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Regional policy options for sustainable food systems

Suriyan Vichitlekarn discusses an array of policy options for the ASEAN region to move toward sustainable food systems.
Making concrete policy interventions requires to have proper data information as a basis to monitor the trend status of food security and how policy intervention should be made. According to this, the leaders agreed to set up ASEAN food security information systems as a platform to mobilise the data information related to food, agriculture, and the needs of the people. So the ministers, the leaders, to be able to be equipped with the status and trends of food availability in the region and issues related to food security. As the basis, the political leaders could make in time the policy measures to ensure that food insecurity would not be escalated, and therefore addressed in a proper and timely manner.
The next policy measures recognised the fact that food security can be addressed through the contribution of agriculture and food systems. This is to consider that agriculture will continue to be at the backbone of ASEAN region and producing food for ASEAN food security. In order to achieve this, food system would have to be sustainable, inclusive for the farmers and also for the people.
Sustainable agrifood systems is one of the core elements where it’s recognised under the ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework, recognising the fact that any food system would have to properly use and optimise use of inputs, be it seeds, be it fertilisers, or proper soil nutrient management, the use of proper farming practises, reducing post-harvest loss, application of farm machinery in order to address the incline labour in the region, and also to ensure that this meets safe quality standards in order to give assurance to the consumer within the region and outside the region. So in short, a food system that is sustainable will sit at the heart of achieving food security in the ASEAN region.
The next policy measures also recognise the fact that depending on the effort of the government in addressing food security would not be sufficient. The government, not only in terms of supporting farmers, providing extension service support, they also need to work with other stakeholders, including private sector, because private sector has knowledge, resources, and could share within the development of agriculture contributing to food security. ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework recognises the fact that partnership with private sector and civil society would join forces in order to extend effort to where the farmers in agriculture would need, so as to make agriculture to be more conducive and supportive to food security.
Besides, the ASEAN leaders also recognised the fact that investment in agriculture and food security will be one of the major areas to assist better effort in achieving food security. While noting that investment in agriculture and food security is important is not to ensure only there will be investment, but to make sure that investment is responsible to agriculture and also conducive to food security. That would mean we need to ensure no land grabbing, that there is no unsustainable farming practises, and any investment that creates dependency of farmers to agribusiness.
Next, there will also be policy measures that recognise emerging issues in the region. At the moment there are two prominent emerging issues that has been discussed by ASEAN member states. One is the issues between bioenergy promotion and food security. This issue recognised the fact that both bioenergy and food security share land, water, resources, and labour together. The challenge would be to what extent bioenergy should be promoted without compromising food security. Although the effort would need to be continued, but we need to understand that this message should be kept at the back of the mind and ensure that at all times food security objectives will not be compromised.
In addition to that, one of the other emerging issues that has been raised over the past number of years is the impact of climate change. The impact of climate change has been discussed as a concern. But the experience of the past number of years has been very real– extreme floods and drought in Thailand, in Indonesia, in Philippines, or even in Lao (PDR); or typhoon that has been experienced in countries like Philippines and Vietnam. This has created great concern. The issues is in the short term how we can adapt to the impacts of climate change while in medium and long term to look into how agriculture sector would continue to mitigate impacts that they create to climate change.
So this will be built into how food systems should be made more sustainable, and at the same time ensuring that they contribute to food security. These policy measures has been implemented since 2009 to last until 2014. The leaders met once again in 2014, discussing progress of this implementation and recognise that while the full set of policy measures would need to continue and strengthen. So as ASEAN region collectively can be a food secure region, the leaders also recognised the need to also include nutrition-sensitive agriculture as an important element to ensure that food security and nutrition will go hand-in-hand, and therefore the benefit will go to the ASEAN people and the region as a whole.
This nutrition-sensitive agriculture recognised the fact that we need to ensure that nutrients is equipped in the course of food production so that food produced will be nutritious for the local farmers and also for the consumer. At the same time, also recognise the fact that addressing nutrition cannot be done by the agriculture sector alone, and there should be intersectoral collaboration between agriculture, health, education, and many other sectors.
So in short, ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework provides a platform of policy measures recognising the need to have food reserves; better market and trade conducive to food security; providing food from surplus to deficit countries; better foundation of data information to equip the policymakers to make proper and timely policy interventions; the need to promote sustainable agrifood system or food systems; the need to promote responsible investment and public-private partnership together with other stakeholders like civil society; addressing emerging issues like impact of climate change and bioenergy and food security; last but not the least, promoting nutrition-sensitive agriculture.
The ASEAN region is facing a number of complex issues related to food systems. In this video, Suriyan Vichitlekarn, of GIZ, the German development agency, argues for a comprehensive and regionally coordinated approach to address those issues and presents some available policy options.
He highlights the critical role of governments, but also emphasizes the valuable contributions that can be made by other actors, including the private sector and civil society. Through this video we see how relevant stakeholders must adapt to new and emerging issues, such as climate change, in addition to the existing challenges.
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Food and Our Future: Sustainable Food Systems in Southeast Asia

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