Welcome Remarks by Takehiko Nakao, President, Asian Development Bank at the Rural Development and Food Security Forum, 28 October 2019, ADB headquarters, Manila, Philippines
Excellencies, Distinguished Guests, Participants, Ladies and Gentlemen
I am honored to welcome you all to the Rural Development and Food Security Forum 2019. I am encouraged to see strong participation of our member governments, partner agencies, academic and research institutions, private sector, and civil society. I am particularly pleased to see farmers, especially female farmers and youth from India, Indonesia, Nepal, and Philippines.
The last time we organized a food security forum was June 2016. Now with Rural Development and Food Security as one of the seven operational priorities of ADB’s Strategy 2030, we need to deepen and accelerate our knowledge sharing efforts with key stakeholders around the world.
In the last 40 years, Asia and the Pacific has made tremendous progress in reducing poverty and achieving food security. When ADB opened for business in 1966, agriculture was among our top priorities, since many parts of the region were facing food shortages and even risk of starvation.
On the poverty front, in 2010, Asia and the Pacific achieved Millennium Development Goal 1 - Eradication of Extreme Poverty and Hunger - five years ahead of schedule. Extreme poverty, defined as $1.90 per day threshold, has declined in developing Asia from 69% in 1980 to about 7% in 2015. The agriculture sector has played a pivotal role in delivering these developmental outcomes.
Similarly, the food security situation in the region has shown remarkable improvement in the last four decades. Most countries in Asia including such countries as India and Bangladesh are self-sufficient in food now. This progress was largely driven by the Green Revolution technologies that put high yielding seed varieties in the hands of our farmers, accompanied by investments in rural roads and irrigation, and agricultural extension. The region’s share in global food production, crops and livestock, has increased.
In spite of this great progress, there are still more than 300 million people living below the poverty line. An additional 900 million who live on less than $3.20 per day are constantly at risk of being pushed back into extreme poverty of below $1.90 per day. Moreover, poverty incidence continues to be higher in rural areas than in urban areas.
In many parts of the region, farmers are unable to make a livable income. Agriculture endures many risks, including weather, diseases, and financial. But the market risk is the most devastating to farmers’ income. Prices of most farming products vary widely within a year, as well as year on year. Market infrastructure and related policies and regulatory frameworks in most developing member countries require significant improvements.
Cold chain infrastructure is practically non-existent in most developing member countries. This results in post-harvest losses of 30% to 40%, lowering the quality of produce, and generating worm and bacteria contamination. This issue is especially serious for perishables, such as fruits and vegetables.
The continued inability of farmers to generate a livable income risks rolling back many of the poverty reduction gains we have made in the last four decades. Further, extreme weather conditions caused by climate change, and degraded farmland and water resources are making our task of finding sustainable solutions even more difficult.
For its part, ADB will proactively assist our developing member countries to increase agricultural productivity and profitability, enhance food safety, and improve climate resilience and sustainability. We are committed to supporting our member countries to supply sufficient, nutritious, safe, and affordable food. People also want higher quality food as their incomes increase. Let me share three innovative examples of ADB projects.
In Uzbekistan, ADB’s $280 million project aims at modernizing the country’s horticulture wholesale markets by reducing distribution and marketing costs, and increasing agribusiness profitability and farmers' incomes.
In Cambodia, the Lao PDR, and Myanmar, ADB’s Climate Friendly Agribusiness Value Chain projects are targeting to boost net incomes of rural households by increasing climate resilience of rural roads and irrigation systems; developing cold chains; and promoting bioenergy and solar energy access for agriprocessing.
In the People’s Republic of China, the Gansu Internet-Plus Agriculture Development Project is supporting farmers’ access to high-value e-commerce markets by developing smartphone applications. The project is also introducing sensors to monitor in real time temperature, moisture and soil nutrients for smart farming and to support food traceability.
At this forum, in the coming three days, I invite you all to share your expertise and wisdom with us, and of course among yourselves to respond to rural development and food security challenges. I am looking forward to your views on how ADB can make a better contribution to the needs of farmers and rural communities.
Thank you very much.