August 11, 2015

Greening Commodity Agriculture in East and Southeast Asia

Abby Waldorf, CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems

From the ground to government offices, this month the blog will report on agri-environmental policy in action and its future trajectory

This September, the World Bank and EcoAgriculture Partners are excited to launch the book Steps Toward Green: Policy Responses to the Environmental Footprint of Commodity Agriculture in East and Southeast Asia, a collaborative study on agricultural commodity landscapes and environmental policy in East and Southeast Asia. The new research gives policymakers big opportunities to improve the outcomes of agriculture by making production and conservation two sides of the same political strategy.

Farmers in the Chinese province of Yunnan harvesting from sustainable tea forests.

Farmers in the Chinese province of Yunnan harvesting from sustainable tea forests.

Rice, tea, coffee, and maize are a few of many commodities that are sourced from agriculture.

World demand for these products necessitates producing nations to generate large quantities of raw materials for food and beverages. Since the 1970s, countries in East and Southeast Asia have responded by rapidly expanding their agricultural sectors to meet world demand.  As these countries began to open up their economies internationally, countries like Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Thailand, and the Philippines became proliferous exporters of several important commodities. However lucrative these expanding enterprises were, economic growth came at an insidious cost—to the environment.

A shift towards sustainability requires a shift in agricultural policy

Augmented interest in sustainability has shifted the attention from emphasizing only the accessibility of agricultural goods to understanding how they are sourced. The question of fair wages, of humane treatment of workers, and of consequences of agriculture on biodiversity as well as ecological and human health are on the docket of civilians worldwide. On the ground, the consequences of stripped vegetative cover and over-extending resources to increase agricultural yields are ubiquitous. For example, nonpoint source pollution runs downstream from farmlands without buffer zones to filter contaminants in the soil, threatening the health of towns and cities in the entire watershed.  With mounting consumer demand for eco-conscious products and local realization of the many incentives for preserving natural resources, it is becoming more apparent that agribusiness, communities, and civil society are prioritizing integrated land management in their production strategies.

Deforestation in China, photo provided by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

Deforestation in China, photo provided by World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF).

There’s opportunity to “green” agriculture, but how to do it is a larger question

To capture these changes in outlook, many projects throughout East and Southeast Asia are intently reorienting their approach to determining land use and defining goals within a landscape, and are designing new techniques for sourcing materials to create a collaborative and ecologically healthy agricultural environment. In these strategies, the interests of both communities and agribusiness are represented. Promising as this may be for consumers and producing communities, these efforts are often operating individually and need structural support from local, regional, and national governments to achieve the large-scale impacts necessary to restore degraded lands, and prevent further deterioration of critical natural resources. Policymakers in the region are keen to raise standards for environmental stewardship, and in some cases have made strides in doing so, but are also pulled by a need to intensify production to supply more food.

This production area in northern Vietnam uses terraces and forest strips, some techniques encouraged by integrated land management. Photo provided by Steven M. Jaffee of The World Bank.

This production area in northern Vietnam uses terraces and forest strips, some techniques encouraged by integrated land management. Photo provided by Steven M. Jaffee of The World Bank.

New research lays out stepping stones to a Green Agricultural Future

In their newest publication, Steps Toward Green: Policy Responses to the Environmental Footprint of Commodity Agriculture in East and Southeast Asia, The World Bank and EcoAgriculture Partners, along with other collaborators, address the many challenges and opportunities involved in the management of agriculture, natural resources, and economic interests of commodity markets. Through the revelations of six case studies of key commodity markets and sustainability programs, experts present a series of policy recommendations for rectifying damaging practices, up scaling existing landscape approaches in the region, and promoting environmental stewardship at all levels of society through the management of agricultural sectors. This book starts the conversation around the many benefits of incentivizing and institutionalizing sustainability in agriculture and lays out feasible policy approaches for creating a political and economic environment for integrated landscape management.

This production area in northern Vietnam uses terraces and forest strips, some techniques encouraged by integrated land management. Photo provided by Steven M. Jaffee of The World Bank.

This production area in northern Vietnam uses terraces and forest strips, some techniques encouraged by integrated land management. Photo provided by Steven M. Jaffee of The World Bank.

Coming up on the blog:

In celebration of the book’s potential to raise awareness of how to develop strategic agri-environmental policies, the Landscapes blog will:

  • Elaborate on the recommendations put forth by the book, including commentary from authors Sara Scherr, the President of EcoAgriculture Partners, Steven M. Jaffee, the Lead Rural Development Specialist at The World Bank, and Christine Negra, an Environmental Scientist and Consultant for EcoAgriculture Partners.
  • Bring to life some of the many developments in the region for implementing landscape approaches through “snapshots” of sustainability in action.
  • Illustrate the entry points for policy makers to upscale these efforts.
  • Draw on the lessons in the Asian experience applicable to other developing regions that are well-positioned to take on similar efforts.

Stay tuned for the buzz around ecoagriculture in East and Southeast Asia as it takes place on the farm, in the community, and on the desks of policymakers in the region, and abroad.

LEARN MORE

Greening Commodity Agriculture: Agri-Environmental Policy in East and Southeast Asia
Book Launch & Panel Discussion
To open the conversation, leading experts in environmental sustainability and agricultural development will discuss the various roles policymakers can play, and policy instruments they can use, to make environmental stewardship a regional reality in Asia, and beyond.

This event will take place in Washington, D.C., and made available worldwide through a live webcast.

RSVP

Lucila Fernandez is the Communications Associate at EcoAgriculture Partners. For questions regarding the upcoming book launch or blog series around East and Southeast Asian agri-environmental policy, please contact Lfernandez@ecoagriculture.org.
Steps Toward Green BHFinal
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1 Comment

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    August 18, 2015 at 1:21am

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