Future-proofing SEA agrifood systems, building resilient communities showcased in new studies

  • By Monalinda B. Cadiz
  • 28 June 2024

New research articles published in the June 2024 issue of the Asian Journal of Agriculture and Development (AJAD) take a peek at initiatives and the grassroots in Southeast Asia as they respond to previous food and economic shocks and their aftermath. The common themes of the seven papers in the AJAD volume 21.1 release hover around ensuring food security, future-proofing farming, creating resilient food value chains, good agricultural practices adoption, agrifood digitalization, withstanding food disruptions, building food-resilient households and communities, and sustainability of rural development.

Future-proofing SEA agrifood systems, building resilient communities, showcased in new studies

The paper "Drivers of Successful Adoption of Eco-innovation: Case Studies of Agricultural Cooperatives in Vietnam" explores how opportunity, motivation, and ability affect the adoption of eco-innovation (EI) by agricultural cooperatives (agri coops). Incorporating EI practices, such as in water management, reducing pesticide usage, and waste management and recycling, promotes sustainability among agri coops for rural development and ensuring food security. Huong Lan Pham and co-authors from the National Economics University, Vietnam, stress that managers should be aware of their coop's origins and their associated EI modes for successful adoption of EI. Technology-driven coops need to strengthen their marketing and sales capacity by building more social ties or networks, while market-driven ones should engage proficient technicians who can effectively identify and educate members on suitable technology. Meanwhile, authority-driven coops must reevaluate their overall business strategy and devote time and effort to developing their human and social capital.

Analysis presented in "Motivation toward Rice Farming in Margokaton Village, Sleman District, Yogyakarta Province, Indonesia" shows that farmers in the study area are motivated based on their educational attainment, side jobs, perception of farming as an occupation, farmland areas, and encouragement from parents to be a farmer. According to Seleky and her co-authors (Shimane University, Tohoku Professional University of Agriculture and Forestry, and Yamagata University, Japan), understanding the factors that motivate one to engage in farming, specifically in attracting younger people and inspiring high levels of motivation in farming, is especially important for the future of rice farming.

The "Analysis of the Strawberry Value Chain in the Philippines" aimed to create a resilient and sustainable smart food value chain, notably for the Cordillera Administrative Region, the main producer of strawberries in the country. Cruz and his co-authors (University of the Philippines Los Baños [UPLB]) said that the challenges faced by the strawberry industry were exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, giving more weight to assessing the industry through a value chain approach. Prepandemic constraints included insufficient planting materials, capital limitations for technology adoption, weak price negotiation, and processing technology; during pandemic, strawberry prices were low due to reduced demand and mobility restrictions limited the capacity to operate. The ensuing value chain development strategies prioritized resource (tissue-cultured planting materials and research on warm-weather planting materials); and market development (linkages, distribution agreements, and smart vending machines for processed products).

An interesting interaction study of coffee intercropped with tobacco and vegetables is shown in "Farming Systems and GAP Adoption in JASS Coffee in Tlahab, Temanggung Regency, Indonesia." Through agrarian system diagnosis, the simple farming system in the study area before 1999 consisting of tobacco, red beans, corn, and livestock was found transformed with Java Arabica Sindoro-Sumbing (JASS) coffee as a conservation plant (to abate erosion) and as a new income source. Royan and co-authors from Kasetsart University, Thailand, and L'Institut Agro Montpellier, France found that three quarters of the farmers practiced plant spacing, while more than 75 percent intercropped. Up to half of the farmers have adopted water and soil conservation, along with growing shade trees, while fertilizing and pruning is practiced by a quarter of the farmers. Those classified as "specialist coffee farmers" who are at the forefront of good agricultural practices have higher yield of and income from coffee cherries than other types of farmers.

The cross-sectional study "Household Food Insecurity and COVID-19 Social Safety Nets in Cavite, Philippines" assesses the emergency cash assistance and food aid during the pandemic to help vulnerable households cope with the economic crisis and improve their food security. Guirindola and her co-authors (from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, UPLB, UP Manila, and the Philippine Children's Medical Center) recommended several ways to improve the safety net programs in the country. These include updating the database of vulnerable and poor households for ready access during food shocks; and improving food aid targeting, food items to be provided, and the delivery frequency and mode. Safety net programs should also be combined with other nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive programs to gain the most benefits. The authors said that the study results can further add information and policy recommendations toward strengthening the services for vulnerable population groups to withstand short- and long-term food system disruptions and eventually build food-resilient households and communities.

"Digitalization in Indonesia's Agrifood Sector in the Wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic" reviews the landscape of agrifood digital technology studies and startups in Indonesia in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. Mangurai and her co-authors (from the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Tropical Biology, Bogor Agricultural University [IPB], Universitas Tanjungpura, Institut Teknologi Sumatera, Indonesian Green Action Forum, Politeknik Pertanian Negeri Kupang, and University of Sultan Agung, Indonesia) show in their study that COVID-19 has hampered some agrifood activities but has positively accelerated the development of digital technologies in the sector. The digital technologies studied and utilized in Indonesia's agrifood industry are websites, the Internet of Things, global positioning system and geographic information system technology, artificial intelligence, big data, and robotics. Most startups are in the form of farmers' advisory, mechanization platforms, digital marketplace, e-commerce, traceability, food delivery, and peer-to-peer lending.

The book review of Becoming a Young Farmer—Young People's Pathways into Farming: Canada, China, India and Indonesia by Priyarsono (IPB, Indonesia) is based on a multicountry research done in 2016–21. The book provides new insights on the socioeconomic mechanisms underlying the phenomenon of aging agriculture both in developed and developing economies. This work contributes significantly as a good reading material for tertiary education, for advanced research in rural-social studies, and in formulating public policies in agricultural economic development.

AJAD is an international refereed journal published by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA). AJAD publishes articles resulting from empirical, policy-oriented, or institutional development studies, as well as articles of perspectives on agriculture and development, political economy of rural development, and trade issues.

Submissions are welcome all year-round through https://ajad.searca.org. All the new and past papers published in AJAD are available from the same site for free, while print copies are also available through subscription.

The editorial board is headed by Dr. Cielito F. Habito, professor of economics at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines and director of the Ateneo Center for Economic Research and Development. He is also a former cabinet member of the Philippine government, having served as Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Director General of the National Economic and Development Authority of the Philippines.