Close to 12,300 farmers from six Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) countries (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and the People's Republic of China), their families, and other stakeholders in the agriculture industry are benefitting from Core Agriculture Support Programme Phase II (CASP II); with farmers reporting an average of over 30% increased income as a result of the programme's interventions. CASP II supports safe and environment-friendly agricultural producers in various ways, increasing technical and business skills and developing market links to improve their livelihoods.
Agriculture is generally on the decline vis à vis the industry and services sectors in the subregion’s growing economies, but it still employs more than a third of their workforce. The sector’s agricultural productivity has since plateaued, largely because the yield increases of the past have relied mainly on intensive production with environment-degrading agro-chemicals. Climate change, with its extreme weather events, has also adversely impacted agriculture in the subregion.
Meanwhile, the booming economies of the region are seeing an uptake in high-premium healthier, safe, and environment-friendly agri-food products.
To help farmers and other agricultural value chain actors in the GMS tap into the high-potential market, and at the same time, promote climate-friendly agricultural practices, the Asian Development Bank, together with the National Secretariat Support Units of the agriculture ministries of the GMS countries launched the Core Agriculture Support Program II. NIRAS has been providing technical assistance since May 2016.
Building on the earlier phase of the CASP which emphasised cross-border agricultural trade and climate change adaptation, CASP II (2012-2020) ) set out to strengthen the value chains and enhance global market access for the region’s climate-friendly agri-food products through capacity building, business development, and improved regional agriculture and policy networks.
“Both local and national governments in the region are encouraged by the successes we have seen on the ground, and are committed to continue the promotion of green water management and climate-friendly agriculture,” said Andre Ban, Country Director of NIRAS-Cambodia.
This is already happening, in fact. One example of the national government stepping up to continue what CASP Phase II has started is Myanmar. The programme trained Myanmar’s female farmers to prepare natural pesticides from organic food waste. Following feedback from the farmers that organic farming techniques decreased the costs of production and improved their health, the national government scaled up the activity using its own budget.
CASP II undertakes training activities that promote food safety, trade modernisation, and sustainable agricultural practices. The programme also supports studies to guide regional interventions as well as national initiatives, and the introduction of technological innovations on sustainable and inclusive agriculture.
Expanding Market Access
Locally, CASP II has piloted the participatory guarantee system which linked Thai organic rice farmers with organised regular buyers comprising of hotels and other businesses. The programme also brought a delegation of GMS small agro-entrepreneurs to an international trade fair in Thailand to demonstrate their products and have the opportunity to connect to the regional/global market.
Enhancing Cross-Border Synergies
The programme made regional cooperation among GMS countries more relevant, with the holding of the historic Second GMS Agriculture Ministers’ Meeting ‒ a milestone on its own as the last meeting was held over ten years ago in 2007 ‒ and the formulation of a landmark 2018-2022 GMS and Siem Reap Action Plan (developed with NIRAS expertise) endorsed by the GMS Agriculture Ministers to guide the development of the nascent industry in the years to come.
The event has been very insightful and productive, as it addressed the key issues and challenges needed to jumpstart the next phase of agriculture regional cooperation, so the GMS can become a natural hub and a leading supplier of safe and environment-friendly agriculture products.