ADB, research agencies target food security, nutrition gains in Asia

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), along with its research partners and developing member countries, are to explore new ways of strengthening food security and improving nutrition in a region where 65% of the world’s undernourished people live.

The ADB Board of Directors today approved a regional technical assistance grant of $4 million for the Strategic Research for Sustainable Food and Nutrition Security in Asia. It will examine how countries can tackle rice yield gaps, water use problems, fragmented food supply chains and underinvestment in agricultural research.

“This regional initiative will seek to find ways to boost food productivity, to develop more integrated supply chains and to raise awareness about agricultural research and development,” said Lourdes Adriano, Principal Agriculture Sector Specialist in ADB’s Regional and Sustainable Development Department.

Asia, the largest producer and consumer of the world’s major food commodities, is facing huge challenges feeding its vast population. Rapid population growth, stagnating crop productivity, water scarcity and pollution, climate change, and other constraints are making it increasingly difficult to substantially and sustainably improve food output and security in the region. The steep rise in global prices of rice and other food staples in 2007-2008, which caused widespread distress amongst poor and vulnerable groups, has highlighted the need for action.

ADB will work with the International Rice Research Institute and the International Food Policy Research Institute, as well as the participating countries of Bangladesh, Cambodia, People’s Republic of China, India, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Philippines, Thailand and Viet Nam, to find ways of overcoming the constraints.

This will include exploring ecologically-sound methods for reducing rice pest outbreaks and pre- and post-harvest rice losses, which account for up to a quarter of the current yield gap. Support will also be given to assess for potential investment, sustainable water use technologies and food supply chain partnerships which promote nutrition and health. A third element of the project will be to increase farmer and other stakeholder awareness about an agriculture research and development action plan for Asia, which will include their inputs.

“The goal is to come up with environmentally friendly, innovative measures which have a high impact on food security and nutrition, which engage small-scale farmers, which are feasible and cost effective, and which can be expanded and replicated,” said Ms. Adriano.

ADB’s grant comes from its concessional Technical Assistance Special Fund. The International Food Policy Research Institute and the International Rice Research Institute will provide additional finance equivalent to $60,000 and $100,000, respectively, for a total investment cost of $4.16 million.

ADB is the executing agency for the project, which is due for completion in December 2012. The International Rice Research Institute and the International Food Policy Research Institute will each carry out targeted activities in areas related to their own expertise.

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