March 2017
policy updates
Global: Pesticides are "global human rights concern", say UN experts urging new treaty (7 Mar)

A new UN report on the right to food was presented on 7 March 2017 to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Highlighting the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes, the report delivered a number of recommendations, including in particular, to promote agroecology and requested States to have responsible systems for agriculture, public health and the environment. This puts forward the reason for a comprehensive new global treaty to regulate and phase out the use of dangerous pesticides in farming, and move towards sustainable agricultural practices.

Thailand announced to end its sugar subsidy programme (23 Feb)

The Thai government will be ending its sugar subsidy programme and will come into effect by the end of this year.  While Thailand's Sugar and Cane Producing Board expects the new policy will let the price of Thai sugar match that of the global markets, concerns are growing that the removal of the subsidy could hurt Thailand's economy and cause economic slowdown. 

Thailand: Government warns farmers of water shortage (3 Mar)

The Thailand Department of Disaster Prevention and Mitigation (DDPM) has issued a warning of potential water cut to farmland due to limited water supply during dry season to reserve supply for consumption and maintain the ecology of natural waterways. The Agriculture Ministry reported already 7.2 million rai (or 4 million rai more than planned) of off season rice is currently being grown and the royal irrigation office is concern that drought might devastate wide areas of paddy fields as the total off season rice growing has expanded substantially. Drought has already the country's rice belt in the central plains and dry spell has also begun in several other districts. 

Myanmar: Agricultural sector and SMEs to receive private bank loans (1 Mar)

To boost economic growth from agricultural sector, The Central Bank of Myanmar will make it compulsory for local private banks in Myanmar to grant a minimum percentage of their loans to the agricultural sector and the small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) sector. To avoid losses from failed loans, the government needs to issue a guarantee and a collateral system before private banks can provide loans to farmers. Currently, loans are being offered to SMEs sector by state-owned SME Development Bank, and for the agricultural industry, loans are offered by the state-owned Myanmar Agricultural Development Bank (MADB). 

India: Timely policy measures, monitoring helped in boosting farm output (23 Feb)

Active policy intervention in agriculture and rigorous monitoring of farm operations has helped Indian farmers increase country's food output much faster in 2016-2017 after two consecutive monsoon failures. The government authorities have monitored the farm situation through field visits, video conferencing and regular meetings of the Crop Weather Watch group which resulted in the increase of farm output of 8.1 per cent to a record 272 million tonnes in the current crop year. The government has also taken steps to insulate the farmers from market fluctuations by procuring the crops through official agencies at the minimum support price.

Nepal Prime Minister:  Agri modernization project to boost output (13 Mar)

The Nepalese government has launched a Rs130-billion, 10-year Agriculture Modernization Project which aim to boost productivity and envisioned Nepal as being a food self-reliant country by adopting modern farm techniques. In attaining economics of scale, the government will be creating 2,100 pocket areas of 10 hectares each, 150 blocks of 100 hectares each, 30 zones of 500 hectares each and seven super zones of 1,000 hectares each to bolster the country's agriculture productivity.  

Australia's support for sustainable agriculture in the Pacific (22 Feb)

The Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePaCT), the only internationally recognized gene bank in the Pacific, will receive $A250,000 support from Australia for sustainable agriculture. CePaCT is housing more than 2,000 plant tissue cultures, including the largest collection of taro varieties globally. During her visit at the centre, Australia's Minister for International Development and the Pacific reaffirmed Australia's commitment to sustainable development in the Pacific, through supporting CePaCT's work in addressing vulnerabilities of Pacific communities.  

Fiji: Boost for sugarcane farmers as road works begin (14 Mar)

Sugarcane farmers in Fiji's western division were benefitted from the project implemented by the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Fiji Government namely Rural Access Roads and Associated Infrastructure (RARAI). Funded by the European Union (EU), the project will work on road rehabilitation and promotes income generation for the most vulnerable populations in Fiji's Sugar communities through creating employment during the construction period.

trends and statistics 
Reducing food waste across global food chains (28 Feb)

In its recently published policy brief "Food Waste Prevention Strategies for Global Food Chains" SIANI Expert Group provides global overview on the current status of food wastes, and identifies solutions and priority actions that can be taken to decrease global food waste. A key insight presented in the brief is that there are large knowledge gaps that need to be filled and much of the knowledge that exists are not shared along the supply chain. 

India: Farm sector projected to grow at 5 per cent in the fourth quarter (7 Mar)

The growth of agriculture and its related sector in India are projected at almost five per cent during the fourth quarter of the current financial year and could be revised higher. P K Joshi, South-Asia Head of the International Food Policy Research Institute said both the fourth quarter estimates and also the final agriculture GDP numbers for 2016-17, are expected to be revised up, as rabi production shows good result. 

As drought slashes rice harvest, 900,000 face hunger in Sri Lanka (13 Mar)

The World Food Programme (WFP) survey reported that the worst drought in five years has made 900,000 people in Sri Lanka into 'acute food insecurity'. Worst-affected by the drought have been farmers and those relying on agricultural work for income. The joint WFP and government survey indicated that one out of five farmers and one out of four farm laborers are now classified as food insecure in the drought region. 

technological innovations
Thailand: Seeds of innovation (27 Feb)

The food security efforts indicate optimism through advances in technology, production techniques and farming know-how. Thailand seeks to apply biotechnology such as molecular markers and tissue culture to shorten the seed development time and to ensure pure-line seeds for plant cultivation and prevents seed-borne. Although the article stated that sufficient research and technology intervention at the farm level can help mitigate challenges facing the agricultural sector, such as an ageing population and increasingly erratic weather, it also put forward the issue of disparity in technological transfer between large agricultural conglomerates and small-sized farm producers, with the latter far behind in terms of R&D and innovation. 

Asian researchers "test drive" new web-based app that helps farmers produce environmentally sustainable rice (8 Mar)

A recent workshop organized by Closing Rice Yield Gaps in Asia (CORIGAP) project gathered national agricultural research and extension partners of CORIGAP, as well as scholars and staff from the International Rice Research Institute from Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, China, Sri Lanka, Viet Nam, and the Philippines, tested a web-based decision tool that calculates the sustainability of farmers' practices and best management approaches in rice production. Using their own field data, the researchers provided extensive feedback on scientific, navigational, and design issues of the application. A strategic plan was developed for testing the tool in farmers' fields in different countries as well as turning the alpha version of the field calculator into the beta version.

case stories
Agricultural water productivity for sustainable development (15 Mar)

For the first time, efficient water use has now gained a prominent place on the international development agenda. As stated in SDG 6 "ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all" which includes a target (6.4) to "substantially increase water-use efficiency across all sectors", a new report published by World Bank and the International Water Management Institute provides theory and practice of improved water productivity in agriculture. The WB/IWMI report derives  a set of lessons learned that open the way toward a clearer approach for applying the water productivity concept to deliver on the SDGs.

How businesses can grow $1 to $14 by reducing food waste (15 Mar)

A new report from Champions 12.3, The Business Case for Reducing Food Loss and Waste, encourages business leaders to make strategic decisions on food waste and loss reduction, presenting a significant 14:1 return on investment (ROI). Champions 12.3 is a coalition of governments, businesses, international organizations, research institutions, farmer groups, and civil society dedicated to mobilizing action and accelerating progress toward achieving Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) Target 12.3 by 2030. Other findings from the report motivate people to waste less food and help global communities to reach the above SDG target. 

Red tape snarls Nepal's ambitious poverty-alleviation plans (21 Feb) 

Two-thirds of Nepalese rely on agriculture for their livelihood. With 25.2 per cent of the population now lives below the national poverty line the government is planning to distribute Poor Identity Cards to 395,000 families in 25 districts starting in April, providing social security entitlements and benefits with the aim of achieving the targets. Nepal already has 44 programs to alleviate poverty run by various ministries. Nepal's target of reducing poverty to five per cent by 2030, however,  is facing serious challenges of weak programming, planning and coordination between various line ministries. 

Cultivation of the fruit Jujube offers good prospects to farmers in Bangladesh (2 Mar)

Farmers in Sharsha upazila, Bangladesh are enjoying the good prospect of cultivating Jujube or locally known as kul or boroi. With first harvest occurring as soon as four months after an orchard is established, many small-scale farmers see the potential for quick profits and self-sufficiency. Although the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute has provided support with the development of jujube varieties, farmers still hope that the government can offer added technical support for better improvement of Jujube industry in future. 

Indonesian smallholder farmers to receive funding boost for irrigation (23 Feb)

A collaboration project between ADB, IFAD and the Government of Indonesia aims to fund the management of irrigation canals network across thousands of hectares farmland in Indonesia. Indonesian agriculture is dominated by palm oil, but is known for employing poorly-paid smallholder farmers and destructive farming practices, which include the burning of carbon-rich peatland to make way for plantations. By engaging smallholder farmers to better manage irrigation infrastructure and share knowledge about sustainable agriculture, the new project seeks to improve the living standards of farmers while at the same time reducing peatland degradation and forest fires. The irrigation schemes in 16 provinces of Sumatra, Java, Kalimantan, Sulawesi and Nusa Tenggara will be rehabilitated covering a total area of almost two million hectares.

School dropout becomes Indonesia's most 'prestigious farmer' (27 Feb)

Turjangun, a 46-year-old resident of Manggisan village in Batang, Central Java was selected as Indonesia's most 'prestigious farmer' after winning regional awards for his innovation in biogas - a technology that converts livestock manure into a gas for fuel, and produces a liquid fertilizer as a by-product. He spent years in learning to develop his invented formula to prevent the overuse of chemical fertilizers and to support government's programme to build 1,000 organic villages across the archipelago. 

Women farmers of Nepal take charge of their lives and livelihoods (28 Feb)

A joint programme by UN Women and partners has helped rural women in Nepal by improving their agricultural production, access to markets and leadership skills.  As more women farmers take up leadership roles, the programme is also helping to break gender stereotypes and change the cultural attitudes of their male counterparts. Currently, there are 3,400 rural women and their families in 30 Village Development Committees of the three districts of Sarlahi, Sindhuli, and Rautahat supported under this joint programme. 

Women farmers in Nepal earn big profits from mushrooms (8 Mar)

Mushroom cultivation is relatively new in Nepal and it has been gaining popularity rapidly. This news article reports, women farmers of Nava Jyoti Farmers Group established the farm with financial assistance provided by the Agriculture Ministry under its Raising Incomes of Small and Medium Farmers Project, in addition to their own investment. The income generated from the farm has improved the living standards of the women. According to the statistics of the Ministry of Agricultural Development, Nepal produces 1,700 tonnes of mushrooms annually.

Fiji: Sugar Corporation to establish agriculture mechanical support service for farmers (16 Mar)

To boost cane production and lower costs for growers, the Fiji Sugar Corporation will establish an Agricultural Mechanical Support Service. The article explains, this is one of the three schemes (cane planting grant, cane transport and mechanical support) to improve Government's continuing reforms in sugar cane industry. The support service will help cane farmers to improve their land preparation and planting techniques. 

Experts met for dialogue on 'Climate Smart Agriculture' in Pakistan (17 Mar)

Experts met in Lahore for a dialogue on Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA), organized by CIAT and its partners. They discussed the challenges climate change was creating for the agricultural production in Pakistan, and identified suitable practices at farm-level to address the challenges. In an effort to advance knowledge and mainstream CSA, CIAT with its partners have also developed CSA Country Profiles (CP) throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe. Pakistan is one of the six countries in Asia currently benefitting from the development of this CP. 

voices and views
World's future food security "in jeopardy" due to multiple challenges, report warns (22 Feb)

A new FAO report states that the impacts of intensifying pressures on natural resources, inequality, and climate change can jeopardize future food security. 'Business as usual' is not an option to ensure the planet's food systems capable of producing enough food to meet the needs of a burgeoning global population. Major transformations in agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management will be needed to meet the multiple challenges to ensure a secure and healthy future for all people and the entire planet.

Climate change forum tackles problems and solutions affecting smallholder farmers (1 Mar)

Experts gathered in a climate change forum conducted in the Philippines last February discussing climate change-related problem affecting smallholder farmers in the country. The Philippines gets an average of about 20 typhoons a year and this poses a threat to agricultural productivity. Creating a common land-use framework through zoning is one of the recommendations proposed during the forum.

Statements and opinions expressed in the articles/news are solely those of the author(s) and the organizations they represented.
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