14 May 2018 - A delegation of representatives from CABI have promoted plans for closer partnership with countries in Southeast Asia as part of their presentation at the 2nd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) London Committee meeting in 2018 held on Tuesday 9 May 2018.
Representing CABI, Dr Qiaoqiao Zhang, Director of Memberships, and Phil Abrahams, Director of Strategic Business Development, were invited to the meeting by the current Chair of the ASEAN London Committee (ALC), His Excellency Kyaw Zwar Minn who is also the Myanmar Ambassador to the UK.
Dr Zhang and Mr Abrahams gave the meeting an overview of CABI’s major global programmes and its activities in Southeast Asia, including ‘Strengthening agro-ecosystem health and building resilience in Climate Smart Villages’ in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, as well as the mNutrition initiative – a UK DFID funded programme that aimed to improve the nutritional status of more than three million people across Africa and Asia (Myanmar).
CABI has maintained long-term partnerships with all ASEAN countries. Promoting Integrated Pest Management (IPM), good agricultural practices and other environmental friendly approaches has formed the core in many collaborative projects between CABI and ASEAN countries.
In 2011-2016, working with national partners, CABI was involved in the implementation of two EuropeAid-funded projects on integrated pest management (IPM) for rice and maize, respectively. The two projects were aimed at solving serious pest problems, sustainably increasing rice and maize production, and improving livelihoods of smallholder farmers and food security in Great Mekong Sub-region (South West China, Lao PDR and Myanmar).
Another IPM project example is producing fruit crops through innovative and market-orientated IPM in Vietnam (2016-present). Funded by US Agency for International Development (USAID), this project focuses on the IPM of four key economically important crops: dragon fruit, mango, longan and lichi for export to markets in the USA. It addresses the important production-limiting pests and diseases and their management, particularly practises based on ecologically sound IPM strategies and the use of a systems approach. CABI also collaborates with key international partners to train and build local capacity in IPM.
Capacity Building in SPS (Sanitary and phytosanitary measures) and development of biosecurity plans have also been CABI’s priority areas of working in ASEAN region. In recent years, there have been a number of ASEAN programmes and initiatives on Plant Health and SPS, primarily sponsored by Australian and New Zealand funds. These programmes were aimed at creating better awareness, building capacity and improving facilities of National Plant Protection Organizations (NPPOs) of ASEAN countries.
HE Mr Kyaw Zwar Minn said, “In Myanmar, I know that CABI has also been involved in several important projects and activities including the formulation of the Myanmar Plant Health System Strategy 2016-2020, which is now being operationalized by the Myanmar Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation.
“This strategy will no doubt help the Ministry to achieve its mission to attain maximum market share in regional and global markets for agro-based, value-added agricultural and speciality food products; improve food security and alleviate poverty, particularly in rural areas; and manage green growth.”
Southeast Asian region and ASEAN region are of strategic importance to CABI. Working with national partners and ASEAN Secretariat CABI has undertaken extensive collaboration with all ASEAN countries, particularly Brunei Darussalam, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines and Vietnam which are all important CABI member countries.
The collaboration with ASEAN countries has ranged from research and development co-operation projects, capacity building, knowledge management and information access, which has been coordinated by CABI’s Regional Centre for Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, located in Malaysia and headed by Dr Annamalai Sivapragasam, Regional Director.
Other projects CABI has been or is still involved in within the ASEAN countries include:
- Extensive collaboration with Brunei Darussalam: - In recent years, CABI has had a number of projects commissioned directly and funded by the Brunei government in such areas as Plant disease management (virology, bacteriology and mycology); Indigenous Fruit; Plant and Animal Quarantine; Microbial diversity; Biological Resource Centre Development; and IPM.
- mNutrition: Addressing hidden hunger through mobile messaging - 13 CABI Member Countries across Africa and Asia including Myanmar were participating in a mobile project, in which a CABI-led consortium was the global content provider to the mNutrition initiative – a UK DFID funded programme that aimed to improve the nutritional status of more than three million people. The mNutrition initiative tackled malnutrition and helped beneficiaries (particularly women and young people) to access nutrition-based agricultural and health information using mobile technology.
Dr Zhang said, “The ALC meeting presented CABI with an excellent opportunity to further strengthen our partnerships with ASEAN countries, as well as our interactions with the ASEAN Heads of Missions and ALC Working Group in London.”
Mr Abrahams took the opportunity to highlight CABI’s flagship Plantwise programme, which has been implemented in 34 countries including four ASEAN countries – Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The Program works to help farmers lose less of what they grow due to plant health problems.
Mr Abrahams said, “Working closely with national agricultural advisory services in these countries, CABI establishes and supports sustainable networks of plant clinics, run by trained plant doctors, where farmers can find practical plant health advice. The networks of plant clinics are supported by a global Plantwise Knowledge Bank.
“For example, in Cambodia, since 2012, CABI has been partnering with the General Directorate of Agriculture and Royal University of Agriculture in the establishment of 31 plant clinics run by 79 trained plant doctors, while in Thailand, working with the Rice Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, 15 clinics have been established and 114 plant doctors trained.”
Dr Zhang added, “The questions and answers session after the presentation was very interactive, with simulating questions and valuable suggestions coming from senior members of the ALC.
“Many ASEAN Heads of Missions expressed a strong desire for the deepening of co-operations between CABI and ASEAN countries as well as the ASEAN, built on what have already been active collaboration in the region, and suggested ways forward.
“By improving the quality of agricultural products, ensuring farmers’ interests are met through access to objective and practical advice, and ensuring that sustainable agricultural development remains high on the agenda of the ASEAN and ASEAN countries, the prospects of greater partnerships between CABI and ASEAN are promising.”
The ALC is made up of 10 ASEAN Ambassadors and High Commissioners represented in London, the wider UK, as well as an ALC working group. Not only in the United Kingdom, ASEAN Committees in Third Countries were established in many countries consisting of ASEAN Embassies/Missions such as the ASEAN Committee in Paris (APC) in France and ASEAN Committee in New York (ANYC) in the United States, to give a few example. These Committees aim to promote ASEAN’s interests and identity in the concerned host countries and/or international organisations as well as to promote relations and cooperation.
During the past decades, ASEAN countries have undergone significant development, and ASEAN’s record of development, poverty alleviation and conflict resolution is a true success story. Improving the quality of agricultural products, ensuring farmers’ interests, and sustainably developing agriculture are high on the agenda of ASEAN countries.