Investments for enhancing productivity to increase food production

With world population projected to reach 9 billion by 2050, food production will need to increase by 70 per cent, according to FAO estimates. Thus, enhanced productivity is important, especially in existing cultivable lands where production is small-scale and water resources are highly stressed. This session of the Investment Forum in Manila discussed some of the innovative practices that work at the ground level.

Swift Company of Thailand – promoting good agricultural practices (GAP)

Shifting from traditional farming practices to knowledge-based GAP is a difficult task for smallholder farmers. For Thailand’s Swift Company, this required long-term and intensive training and giving farmers a strong incentive to learn and conform to the guidelines.

Swift Company first implemented GlobalGap standards on organic farming of asparagus in Srakaew Province, Thailand. Swift’s model aims to secure sufficient quantities of premium quality fresh produce that meets highest standards of food safety and ensure that everyone in the chain, from grower to consumer, benefits fairly from the operation.

The contract farming model was designed to address basic problems faced by smallholder farmers. Following risk assessment of target farms, farm owners were organized into groups and, together with the company, they designed production plans to supply predetermined volume of farm produce. Traditional constraints on technology and lack of market information were removed through intensive training and regular meetings and discussions with technical representatives of the company.

Farmers sell all grades of their farm produce at guaranteed prices agreed prior to planting. If at any point in time the market price is higher than the guaranteed base price, the market price is applied. Fair pricing is determined by giving due consideration to farming and logistics cost and the retail price in the target retail market.

Production planning and collection stations established in each contracted group facilitate direct daily delivery of produce from the farm to the Company’s packing house. This streamlined the overall supply chain process, thereby reducing handling cost and spillage. The Company provides a well-planned financial assistance program for farmers, including long-term interest-free loans to the group rather than to individual farmers.

Swift recommends that for scaling up international organizations and the public sector should provide sufficient support to basic and applied research on innovative farming from seed development to post-harvest control and handling; assist the private sector, particularly SMEs in developing and applying innovative farming approaches; and develop strong cooperation between public and private sectors for agricultural development planning and implementation. Planning and implementation should give emphasis on sustainability.

The private sector should revise their business orientation and look at both short-term and long-term gains. They should help their suppliers be able to reduce wastage in the supply chain and improve productivity in smallholder farming. They should advocate application of good agricultural practices and environmental protection, thereby balancing monetary gains with responsible acts.

International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)

Rice, typically grown by smallholders, is a primary staple for billions. About 90 per cent of the world’s rice is produced and consumed in Asia. Over 70 per cent of the world’s poor are in Asia. Ultimately, poverty reduction is linked to investments in rice production.

New challenges face global rice production. To meet demand for 2035 and or keep prices affordable, an additional 114 million tons of rice are needed. However, major problems affect smallholder rice production, among which are the effects of economic growth, increasing pressure on land use, climate change, stagnating yields, and less land, water and labor.

IRRI develops stress-tolerant rice varieties, improves water and nutrient management approaches, and establishes approaches to capture greater and significant value for smallholders. It strives to provide reliable information to support decision makers through rice monitoring and forecasting system, global rice model and rice database.

FAO shares innovations and good practices in agricultural water management

Developing extensive new irrigation schemes to grow more food is no solution. Future investments must protect the environmental services that wetlands, rivers and other ecosystems provide. Investments to raise yields and productivity from irrigated land are thus key to producing the extra food needed, while safeguarding the environment from additional stresses. Other options, such as upgrading rainfed farming and increasing international trade in foodgrains must contribute, but they will need to be supplemented by a significant increase in production from irrigated agriculture.

Innovations and good practices in agricultural water management are already being undertaken in Asia-Pacific and other regions. Among these are the following:

  • Adapting irrigation design and operation concepts to changing objectives. The Deduru Oya Project, for example, in Sri Lanka blends ancient and new technology. The government has begun building a dam to capture and store the runoff from rainfall during the wet season, and supplies it through a canal to a 1.5 MW powerhouse, provides irrigation water to existing and new areas through numerous tanks.
  • Recognizing and supporting farmers’ initiatives. Farm storage tanks make canal irrigation more flexible and reliable for farmers in India and China, for example. In Saurashtra, India water supply is boosted by groundwater recharge movement.
  • Innovating in institutional reform and management concepts. China has been successful with its “bounded service provider” model where water-saving incentives are given to contracted water managers who provided irrigation water to small farming villages located within large irrigation systems.
  • Expanding capacity and knowledge. Among the concepts in practice are the Jiamakou business model, Andhra Pradesh where farmers manage their groundwater resources, IRRI’s “magic pipe” systems which bridge the gap between research and extension, and FAO’s MASSCOTE which encourages irrigation staff to modernize.
  • Decreasing the vulnerability of the poor and vulnerable. A project in the Philippines empowers the poor to invest in shallow tubewells through Farmer Field Schools and adapted financing mechanisms.
  • Developing sound integrated water conservation strategies. An example is the use of sound water accounting concepts to develop and monitor integrated water conservation strategies in China.
  • Looking beyond irrigation and the water sector. Implementation of non-water support programs such as the National Rural Employment Guarantee Act of India.

The open forum revolved around the need to focus more attention and resources on post-harvest losses, the need for more responsive extension services and strengthened research initiatives.