Asia and the Pacific governments must transform agriculture to make it more modern, climate-proof and inclusive as the region recovers from the pandemic, according to a new report from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) coronavirus (COVID-19).
With 76% of Asia’s poor living in rural areas, increasing productivity and income in agriculture is at the core of the fight against poverty, according to the thematic chapter of the updated Asia Development Outlook 2021, published today. ADB, a leading economic publication, urges governments to adopt policies that integrate technology, infrastructure investment, innovation, and regulatory reforms to ensure food security and sustainable economic development.
The COVID-19 pandemic has put 75 to 80 million people in extreme poverty in developing countries in Asia, according to the report. This, in turn, exacerbates the problem of food security. The USDA estimates that global hunger will rise by about a third this year. Of the additional 291 million people suffering from food insecurity worldwide, 72% live in Asia, especially Bangladesh, India, Indonesia and Pakistan.
“Agriculture has supported rapid economic growth in the Asia-Pacific region in recent decades, but multiple challenges are driving the need to modernize and transform the sector – from COVID-19 to climate change and urbanization,” said ADB Acting Chief Economist Joseph Zveglich Jr. “Policies that support this transformation are critical to putting food on the table and protecting the region’s recovery and sustainable development.”
Besides the pandemic, climate change is the biggest problem facing agriculture in Asia. An increase in extreme weather events threatens crop yields and the overall resilience of the sector. Asia lost US $ 207 billion in crop and livestock production from natural disasters between 2008 and 2018, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, or 74% of the global total. To address this issue, public policies can promote a range of solutions, such as early warning systems for extreme weather events, climate resilience of agricultural infrastructure and production practices, and affordable crop insurance.
Other challenges include the negative impact of rapid urbanization on agricultural productivity; changes in food preferences, such as increased demand for meat; outdated infrastructure, especially in terms of water management and irrigation; outdated measures of state support.
Developments in areas such as aquaculture and digital technology can help transform agriculture in Asia and the Pacific. Aquaculture currently accounts for about half of the world’s fish production and is growing rapidly. About 90% of aquaculture production is located in Asia. Meanwhile, digital technologies, including mobile phones and apps, can enhance the technical knowledge of the region’s 350 million smallholder farmers, helping them innovate and receive the latest market information.
The report says government policy should move away from traditional production support. There should be more focus on investing in research and development, encouraging innovation and striving for market-oriented development. At the same time, governments must protect the rights of agricultural workers, including migrants and women, so that everyone benefits from the transformation of the sector.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, integrated, resilient, and resilient Asia and the Pacific region while continuing to work to eradicate extreme poverty. ADB was established in 1966; the bank’s shareholders are 68 countries, of which 49 are in the Asia-Pacific region.