Final Validation Workshop on Strengthening the Role of SAARC in the Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture in South Asia
A South Asian regional workshop was organized in Kathmandu to validate the research findings of a report on sustainable intensification of agriculture in the region. The objective was also to disseminate the major issues unearthed by the research and to seek key areas of cooperation. The event was held on 23-24 March, 2017. The research partners included South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretariat, SAARC Technical Committee on Agricultural and Rural Development (TCARD), SAARC Agricultural Centre, South Asia Watch on Trade, Economics and Environment (SAWTEE) and International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Key speakers at the workshop zeroed in on the fact that the agriculture sector in South Asia faces unprecedented challenges against a backdrop of rising population, increasing malnutrition, overwhelming urbanization, global warming and adverse climate change. It was to tackle this grave issue that the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) initiated the regional effort through a research to identify the current scenario as well as the challenges associated with Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture (SIA), particularly in the areas of land and soil management and water use efficiency.
During the opening session, Mr MJH Jabed, Director, Agriculture and Rural Development, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretariat, in his welcome remark, pointed out that land supply in the region is almost exhausted and that a move away from input-intensive farming was called for.
The chief guest of the workshop Mr Chandra Kumar Ghimire, Member Secretary of the National Planning Commission of Nepal, said that regional approach would be instrumental in moving forward in the area of Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture (SIA) in South Asia.
Mr Fabrizio Bresciani, regional economist, IFAD, in his keynote speech, highlighted the enormous challenges that SAARC as a region was facing. “This necessitates a paradigm shift with regard to technological and management practices amongst farmers and policymakers in South Asia,” he said.
Dr Posh Raj Pandey, Executive Chairman, SAWTEE, who chaired the inaugural session, emphasized that the implementation of SIA would require a significant level of cooperation, fiscal coordination and trade policy harmonization at the regional level.
The working sessions of the first day was devoted to presentation of the findings by experts and discussing the issues raised in the report. During the presentations, Dr. Hari Dahal, Senior Consultant at SAWTEE, presented the background paper titled “Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture in South Asia” to highlight the current status and key challenges of SIA in South Asia. The presentation identified the current status and challenges associated with existing modes of high input agriculture and the need to move towards sustainable intensification. He also presented a comprehensive framework for the realization of the desired SIA outcomes and outputs. The panelist and the participants of the workshop discussed at length the findings and the shortcomings of the background paper and made suggestions for its further revision.
In the second working session, Dr Dil Prasad Sherchan, Consultant, SAWTEE, made his presentation on the SAARC Partnership Action Plan (2017-2025) on “Land and Soil Management for Sustainable Agriculture in South Asia”. His presentation delineated the objectives and necessary activities for effective land and soil management for sustainable agriculture. He highlighted five objectives and 18 activities for doing so.
In the third session, presentation was made by Dr Indra Kalu, Consultant, SAWTEE, on the SAARC Partnership Action Plan (2017-2025) on “Water Use Efficiency for the Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture in South Asia”. He identified 5 objectives accompanied by 28 necessary activities to achieve water use efficiency for SIA.
Between the two presentations on the SAARC Partnership Action Plan the panel discussants included the representatives of all eight member states and the discussions provided country perspectives on the Action Plan as well as its shortcomings.
On the second day of the workshop, a strategy meeting was conducted between the representatives of the member states, development partners and the representatives of SAARC Secretariat and IFAD. The agenda of the meeting was to discuss the way forward for the endorsement and implementation of the SAARC Partnership Action Plan (2017-2025).
More precisely, the meeting summarized the discussions and assessed country-specific strengths and complementarities before the participants broke up into groups to lay out the priorities for each country to achieve the objective of sustainable intensification of agriculture in the region. The workshop came up with country-level priorities in the two thematic areas identified in the research. It also made some recommendations regarding the presentations made by the experts. They are:
- Updating data to reflect the current status of agriculture and other indicators in South Asia, This could be done by communicating with participating resource persons from respective countries.
- Selecting country specific priorities which require a situation analysis and a rational selection of priority areas.
- Establishment of coordinating body within SAARC for collection and selection of proposals in the future.
- Better coordination among the three reports to produce coherent and synergetic results that are more realistic and pragmatic.
- Creating smaller working groups (sub-sectors) that work on the general objectives.
- Synchronizing action plan with government policies at the national level as well as with the SDGs.
With regards to the output of the project, it was agreed that the background paper and action plan would have to incorporate the recommendations made by the participants during the course of the workshop.
Dr Posh Raj Pandey concluded the workshop by thanking all the participants for their intensive discussion and for the attempt to contextualize the concept of SIA in South Asia. He acknowledged the inputs and suggestions provided in the course of the workshop and assured the participants that they would be incorporated in the study as far as possible.
Dr. Hari Dahal, Senior Consultant, SAWTEE
Dr Dil Prasad Serchan, Consultant, SAWTEE
Dr Indra Kalu, Consultant, SAWTEE