Towards developing sustainable agriculture and food production

Burgos presenting the paper titled 'Building ISARD with Agrobiodiversity: Towards Food Security and Community Livelihoods'.

SEMARANG, INDONESIA: The Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) participated in and supported the 2nd International Symposium on Food and Agrobiodiversity (ISFA).

With the theme “Developing Sustainable Agriculture and Food Production,” the symposium was held from Sept 26-27 and was organised by the Diponegoro University and the Indonesian Food Technologists (IFT).

SEARCA’s Programme Head for R&D, Dr Bessie M Burgos, served as one of the four keynote speakers at the symposium. In her presentation titled Building ISARD with Agrobiodiversity: Towards Food Security and Community Livelihoods, Burgos explained the rationale behind SEARCA’s focus on inclusive and sustainable agricultural and rural development (ISARD) in its current Five-year Plan.

She discussed the overall development trends in Southeast Asia and why agriculture remains to be important, as well as the issues and challenges that frame the context and defining elements of ISARD.

Burgos described the attributes inherent to agriculture that make agricultural and rural development (ARD) a major driver of poverty reduction and inclusive growth, namely, that agriculture is labour-intensive and that it has strong backward and forward linkages in the domestic economy.

She also highlighted ARD within the context of advancing the goal of sustainability. She then shared with the participants important lessons, drawn from SEARCA’s five decades of experience in ARD, for competitive, inclusive and sustainable agricultural systems, which include the following: importance of community participation;understanding community context and needs; strategic networking and linkages for financial, technical, institutional and market support; ecosystems/landscape approach to planning; development of entrepreneurship and participation in agricultural value chains; inter- and transdisciplinary approach to R&D; mainstreaming biodiversity in agriculture.

Burgos concluded her presentation by reiterating the importance of focusing R&D and capacity building activities on ISARD, using as guideposts the Sustainable Development Goals 2030, Asean Vision for the Socio-cultural Community, Vision for ASEAN Cooperation in Food, Agriculture and Forestry, Convention on Biological Diversity, and Aichi Biodiversity Targets, among others.

The other keynote speakers of the symposium were Prof Nengchang Chen of Guangdong Institute of Eco-environmental Science and Technology, China (Soils Problems in China and Lessons for Other Developing Countries); Prof Shigeru Hayakawa of Kagawa University, Japan (Development of Tasty and Healthy Olive Products in Kagawa, Japan); Agung Primanto Murdanoto from the private sector P.T. R.N.I., Indonesia (Greatest Challenge in Agriculture Sustainability in Indonesia)and Agricultural Sciences and SEARCA alumnus, Prof Moh Arifin.