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Technology and innovation are key to bolstering food security in Asia, experts say

Food security is better served by the adoption of agricultural technology that can boost production yields and safeguard livelihoods of farmers, according to experts at the Asia-Pacific Rural Development and Food Security Forum.
The forum, organized by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), took place online from 22-24 March, and featured speakers from development agencies, academia, and the private sector.
Roberta Casali, Vice-President for Finance and Risk Management of the ADB, emphasized the need to increase strategic and science-based investments in agriculture, with a focus on innovative technologies that offer nature-positive solutions.
To foster a brighter food systems future, promising areas for investment include digital knowledge and skills to enhance farmers’ access to information and communication services, according to Donal Brown, Associate Vice President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development.
In a session on digital technology for agriculture, Pinduoduo, China’s largest agriculture platform, shared its experience working with farmers to adopt productivity technology and how it encourages youths to get into agriculture through an e-commerce training program.
The e-commerce marketplace operator connects over 850 million consumers with more than 16 million farmers and uses its direct-to-consumer model to broaden market access and reduce unnecessary costs.
As at end-October 2021, more than 126,000 New Farmers born after 1995 have set up online stores on Pinduoduo. Each New Farmer helps to create 50 local jobs directly and indirectly by boosting demand for ancillary services from logistics to packaging. They are also estimated to each inspire another five to 10 youths to go into e-commerce, further spreading the benefits of the digital economy to rural communities.
Food security remains a major concern in Asia and the Pacific, home to 60 percent of the world’s population. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the pre-existing challenges to food security such as climate change, degrading environments, changing demographics and infrastructure deficits.
Participants in the forum also discussed ways to rethink food system transformation while considering effective models of governance and collaboration. Various speakers described the role that digital technologies play in transforming food systems by offering increased profits for farmers along the value chain. They also shared on-the-ground experiences and lessons learned in working with smallholder farmers.
Other speakers include representatives from the UN World Food Programme, Food and Agriculture Organization, International Telecommunication Union, CGIAR, Nanyang Technological University, as well as private-sector companies like Cargill and Alphabet’s Mineral.