Mekong Countries Seek Greater Cooperation on Green Agriculture

Agriculture and environment officials from GMS countries met to discuss ways to conserve land and water resources while increasing the productivity and profitability of agriculture.

XIENGKHOUANG, LAO PDR – Senior agriculture and environment officials from the six Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries met today to discuss environmentally sustainable agriculture and natural resource management in the region.

Agriculture remains the backbone of economies in the GMS and directly supports the livelihoods of nearly 200 million people. However, agriculture gains have come at the expense of the environment, causing forest and biodiversity loss, water pollution and shortages, soil degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions.

“Agriculture cannot afford to continue undermining the healthy natural ecosystems it relies on. We must create opportunities to use more environmentally friendly approaches that simultaneously conserve land and water resources and at the same time increase the productivity and profitability of agriculture, particularly for small-holder farmers,” said Javed Mir, Director of the Environment, Natural Resources and Agriculture Division for the Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Southeast Asia Department.

Delegates discussed opportunities for increased collaboration between the Working Group on Agriculture and Working Group on Environment, co-hosts of the event and two of nine working groups under the ADB-supported GMS Economic Cooperation Program. Both working groups must work together to tackle the growing concern for water scarcity, climate variability and volatility, and consequent rising risks of food and ecosystem service supply disruptions.

More than 130 participants attended the meeting, including officials from energy, transport, and tourism ministries, as well as representatives from ADB and development partners, national development organizations, and other stakeholders.

On Wednesday the two working groups will hold their annual meetings, followed by a joint field trip on Thursday to visit environmentally friendly agriculture projects in Xiengkhouang, one of the ‘green’ provinces in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (Lao PDR).

In late 2012, both working groups began implementing the second phase of their flagship initiatives: the $14 million Core Agricultural Support Program, and the $23.1 million Core Environment Program.

The six Mekong countries are Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam.

Since 1992, the GMS Program has invested more than $15 billion in subregional roads, airports, railways, power facilities, tourism infrastructure, and disease prevention.