The RSIS Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies' Blog

Holistic Approaches to Asia’s Food Security Challenges: The International Conference on Asian Food Security (ICAFS) 2011

Posted in Food Security by NTSblog on August 23, 2011

Food security has become one of the defining global issues of our time. Severe drought recently hit the Horn of Africa, causing a widespread food crisis that continues to be exacerbated by volatile global food prices. A recent United Nations report highlighted that population growth and water stresses are driving the planet to a food and environmental crunch that can only be resolved through better farming techniques and smarter use of the ecosystem. The debate on the diversion of food crops such as corn towards biofuel production continues to rage. Also, it is estimated that 63 per cent of the world’s 1 billion undernourished people reside in Asia, and the region’s rapid population growth and urbanisation will only contribute to food security challenges in decades to come.

It is against this backdrop that food security experts from around the world converged in Singapore to discuss the challenge of ‘Feeding Asia in the 21st Century’ at the inaugural International Conference on Asian Food Security (ICAFS), which took place from 10 to 12 August 2011.

Jointly organised by the Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore and the Philippines-based South East Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA), ICAFS brought together researchers, government representatives, development partners, investors, large-scale agricultural producers and farmers’ groups for three days of rigorous dialogue.

In a move of progress and solidarity, participants produced a draft ICAFS statement on how to best address Asia’s food security challenges at the conclusion of the Conference. Key recommendations included pursuing public-private partnerships to ensure food availability alongside profitability of food producing industries, addressing the urgent food insecurity plight of Asia’s most vulnerable populations by improving social safety nets and food distribution, taking pragmatic and concrete efforts to link policies in the food and health sectors, and extending existing foundations to create positive symbiotic relationships between food producers and food consumers. Other suggestions included undertaking sustainable food production strategies and recognising and responding to shifts in food distribution and marketing that define the private food sector in Asia.

A further highlight of the Conference was keynote speaker Senior Parliamentary Secretary of the Ministries of Defence and National Development of Singapore, Dr Mohamad Maliki bin Osman’s announcement that Singapore would be taking a more proactive role in ensuring regional food security through a USD 8.2 mil investment over five years by the National Research Foundation (NRF), which will go towards a new research partnership to improve rice cultivation.

The project will involve the National University of Singapore, the Temasek Life Sciences Laboratory and the International Rice Research Institute. It aims to develop better rice farming methods and to explore how to improve yield and disease resistance in the face of rising food demand and the challenges of climate change and natural resource concerns.  This project marks Singapore’s participation in the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRISP), a partnership of about 900 organisations worldwide committed to research and development (R&D) related to rice.

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