In a globalized era driven by booming economies and technological advancements, poverty, inequality, and unemployment ironically persist and remain as critical challenges faced by many societies today, particularly in Southeast Asia. These issues link closely with the state of the agriculture sector. Key agricultural development concepts such as inclusive and sustainable growth, rural development, sustainable agricultural growth, and effective natural resource management are seen as important pillars in addressing poverty especially in the rural areas.
However, even in these identified areas of development, gaps, difficulties, and challenges still exist. This sparked a great need to establish an avenue which would foster in-depth and fruitful discussion of these issues and gather experts from different fields, disciplines, and areas of expertise to engage in an exchange of knowledge and solutions toward developing holistic and systematic ways of addressing the challenges concerning the agriculture sector. This was the goal of the 2nd International Conference on Agricultural and Rural Development in Southeast Asia (ARD2014).
This year’s conference focused on the theme Strengthening Resilience, Equity, and Integration in ASEAN Food and Agriculture Systems. The two-day meeting included plenary presentations, parallel sessions, and a partners’ forum including renowned speakers and experts in the agriculture sector and representatives from the different ASEAN countries. Each discussion comprehensively elaborated the three main themes of the conference, namely, resilience, equity, and integration. Discussions throughout the conference associated resilience with the concept of sustainability, particularly the resilience of food and agricultural systems, which currently bear the brunt of rapid urbanization and social transformation, resource and environmental degradation, and heightened competition with regional and global integration of markets. On the second theme, participants linked equity closely with “inclusive growth” or “inclusive development” that provides for extensive and equal access to opportunities to all stakeholders, particularly the marginalized, in agricultural and rural development. On the other hand, integration widens the perspective of agricultural development by calling for private companies, governments, and other countries in the ASEAN region to support and participate toward stronger regional political and economic coordination and cooperation.
The conference served as a prolific platform for sharing and discussing innovative ideas, best practices, and lessons learned along these main themes and its subthemes on food security and safety; institutions and governance; and regional cooperation and integration. It contributed toward healthy academic discourse for conceiving policies, programs, and initiatives addressing important and emerging issues impinging on sustainability and poverty reduction.
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