ASEAN forum tackles food security plan

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna: Analysts, policymakers, researchers, international donors, and public-private entities convened in a high-level policy forum on Wednesday, June 1, in Hanoi, Vietnam, to deliberate five years of research in agriculture and food security in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region.

Dr. Glenn Gregorio, Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) director, said the "Agricultural Transformation and Market Integration in the ASEAN Region: Responding to Food Security and Inclusiveness Concerns (ATMI-ASEAN)" forum is a program covering the Philippines, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam.

He added that the ATMI-ASEAN, which is jointly implemented by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Los Baños-based SEARCA, is funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

More than 100 stakeholders participated in the forum co-organized by IFPRI, SEARCA, and Vietnam's Institute of Policy and Strategy for Agriculture and Rural Development, which included representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, Government of Vietnam; Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Cambodia; Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation Myanmar; Asian farmer organizations, research institutions, donors, civil society, nongovernment organizations, and academics.

Anchored on the theme "Transforming Food Systems in the ASEAN Region Post Covid-19," the forum took stock of the progress surrounding food security and inclusivity in the ASEAN region.

Gregorio said participants deliberated on ways forward for a resilient recovery of agri-food value chains that will ensure the inclusiveness of smallholders in the regional and global value chains and make them resilient to shocks.

The forum organizers also stressed that unless food security and smallholder inclusiveness are credibly harmonized with ASEAN's competitiveness agenda, improvements in regional agricultural and food markets will be inadequate, leaving them vulnerable to sudden disruptions.

Also during the forum, ATMI-ASEAN program outputs were showcased, including SEARCA-led components such as the regional value chain assessment conducted in coordination with the ASEAN Secretariat, as well as the national-level agricultural value chain studies, policy strategies and national roadmaps for value chains within the five target ASEAN member states (AMS).

"The roadmaps will further help to strengthen the capacity of the targeted AMS in developing policies and programs to support the adjustment of the smallholder farm sector to changes in sub-regional and supra-regional agricultural and food markets," Gregorio said.

Also discussed by the participants included possible ways to sustain the use of the program's work beyond its lifecycle through an extended network of policy actors and analysts. ATMI-ASEAN internalizes the reshaping of the food system with the public health concerns and the geopolitical complex.

Abdelkarim Sma, IFAD lead regional economist, said they are proud that their support has contributed to better coordination of food security policies and the development of regional and sub-regional roadmaps for investments in food and agri-based value chains for the ASEAN region.

"I am particularly happy that the capacity-building efforts of the program have helped strengthen national government agencies and ASEAN in their respective planning and programming capacities," Sma said.