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Skip to 0 minutes and 6 seconds What is the most compelling trend of agriculture in the Southeast Asia that is one of the concerns that people don’t want to see. I think that the problem in agriculture in Southeast Asia is the income from agriculture increases at a lower speed than the income from other sectors, like the industrial sector or services. Therefore, we see that even recently, income every year, income for farmer increased, but it cannot adapt to the increase of the living standard in the society. That is the most challenge to agriculture.

Skip to 1 minute and 5 seconds The impact of that slow increase in income: then people have to expand the arable land to have a larger land to get their larger income for the household. And that comes into deforestation– to convert the forest into agriculture– that comes into the shift from rice to aquaculture, or diversification, to try to have income, and try to come into more intensive agriculture. And that creates a lot of problems in the environment, because you use more pesticides, use more fertiliser. You convert from one crop to two crop or even three crop [per year]. Some now, they say seven crop per two year. So that’s very intensive. And that costs greatly.

Skip to 2 minutes and 5 seconds And besides that, at the same time, we talk about climate change onset. So that is another direct force that creates a pressure in agriculture. Because when the climate change [impact] occurs, then the farmer have to adapt with that and cannot continue with traditional cultivation technique. I think that we have the most challenge in Southeast Asia– many Southeast Asia [countries] is at the limit of land and water, at the same time population growth increases. So in term of per capita natural resources you need, like a per capita of land area or per capita of cubic metre of water decrease, the population grows Then it creates a pressure. You have to improve the productivity of the land, of the water.

Skip to 3 minutes and 13 seconds And that has a limit. That creates more pressure. So one of the trends in that is the converting from monoculture to diversification. But it depends on the state of the development. In the past, we see that a monoculture raises enough income and produces more food for society. But with that rice monoculture, farmers– rice farmers– are very poor and cannot get enough income to continue living in the increased income of their society. So they have to– one trend is that diversifying of the activity– diversify– you grow different crops rather than monoculture, and you have a small piece of land that farms these crops and the other farms the other crops.

Skip to 4 minutes and 18 seconds But that goes– there’s a problem that when we shift to market oriented because you cannot produce large amount of product, and you cannot have a contract with supermarket with large product with the guarantee, quality, etc. So these are the still conflicting directions in agriculture.

Agricultural trends and natural resource pressure

We have seen already the range of impacts that food production is having on the natural resource base in Southeast Asia. Socio-economic trends and changing agricultural practices are exerting increasing pressure on key natural resources for food production in Southeast Asia. In this video, Dr. Chu Thai Hoanh, an emeritus scientist at the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and an SEI Associate, focuses on some of the key agricultural changes occurring in the region, and what’s driving them.

Because of the relatively slow economic growth of the agricultural sector, natural resource use is occurring in increasingly unsustainable ways, with worsening environmental impacts.

Image Sources: “Deforestation” (CC BY 2.0) by crustmania and “Cleared field in Laos” Copyrighted by Darin Wahl

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This video is from the free online course:

Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

Stockholm Environment Institute