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Stewarding sustainability: helping farmers become effective stewards of their land

BANGKOK, THAILAND - Agrochemicals and the role they play in growing the food that we eat can be a contentious issue. Generally, with understanding comes acceptance and as consumers learn more about the food value chain there is recognition of the necessity for crop protection products to ensure sustainable crop growth. However, food safety and how these products are used is drawing greater attention.

I recently attended the first regional CropLife Stewardship Dialogue in Bangkok which brought together key industry players to discuss agricultural stewardship initiatives, innovations and policy. At its most basic level, stewardship is the responsible and ethical way to manage crop protection products. Despite long-standing efforts from many different governments and private sector companies, today’s stewardship activities do not always achieve their desired effects. Several different challenges have been identified to account for this, such as efficacy of training – and whether farmers retain the information that is passed on to them.

I presented at the conference on farmers’ organizations, the role they play in Grow Asia’s Country Partnership model, and how they may help farmers become more effective stewards of their land. However, farmers’ organizations are not a quick fix for engaging farmers. If they are to be successful, they need ongoing support, capacity building, and a space at the decision-making table. The real difficulty lies in understanding who can provide this support and how best to engage these groups.

Grow Asia is working with regional and country-level farmers’ organizations to better understand their challenges and actively engage them in value chain projects. We hope to be able to provide a platform that will enable farmers, government and the private sector to engage on mutual ground and begin to develop sustainable ways of working together.

We were fortunate to be joined at the CropLife Stewardship Dialogue by Thailand’s Deputy Director General for the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Surmsuk Salakpetch. During her opening keynote, Dr. Surmsuk said that commitment to stewardship can only be achieved once we have taken into account a diversity of views and that this requires a multi-sectoral, multi-stakeholder approach. To me, this is a strong endorsement that Grow Asia is on the right track, but also a call to action to make sure that we, our partners and our stakeholders always keep in mind what we are trying to collectively achieve.

Jonathan Parry Manager, Country Partnerships (Mekong), Grow Asia

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