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Integrating land-use models into agricultural transformation efforts

25 Dec 2019

Sustainability means a paradigm shift from traditional agricultural productivity approaches.

Integrating land-use models into agricultural transformation efforts

The suitability of an area for specific purposes depends on topography, climate, natural resources including flora and fauna, and other facets of the ecosystem. Sustainable land use causes no significant degradation of the resource base and environment. However, sustainability, particularly in relation to agriculture, has become increasingly difficult. This is evident in the Asia-Pacific, where climate change, increasing populations, growing urbanization and industrialization, and poor governance are stressing natural landscapes. The integrity of the environment and sustainability of agriculture, and thus food security, are at stake.

The growing gap between food demand and the natural resources available to support agriculture, along with other challenges associated with climate change, will require a paradigm shift from traditional agricultural productivity approaches. Almost everything today, including agricultural technologies, can be combined via Internet connectivity with the potential to transform crop production, livestock rearing, and forestry and fisheries operations. The Asian Productivity Organization (APO) developed its Smart Agricultural Transformation (SAT) Framework to help member countries evolve their land-use practices with the assistance of supportive technologies and processes. Applications of smart technologies should now be factored into local equations of agricultural productivity.

To introduce its SAT Framework and explore how environmental, spatial, and climate change factors can be integrated into optimal land-use models, the APO and Development Academy of the Philippines (DAP) jointly organized a workshop on The Formulation and Study of Spatial Development, Climate Change, and the Environment for Agricultural Transformation in Pasig City from 18 to 22 November 2019. Three international resource persons (Dr. Geethalakshmi Velligiri, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, India; Dr. Sridhar Gummadi, International Rice Research Institute, Hanoi, Vietnam; and Dr. Hiroyuki Takeshima, International Food Policy Research Institute, Washington, DC, USA) and 20 participants from 11 APO members attended.

The inaugural address was given by chief guest DAP Senior Vice President Magdalena L. Mendoza, who emphasized the importance of holistic approaches such as agroecology, agroforestry, climate-smart agriculture, and conservation agriculture for successful agricultural transformation in Asia. She commented that the workshop would broaden understanding of ways to enhance agricultural productivity in the light of climate change, increasing urbanization, and the Internet of Things.

In addition to the SAT Framework, the Philippine Comprehensive Land Use Planning Framework was introduced. Together, the two frameworks provided a reference point for workshop sessions focusing on land capability and sustainability, tools and processes for determining crop suitability, smart technology applications, and case studies of best practices in different locations.

As a showcase for its land-use planning framework, the Philippine government under the Department of Agriculture sponsors Smarter Approaches to Reinvigorate Agriculture as an Industry (SARAi). Project SARAi deploys science-based crop technologies and protocols among farmers after field testing, including integrated crop monitoring and forecasting systems, crop advisories, agronomic and market data, and decision-support tools. It offers training modules for agricultural technicians, extension workers, and academics and has identified eight regions growing corn, bananas, coffee, and cacao for further SARAi technology adoption. After visiting the Project SARAi field site, workshop participants analyzed its technology applications and planned sustainable measures for country-specific agricultural transformation with guidance from the resource persons.

With their involvement in public- or private-sector agricultural management and consultancy on farming, climate change, and spatial development, participants felt that they had gained a lot from the workshop. Local participant Ferdinand E. Del Rosario hoped for a follow-up national climate change-related symposium, while Dr. Bushra Rashid of Pakistan suggested that the APO “lead a climate change consortium commission to tackle the impacts on agriculture.” Indian participant Dr. Prem Chand was focused on practical aspects, pointing out that, “A future program could include hands-on training in GIS-based crop modeling.” Dr. Ali Akbar Noroozi, participant from IR Iran, was impressed by Project SARAi activities and planned to introduce them to his government and NGOs for replication. Participants’ enthusiasm was commented on by Indian resource person Dr. Velligiri, and she generously offered support for in-country follow-up programs if her expertise would be helpful in formulating their recommendation plans.

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