The New Vision for Agriculture, defined by World Economic Forum partners in 2009, holds that to meet the world’s needs, sustainable agriculture must simultaneously deliver food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity. Achieving those goals requires a transformation of the agriculture sector, leveraging market-based approaches through a coordinated effort by all stakeholders, including farmers, government, civil society and the private sector.
Southeast Asia, home to 9% of the world’s population and a leading exporter of agricultural commodities such as rice, coconuts, palm oil, fruits and vegetables and aquaculture, is at the fulcrum of the global food system. Major regional themes include increasing urbanization, aging farmer demographics, ongoing economic growth, rapidly changing diets and the emergence of more sophisticated and consolidated retail and food service sectors. Consumer demand is increasing for animal proteins, fruit and vegetables, as well as processed, semi-processed, and prepared food products.
Meanwhile, smallholder farming is the mainstay of agricultural production in ASEAN, with a high proportion of the region’s poor engaged in it. While increasing demand could be met by a combination of food imports and the use of fewer, larger, and more modern farms, a more inclusive—albeit complex—approach would embed smallholder farmers into these modernizing supply chains.
As an evolving development issue, the dialogue today is moving beyond food security to food systems, and the interlinkages between food production, climate change, livelihoods, health and nutrition, and so on. A holistic systems approach is thus imperative to ensure that programs and initiatives are complementary and reinforcing. This unique coordination role is what Grow Asia plays for the region.