MI Webinar Promotes United Action in Advancing Food Security and Poverty Alleviation in the Lancang-Mekong Region Post-Pandemic

Mekong Institute (MI), in partnership with the People’s Government of the People’s Republic of (P. R.) China, hosted an online webinar on December 15, 2023, in an effort to raise awareness, share knowledge, and seek solutions to the heightened challenges of poverty and food security in the Lancang-Mekong (LM) countries worsened by the COVID19 pandemic and climate change.

Cambodia, P. R. China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Thailand, and Viet Nam, collectively referred to as the LM countries, witnessed substantial economic growth and sustained poverty reduction over the past three decades. However, the far-reaching effects of the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted agricultural activities, food production, supply chains, posing a considerable threat to food security and poverty alleviation efforts not only in the LM region but worldwide.

Gathering a diverse assembly of around 50 participants, including government officials, business groups, and non-governmental organizations, the webinar spurred regional dialogue aimed at exploring specific approaches and shaping strategies for the sustainable recovery of the LM countries.

In his welcome remarks, Mr. Rithy Buth, MI’s Director of Finance and Operations, echoed the objectives of the webinar and highlighted the importance of concerted actions among LM countries in effectively advancing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Lancang-Mekong Cooperation (LMC) Plan of Action 2023-2027.

Expert presentations during the webinar zeroed in on the state of post-pandemic food security and underlined priorities to fortify resilience across the LM countries. These include initiatives such as reducing food waste and championing progressive approaches like food sector resource management, nutrition-sensitive agriculture, social inclusion, and regional cooperation.

Mr. Ke Yousheng, Permanent Representative of China to UNESCAP and an official of the Embassy of the  People’s Republic of China in Thailand, underscored food and agriculture as one of the priority areas of the LMC. He detailed recent collaborative efforts, including the Three-Year Plan of Action on LM Agricultural Cooperation and the LMC Bumper Harvest Projects, which aim to bolster food security, economic growth, and social progress.

Dr. Yang Yong from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences – Agricultural Information Institute emphasized the common drivers of food security challenges such as variations in agricultural quality, external market reliance, inadequate storage and processing capacities, and disparities between urban and rural areas and the region’s susceptibility to climate change impacts. Recommendations included enhancing decision-makers’ capabilities, inter-agency coordination, and organizational and regulatory competencies, along with implementing robust evaluation systems.

Prof. Dr. Anthony Chiu, a Sustainability Presidential Adviser and University Fellow at the De La Salle University in the Philippines, shed light on the financial burden faced by low-income agricultural households resulting from inefficient production processes and the impacts of climate change. This affects their ability to access nutritious food. He also delved into the policy priorities adopted by ASEAN countries to tackle food waste and loss.

Dr. Bo Zhou, an Agriculture Officer at the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific (RAP) of the United Nations’s (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), advocated for a sustainable approach promoting the production and consumption of climate-resilient and nutrient-dense crops. Key areas of focus included fostering an enabling environment, accelerating the adoption of science and innovation, and engaging the private sector.

Focusing on food security and social inclusion, Prof. Dr. Wongsa Laohasiriwong, Dean of the Faculty of Public Health at Khon Kaen University, brought attention to gender disparities in food security and agriculture. She stressed the unequal impact of global crises on women, emphasizing that gender equality in the food system serves as a means to benefit both producers and consumers.

An open discussion facilitated conversations on enhancing South-South Cooperation and other relevant Regional Cooperation Initiatives (RCI) to address food security. Participants recognized the urgent need for united efforts in addressing multifaceted challenges, calling for a collaborative approach that includes governments, non-governmental organizations, international agencies, and local communities.

The webinar concluded with a consolidation of good practices and recommendations, all geared toward bolstering food security and advancing poverty alleviation in the LM region. 

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