Participants to the CSO ASEAN Forum (Group Photo)

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Farmer and Civil Society Organizations’ Forum on Engaging the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting on Agriculture and Forestry (AMAF) 9 September 2015 AIM-ACCEED, Makati City, Philippines

The 36th Meeting of the ASEAN Ministers on Agriculture and Food (AMAF) presents a good opportunity for farmer and civil society groups to influence the agenda and decisions of ASEAN on matters important to food security and sustainable agricultural development.  Since the passage of its Charter in 2007, ASEAN has assumed an increasing role in influencing the policies and programs of its Member States, especially in the context of the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community this year.

AMAF, in particular, has created regional platforms, such as the ASEAN integrated Framework on Food Security (AIFS) and the ASEAN Multi-Sectoral Framework on Climate Change: Agriculture and Forestry towards Food Security (AFFC) to coordinate the action of its Member States, and to foster greater regional cooperation on food security and on climate change, respectively.

Now on its second phase, the AIFS first emerged in the context of the rice crisis in 2008, when rice prices rose by more than 200% — from USD 368 per metric tons to USD 869 per metric ton [1] — pushing it beyond the reach of many poor families in the region. Today, the AIFS faces the challenge of helping address the food and nutritional requirements of its Member States.  According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, there are 64 million food insecure people in Southeast Asia as of 2013-2014.

Meanwhile, the AFCC was launched to help ASEAN develop common responses to address the worsening impacts of climate change, particularly on agriculture, and food security.  Various studies, including those cited by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) note the actual and potential effects of climate change on food production and on development. Soil salinization, increases in temperature, droughts and flooding due to changing monsoon patterns impact negatively on crop and fisheries production – key sources of peoples’ diet in the region. Women who play a key role in putting food in the table are especially affected by these climate change impacts. The IPCC notes that the effects of climate change on agriculture and coastal areas, including non-market losses such as those related to impacts on ecosystems and health are expected to result to a mean drop of 5.7% in the GDP of Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam in 2100.[2]

However, improving food production and adapting to climate change are just some of the challenges faced by millions of smallholder farmers in the region. The creation of the ASEAN Economic Community put the spotlight on the need for governments to increase investments in improving the competitiveness and economic viability of smallholder farmers as ASEAN strives to become a crucial link in the global supply chain. It also highlighted the need for ASEAN Member States to strengthen land and water rights and governance amidst the influx of private sector investment involving land and water resources.

The ASEAN Charter envisions a “people-oriented ASEAN in which all sectors of society are encouraged to participate in and benefit from the process of integration and community building.” Stakeholder groups, especially women and smallholder farmers’ organizations must claim their space in ASEAN decision making and planning. This is essential in ensuring that their interests and agenda are integrated in ASEAN actions to promote food security, climate change adaptation, land and water rights and sustainable rural livelihoods.

This forum is envisioned to help civil society groups engage AMAF and ASEAN, in general.

Click here for the Design and Program

[1]               Based on prices for Thai rice 25% broken, The FAO Rice Price Update – October 2008.

[2]               IPCC AR5

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