The first activity was the policy roundtable (PRT) on Agricultural Transformation and Market Integration in ASEAN: The Case of the Livestock Sector in Vietnam. The PRT focused on the rapid value chain study on swine being conducted by the Center for Agricultural Policy (CAP) of IPSARD under the ATMI-ASEAN project. The PRT aimed to solicit inputs and recommendations from various stakeholders involved in the swine sector of Vietnam for the successful completion of the policy study.
In his Opening Remarks, Dr. Tran Cong Thang, Vice Director General of IPSARD, welcomed the guests and thanked the participants especially those who are from the livestock sector. He mentioned that IPSARD has been involved in several projects on market integration focused on different value chains with potential for development. Livestock, having contributed largely to the Vietnam economy, is the priority commodity identified by the Vietnam group in the Training-Workshop on Rapid Value Chain Assessment held on 1-3 November 2017 in Bangkok, Thailand. Dr. Thang likewise emphasized the objectives of the PRT and enjoined the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the Viet Nam Farmer's Union (VNFU), and livestock sector agencies, to participate in the discussions so that the design for the next steps will be more effective.
Mr. Thomas Rath, IFAD Country Director for Vietnam, thanked the organizers of the PRT and the project implementers, SEARCA and IFPRI. In his message, he said that "IFAD has moved into decentralization, moving closer to the governments, and their primary clients, the smallholder farmers." Moreover, Mr. Rath emphasized the critical role of smallholder farmers in food security, environmental stability, social cohesion, and employment creation, among others, as well as that they are "part of the engine of rural transformation and development of the rural economy." He added that IFAD noticed that they have very limited track on the ground in terms of scaling and policy development. Programs like ATMI-ASEAN serve as IFAD's vehicles in their effort to assist clients toward stronger policy engagements with their governments and within the region. Policy engagement is one of IFAD's key priorities and commitments in the Eleventh Replenishment of IFAD's Resources (IFAD11) leading to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). With all the studies and researches being done, he encouraged the guests and participants to bring the results to the attention of policy makers in the Mekong Region and in the ASEAN.
SEARCA's message was delivered by Dr. Pedcris M. Orencio, Program Head for Research and Development. He said that the aim of the R&D program of SEARCA is to influence policy directions and work on building research capacities of its partners in the AMS. ATMI-ASEAN offers an opportunity to strengthen the capacity of key organizations in terms of policy development, and to integrate smallholders in agriculture and food markets, including the livestock [sector] in the process. Dr. Orencio highlighted the contributions of research studies on livestock to the SDGs: (a) economic growth as it improves rural income, (b) equitable net gains through participation of different stakeholders, (c) nutrition and health, and (d) sustainable ecosystems in view of improving the production without doing harm on the environment.
Ms. Aniq Fadhillah, ATMI-ASEAN Policy Facilitator, gave her speech on behalf of IFPRI, the project's lead implementer. She pointed out the contributions of the livestock sector not only to Vietnam's national output, employment, and food security, but also to the region, and that recognizing its role in the system should be supported by the government through effective policies. Ms. Fadhillah likewise emphasized the importance of discussing value chain competitiveness in moving toward the establishment of a common market and to achieve a competitive ASEAN Economic Community.
The PRT resource speakers included Mr. Manmeet Ajmani, Research Analyst of IFPRI; Dr. Dang Kim Khoi, Former Director of the Center for Agricultural Policy (CAP) of IPSARD; Dr. Vo Trong Thanh of the Department of Livestock Production; Ms. Le Thi Ha Lien, Vice Director of CAP, IPSARD; Mr. Pham Thai Thang of VNFU; and Mr. Dao Vinh Anh, Director of Vinh Anh Food Company. To close the PRT, Dr. Thang again thanked the participants and the project partners for their participation and invaluable inputs to the discussion.
Immediately after the PRT was the 2nd Vietnam National Project Steering Committee (NPSC) Meeting. The NPSC Meeting focused on laying out the next steps in the implementation of the swine value chain policy study, as well as the potential learning events and need-based technical assistance that may come out from the results of the study. Ms. Bernice Anne C. Darvin, ATMI-ASEAN Project Associate, presented the line-up of national- and regional-level activities of the Project that will require participation from the Vietnam component.
Four members of the Vietnam NPSC attended the meeting – Dr. Thang of IPSARD, Ms. Lien of CAP, Mr. Thang of VNFU, and the representative of Mr. Nguyen Ngoc Son of the Hanoi Animal Health Department. Ms. Fadhillah of IFPRI, and the SEARCA Team led by Dr. Orencio, together with Mr. Jimmy B. Williams, ATMI-ASEAN Project Support Unit (PSU) Coordinator, attended the meeting as observers. (Loise Ann M. Carandang)