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Scientific Milestones in the Agricultural Development of Asia and the Pacific Region. 2007 CGIAR Annual General Meeting ( Science Forum ), December 4, 2007, Beijing, China. Introduction.

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scientific milestones in the agricultural development of asia and the pacific region

Scientific Milestones in the Agricultural Development of Asia and the Pacific Region

2007 CGIAR Annual General Meeting

(Science Forum),

December 4, 2007, Beijing, China

  • The ESAP region consisting of some 33 sovereign countries is home to about 3.36B people or roughly 53% of the world’s current population, with China, India & Indonesia constituting almost three quarters of the region’s inhabitants.

* EAST ASIA (China, Korea, Japan & Mongolia)

* SOUTH ASIA (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka)

* SOUTHEAST ASIA (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste & Vietnam)

* OCEANIA (Australia & New Zealand)

* PACIFIC (Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Tonga, Vanuatu, Samoa, Solomon Islands & Micronesia, FS)


Majority (55%) of this population are still engaged in agriculture related activities, predominantly as smallholders relying on it for subsistence, livelihood, income & other socio-cultural functions.

In terms of land area, ESAP countries covers about a fifth of the world’s land mass.


In terms of trade, it produces:

~ 90% of global aquaculture production;

> 80% of the world’s supply of coconut, vegetables, jute, sweet potato and rice;

> 50% of the world’s supply of tea, tobacco and peanut;

> 25% of the global source of melons, sugarcane, white potato, cassava, millet, maize and wheat;


Other significant regional characteristics related to agriculture:

accounts for 55% of the world’s forest plantation resources;

has the greatest concentration of the world’s mangroves; and

- home to 30% of the world’s livestock species.


Annual growth rate in agriculture in the region from 1992-2003 was recorded at 3.1% in contrast to just 2.4% for the world’s average.

The sector has also served as a buffer and safety net thru employment generation in the face of large economic shocks, such as that of the Asian financial crisis that hit the region in 1997-98.


Despite of its strong growth performance, the agricultural sector’s relative importance in Asia and the Pacific countries has been declining, both in terms of its contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and its share of the labor force particularly during the last three decades or so.

trends in asian pacific agriculture
Trends in Asian/Pacific Agriculture

It was largely after the end of WW II , that the application of AKST to aggie production resulted in the beginnings of major changes in agricultural practices in the region.

Over the past 5 decades, technological advances in the agricultural sciences have enabled farmers to feed twice as many people from a virtually declining agricultural land.

The principal agricultural technologies that made this impressive achievements possible could be attributed mainly to …

akst milestones in asian agriculture
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture

New Varieties (HYVs and hybrids)

With the release of IR8 in the early 60s, almost all of the rice area under HYV seeds was in Asia.

Among its known impact are:

increased yields have contributed much to greater food security within developing countries and have often led to declining real prices of some food grains;

Seed supply systems of new varieties replaced the traditional cultivars

encouraged the growth of allied agro-industries such as fertilizer plants, chemical companies, seed suppliers & agricultural machineries

akst milestones in asian agriculture10
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture


Hastened the development of new varieties with desired traits

Increased the resilience of crops to major pests and diseases and extreme weather conditions

Among its adverse impact associated with biotech are…

encouraged farmers dependency on expensive external inputs

promotes decreased genetic diversity

increased costs of crop failure

limits farmers access to new technologies due to affordability issue

akst milestones in asian agriculture11
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture


From 1961-2003, irrigated areas in ESAP more than doubled with an annual growth rate of 2.6% increasing the cultivated land under irrigation to 28%;

Groundwater irrigation was one of the most widely-used technology in ESAP such that by the 1990s, half of China’s irrigation came from wells while 60% of India’s irrigated areas relied on groundwater.

Among its known impact are:

offered a primary buffer against the vagaries of climate preventing total crop failure

stabilize and improved crop yields (2-5x that of rainfed areas)

enabled more intensive use of limited arable land

akst milestones in asian agriculture12
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture


Fertilizer usage within ESAP increased sharply over the years which has reached 275kg/ha in 2005. Average annual growth rate is about 6.6%

Among the fertilizers applied, 61% were nitrogen-based, 24% phosphate and 15% potash.

Among its known impact are:

over reliance on this input by most farmers has led to excessive use of inorganic fertilizers resulting to some serious environmental consequences.

akst milestones in asian agriculture13
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture

Crop Protection

Pesticide usage in agriculture among developing countries of ESAP has been on the rise indicating its growing popularity to control the major crop pests and diseases raising concerns on its negative effects on human health of farmers and consumers.

Crops known to have been receiving the highest pesticide applications are cereals, fruit crops, cotton & vegetables.

akst milestones in asian agriculture14
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture

Crop Protection

That few pest & disease outbreaks have occurred in the past 15 years is the result of collaborative research undertaking between the CGIAR centers and the NARS of many ESAP countries.

Likewise, combining pest resistance with ecologically-based crop management principles has greatly reduced the incidence and impact of pest outbreaks.

akst milestones in asian agriculture15
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture

Mechanization (tractors & threshers)

Rising wages & declining labor availability in most rural areas forced many farmers to consider mechanization in planting and harvesting operations.

Total # of aggie tractors used in ESAP countries have been expanding rapidly since 1960, reaching 6.5M in 2005.

Among its known impact are:

since aggie machineries entailed substantial cost in acquisition and operation, it stimulated the growth of a well-functioning machinery rental markets

akst milestones in asian agriculture16
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture

Livestock production

Sustainable endoparasite control for small ruminants…

Crop-animal integration in rainfed areas…

Capacity building of selected NARS scientists…

akst milestones in asian agriculture17
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture

Forestry(sustainable resource management)

In terms of production technology, the forestry sector concentrated its efforts on developing new forest management systems…

Wood processing seemed to be the only area on forestry that has received the greatest impact from technological improvements…

akst milestones in asian agriculture18
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture

Capture Fisheries

Modern fishing fleet with cold storage, processing facilities, fish scouting airplanes & its highly sophisticated acoustic technology coupled with extremely efficient fishing gears including the use of purse seine and trawl nets made dramatic increases in marine production possible.

But the unscrupulous use of said technologies have eventually led in over fishing and rapid depletion of the ocean’s fish stock…

akst milestones in asian agriculture19
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture

Aquaculture Fisheries (in freshwater, brackish water & marine ecosystem)

Major milestones in aquaculture technologies made it possible to produce quality fish & crustaceans in artificial environment (pond culture, pen culture, fishcages) under commercial scale:

development of the artificial spawning technology

development of superior brood-stock by selective breeding

liming & fertilization of the pond to induce the growth of natural food organisms

formulation and & use of balanced artificial feed to promote good fish growth

use of pumps to ensure & stabilize water supply quality & temperature

akst milestones in asian agriculture20
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture

Aquaculture Fisheries (in freshwater, brackish water & marine ecosystem)

Major milestones in aquaculture technologies made it possible to produce quality fish & crustaceans in artificial environment (pond culture, pen culture, fishcages) under commercial scale:

use of artificial aeration to ensure adequate oxygen supply for increasing the pond’s carrying capacity

use of pesticides to control predatory or harmful organisms

use of probiotics to maintain quality of pond environment

waterless transport of fish fry

akst milestones in asian agriculture21
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture

Aquaculture Fisheries (in freshwater, brackish water & marine ecosystem)

Impact of such technologies:

Within the aquaculture sector, ESAP contribution in the global supply rose from just 54% in 1950 to 90% in 2004.

In terms of gross aquaculture production by volume in 2004, leading countries are China, India, Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Vietnam & Thailand.

akst milestones in asian agriculture22
AKST Milestones in Asian Agriculture

Indigenous Knowledge and the active participation of NGOs and civil society

Important AKST contributions:

in-situ genetic crop conservation

crop diversification (farming systems approach)

regenerative soil & water conservation methods

organic agriculture

ecological pest management & bio-pesticides

participatory research schemes

use of medicinal plants

social mobilization methods

trends in asian pacific agriculture23
Trends in Asian/Pacific Agriculture

Without these technologies, world prices of most agricultural products would have been higher, caloric availability per capita lower and thousands more hectares of forestlands and other fragile ecosystems would have been brought under cultivation.

Paradoxically however, while the so called “Green Revolution” has been widely hailed as one of the major success stories of development in the region, not all farmers and locations have benefited equally from it.

lessons learned
Lessons Learned

The face of poverty is the face of agriculture-based rural Asia, the lot of many small farmers, municipal fisher folk, upland dwellers and indigenous peoples– Overall, some 70% of the poor in developing countries reside in rural areas and many derive their income from agriculture directly or indirectly. This dependence on agriculture is greater in those countries where hunger and poverty are most prevalent.

lessons learned25
Lessons Learned

R&D beneficiaries are now becoming important partners in rural transformation– Formertechnology users are becoming more central in innovation and technical change. In the past, farmers and LGUs were considered as mere technology users but now, they are increasingly becoming major players/partners in rural development.

lessons learned26
Lessons Learned

New emerging fields such as biotechnology, bio-energy, supply chain management, indigenous knowledge systems and ICT are greatly influencing how agricultural RDE is being conducted– aggie production is becoming increasingly knowledge-based and science intensive; RDE are relying more and more on ICT tools to take advantage of knowledge developed elsewhere or for other purposes.

lessons learned27
Lessons Learned
  • Development potential of the agricultural sector is increasingly being defined in the international arena– agricultural development is increasingly taking place in a globalized setting where production, trade & consumption for agricultural products are growing more dynamic and evolving in unpredictable ways.
lessons learned28
Lessons Learned
  • S&T can make a difference in peoples lives but only under the right conditions– improved technologies provide options for combating poverty and hunger but could not be readily adopted if the conditions for its usage are absent or lacking. Gaps in infrastructure, seed and input markets, extension and credit systems, and market access hamper widespread technology adoption and prevents farmers from receiving the benefits from these new technologies.

Lessons Learned

  • Continued funding of science and technology yields higher pay-offs than other forms of public investments- Evidences closely link productivity improvements to investments in agricultural R&D, with average rates of return of over 40%. Experiences of China, India and Thailand showed that increased public expenditure on agricultural research and extension improves agricultural productivity the most and was the second most powerful way of reducing rural poverty.