A Review of Issues and Challenges in Climate Change and Agriculture in Southeast Asia

 Asiapacificadapt.net

Summary

This report covers the eleven countries in Southeast Asia, namely: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, and Timor-Leste. It identifies the current issues and challenges in the agriculture sector at the national and sub-regional levels given the issues of climate change, food security, and sustainable development. The report includes information on the anticipated impacts of climate change on agriculture and food security in the region, and on the ecosystems and communities most affected or most vulnerable. The current issues and challenges that hinder the strengthening of the ability to cope with climate change and its impacts are identified at the sub-regional and national levels, to include the following:

• Policies and programmes. Common to all countries is the need for mainstreaming or integration of climate change strategies into the development plans, programmes and policies of the agriculture sector. Since adaptation strategies for the agriculture sector are not widely incorporated in food security and development strategies of the agriculture sector, there is truly a need for integration. This may include agricultural subsidy and support, specific investments in physical assets such as stronger infrastructure and improved irrigation systems, new options for agricultural techniques and resource management programmes. In most of the countries, extension services have weakened significantly in recent years, leaving farmers with limited capacity and access to new information on farm inputs and technologies. In addition, conflicting and undefined tenure policies may affect farmers’ long-term decision-making process. The lack of a concrete implementation strategy and locally specific action plans as well as the weak capacity of the government and institutions are still hindering the successful realization of already developed policies and programmes in some countries.

• Institutions. The need is evident for enhanced coordination and collaboration among and across local, national, and regional institutions. The capabilities of national and local institutions on seasonal forecasting, impact and vulnerability assessments, training, and local adaptation planning, need to be strengthened. Agriculture-dependent countries such as Myanmar and Timor Leste have yet to mobilize their information and education campaigns (IEC). Each government must focus its attention on enhancing coordination among levels of government, from village-level to national and even regional, and among ministries of different sectors. There is a need to ensure that farmers have access to current information, as well as available and potential agricultural inputs and technologies for climate change adaptation practices. Existing institutions, like farmer field schools, seed producer organizations, and farmer groups should be strengthened. The local experts and extension personnel must be constantly trained. Public and private partnerships for climate change adaptation should also be explored. Stepping up efforts to raise public awareness, improve capacity of extension services, and more intensive and targeted IEC to local farmers and fishing communities must be pursued through partnerships among national and local ministries, local governments, NGOs, academe and the private sector. Opportunities for regional cooperation present in the form of existing structures like the ASEAN and MRC, however, have not been fully explored.

• Technologies and practices. The documentation of current and indigenous adaptation strategies to climate-related extremes and variables could serve as the basis for developing effective and efficient local adaptation practices and technologies. It is very critical that the effects of climate change be understood at the local and national levels, as such understanding will enhance the ability to select or apply appropriate methods and tools prepared for adaptation and mitigation. In addition, technology development and the integration of traditional and local knowledge are still needed. Technology transfer and communication to both local people and policy makers are necessary for the effectiveness of adaptation activities. Some existing adaptation strategies being practiced by local farmers have been found effective, such as the systems of rice intensification in Cambodia, the farmer fields schools using pest management practices in Indonesia, small water impounding projects and climate field school in the Philippines, diversification and off-farm income opportunities in Lao PDR, investments in irrigation systems in Vietnam, and technologies for organic rice growing in Thailand. Such practices can be shared among local communities within and outside the countries with similar characteristics. However, there is still the challenge of developing locally appropriate adaptation technologies and strategies.

• Knowledge gaps and research needs. More local and regional research is needed to have a better understanding of climate change, its impacts, and potential strategies. The improvement of local forecasting capability, synthesis and full utilization of available information, and identification of key knowledge gaps should also be prioritized. There is also insufficient research on baseline socio-economic information of vulnerable farmers. In addition, adaptation in itself provides for a lot of uncertainties and questions. The inadequacies in information on the possible strategies and technologies for crop and livestock management, along with the effects of interaction of different strategies and trade-offs present difficulties in the integration of adaptation strategies into development and food security programmes. Work is needed to identify these trades-offs and measure the effectiveness and efficiency of adaptation options. There is also a lack of mechanism for information sharing and management across sectors and, therefore, limited awareness of climate change issues by stakeholders, particularly the local farmers.

• Financing. Governments should mobilize greater and more sustainable sources of funding as well as take full advantage of available international financing schemes that are nationally appropriate for climate change and the agriculture sector. The region has not yet made full use of these funding sources, and its representation in the global carbon market is still limited. Financing should be targeted towards agricultural support and incentive programmes such as research, capacity building, institutional innovation, enhanced infrastructure, and reliable extension services. Innovative financial mechanisms, which may include microfinancing, crop insurance and agricultural subsidies, where appropriate, should be examined. At a fundamental level, the capacity of a country to address these issues depends on its priorities and policies for development, its effort to strengthen institutional capacity and raise public awareness, to conduct more research to fill knowledge gaps, to have better coordination across sectors and levels of government, and to carry out an effective mobilization of financial resources. In a key climate-sensitive sector like agriculture, the priority should be to scale up action by adopting a more proactive approach and integrating strategies for adaptation. Common to all countries is the need for mainstreaming or integration of climate change strategies into the development plans, programs and policies of the agriculture sector. Since adaptation strategies for the agriculture sector are not widely incorporated in food security and development strategies of the agriculture sector, there is truly a need for integration. This may include agricultural subsidy and support, specific investments in physical assets such as stronger infrastructure and improved irrigation systems, new options for agricultural techniques and resource management programs. In most of the countries, extension services have weakened significantly in recent years, leaving farmers with limited capacity and access to new information on farm inputs and technologies. In addition, conflicting and undefined tenure policies may affect farmers’ long-term decision-making process. The lack of a concrete implementation strategy and locally specific action plans as well as the weak capacity of the government and institutions are still hindering the successful realization of already developed policies and programs in some countries.

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