Sustainable Energy and Environment

Mekong Institute (MI) convened 26 government officials and development leaders from the Lancang-Mekong (LM) countries at the Mekong Residential Training Center in Khon Kaen, Thailand from March 25 to April 5, 2024, to join the regional learning program titled “Promoting Sustainable and Nutrition-sensitive Agriculture in the Lancang-Mekong Countries.” Supported by the People’s Government of the People’s Republic of China (P. R. China), the program builds on MI’s ongoing efforts to foster resilient agriculture and food systems in the region.

Ms. Maria Theresa S. Medialdia, Director of MI’s Agricultural Development and Commercialization Department, emphasized the program’s role as a collaborative platform for exchanging ideas and charting a course toward a more sustainable agricultural future. “We stress the goal of not just producing more food, but also improving the nutritional quality of the food that sustains millions in our communities,” stated Ms. Medialdia during the opening session.

The program featured presentations and discussions about deeper linkages between nutrition and agriculture value chains, alongside the understanding and implementation of agroecology for holistic impacts across the region. Participants from Cambodia, P. R. China, Lao PDR, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand showcased their experiences and innovative technologies and practices in sustainable agricultural system transformation.

Focusing on agroecology, Dr. Pham Van Hoi, representing the Center for Agricultural Research and Ecological Studies (CARES) in Vietnam, underscored the vital role of ecosystems in sustaining both economies and health. He emphasized, “Ecosystems sustain both economies and health, and it’s crucial to recognize that economies do not sustain ecosystems.” Dr. Hoi further highlighted the effectiveness of agroecological measurements in shaping future development strategies, stating, “Agroecological measurements effectively work for future development strategies both in terms of adaptation and mitigation.

Prof. Anil Kumar Anal, from the Asian Institute of Technology (AIT) in Thailand, underscored the importance of integrating nutrition components into interventions. “There are different pathways that have been identified through which agriculture can influence nutrition status. However, for this to happen, there has to be deliberate attention to ensuring that there are nutrition components incorporated in the agricultural interventions; without these, nutrition impact can be elusive,” he said.

Exploring P. R. China’s experiences in nutrition-sensitive agriculture, Dr. Yang Yong, from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, P.R. China, stressed the importance of regional cooperation in advancing nutrition-sensitive agriculture. He suggested, “To enhance regional cooperation, we must collectively conduct surveys on nutrition-sensitive agricultural products, share data, and establish regional systems for nutrition and health monitoring. Additionally, we need to develop early warning and indexing platforms while also strengthening collaborative innovation and demonstrating the application of planting, breeding, and deep processing technologies.

To facilitate practical and immersive learning, MI organized structured learning visits to various agricultural facilities in Khon Kaen, including the Khon Kaen University’s Agriculture Faculty, the Land Development Regional Office 5, and a corn farm. Additionally, participants gained insights from the Postharvest and Processing Research and Development Division and the Central Lab in Bangkok, Thailand.

This initiative marks the first activity under the one-year capacity development project, namely “Promoting Sustainable and Nutrition-sensitive Agriculture in the Lancang-Mekong Countries.” Upon completion of the training, participants are expected to implement action plans within their respective countries.

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