Beijing Declaration), and the 2016 meeting in Piura Peru (Piura Declaration). In 2016, it was decided that the growing demands for food in the region amidst supply constraints (from climate change to market access) certainly require annual meetings. That brought us to the 2017 meeting in Can Tho.
Agriculture has a role to play in realising nearly every one of the sustainable development goals. This spans from improving nutrition and health, reducing poverty, creating employment and generating income, rural development, eradicating poverty, and effective resource management for climate change. Realising the interlinkages between agriculture and global development in APEC economies and beyond is vital for targeting better programs and resources towards agricultural development.
The next APEC Food Security Week will focus on ICT responses to climate change, women in agriculture and fisheries, and sustainable fisheries management and development. The meeting will be held in August 2018 in Papua New Guinea.