Ad Spijkers, Former FAO Representative and Independent Advisor – Food Security and Agricultural Development, schrijft vandaag voor de NVVN over regionale initiatieven in Zuid-Oost Azië op de implementatie van SDG2.

 Related to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) with particular relevance to SDG 2 : end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, a regional conference was recently held in Vietnam on Food Security “Let’s get to work, building a food secure future”. This conference was organized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development of Vietnam and the Netherlands Government for inspiring ideas and examples for translating SDG-challenges into opportunities, focusing oncontributions to the implementation of several Sustainable Development Goals. Many organizations from the region and the Netherlands participated.

The overall context is that 805 million people remain undernourished today, and there are two billion people who are micronutrient deficient. Let us also not forget that in the coming decades the world will need 60{bfb8b4827b15e0df3d636cc4328af00f95317b5e6a44a4c67b5ed085bc570bb6} more food, 50{bfb8b4827b15e0df3d636cc4328af00f95317b5e6a44a4c67b5ed085bc570bb6} more energy and 40{bfb8b4827b15e0df3d636cc4328af00f95317b5e6a44a4c67b5ed085bc570bb6} more water. To address the challenge of feeding more people using less land, water and energywhile combating climate change, concerted efforts and investments are needed to support widespread, globe-spanning transitions to sustainable farming systems and land management practices.

Vietnam managed from a food shortage in the ‘70s to become an important rice exporter in the world late ‘80’s. Significantly is the doubling of the Vietnamese gross domestic product in the last one and half decade. The country is on its way to becoming a major player in Southeast Asia, a role boosted by economic resilience, young people, strategic position, political stability and active international cooperation. But is faces many challenges too.

The practical experience and challenges for Vietnam was brought in perspective based on the present and future policies. This in the present context of ASEAN and other Asia countries.

The meeting on strengthen collaboration among people and countries in this dynamic region came on the heels of the World Bank’s 2016 Vietnam Development Report titled “Transforming Vietnamese agriculture: gaining more from less“. This analysis advocates intervention strategies to pursue ‘Green-growth’ in the agriculture sector. Among many recommendations it addresses issues related to over-exploitation, overuse of agrochemicals or environmentally-unfriendly farming practices.

Last year Vietnam faced cold spells and saline intrusion in the Mekong River Delta, Central Highlands, and South Central region. In addition, marine pollution in 4 central provinces and flooding in the final months crippled agricultural production and exports. Despite these setbacks, the agricultural sector achieved a growth rate of 1.36{bfb8b4827b15e0df3d636cc4328af00f95317b5e6a44a4c67b5ed085bc570bb6} and farm export revenue reached a record high of more than 32 billion USD. Vegetables, fruits, fisheries, and livestock all achieved breakthrough growths. The food security increased and a number of produce become strong and competitive exports such as rice, shrimps, coffee, pepper, rubber and cashew.  Development cooperation in grants reduced over the last years and the accent is on trade and investment which has substantially increased.

Agricultural production is the backbone of Vietnam’s economy, and an economic priority country for the Netherlands. Vietnam and the Netherlands signed a Strategic Partnership Arrangement in the field of sustainable agriculture and food security for bilateral cooperation on crop production, horticulture, aquaculture, fisheries and livestock breeding. Transferring agricultural knowledge and technology to tackle food security and food safety for more varied, safer and healthier food supply, produced in a sustainable way. The objective is that the value chain will become more efficient, leading to a reduction of food losses, and increase of productivity and profitability.


Vietnam and Netherlands as initiator of a regional conference to promote the SDG’s.

Regional challenges and opportunities

The region made gains in reducing chronic hunger over the past few decades. A large proportion of the population and their income is heavily reliant on agriculture. Population growth, urbanization and rising incomes are resulting in increasing demand for high-quality nutritious food and putting increasing pressure on scarce natural resources. There is potential to supply the whole population with high-quality food products in a sustainable manner and being an exporter. This will require long-term investments from finance to technology in particular in the post-harvest and processing industry.

To maximize the region’s potential, concerted action is key. All participants were encouraged to work together in order to achieve concrete outcomes and building on regional and local priorities. The underlying ideas is that that partnerships will lead to Food Security Deals or initiatives. These Food Security Deals are concrete, cross-sectorial deals made by different settings of stakeholders which commit themselves to tackle food security issues.

Plenty of examples are listed in the final communique of the chair attached.

SDG2 does not stand independently the conference underlined that this is interconnected with all other SDGs. The overarching theme of the conference was food security with a focus on four themes and for all them actions where identified – see details in the chair’s communique which is attached. The four pillars analyzed were:

Climate smart agriculture

From the discussions it transpired that there is clearly an increasing awareness of the need to address simultaneously the challenges of climate change of food security and of the need to act now and of the need to act together given the breath of all the challenges. We have to aim to tackle three main objectives: sustainably increasing agricultural productivity and incomes to ensure food security; adapting and building resilience to climate change; and reducing and/or removing greenhouse gas emissions, where possible.

Reducing Food Losses

Currently around one third of the food produced is being lost or wasted. Reducing food loss and waste (FLW) can be give several opportunity: it increases income for farmers, companies, and saves money for households; wasting less means helping feed more; alleviates pressure on climate, water, land other resources. Principles and practices developed for the intensification of crop production and expands them to all agricultural sectors along the food chain in particular food losses and waste. A number of actions were identified.

Sustainable Aquaculture

Due to the increasing population and economic growth, by 2030 fish consumption in Asia is estimated to surge by 30 percent. Aquaculture is seen as the only way to sustainably meet the increasing demand and provide an opportunity for smallholder producers to improve their livelihoods and overcome poverty. Inland fisheries and increased fish production is certainly desirable for dietary purposes. But it needs to be recognized that some forms of fish production can compete with crop production.

Food Safety

Food safety is an element of food security. Food trade in the economies of many countries have direct relation with health, economic and political consequences that arise when the food safety system of a country fails. Food safety is a major concern for the public, with high levels of anxiety each time there is a high-profile food safety incident. Increasing urbanization puts pressure on traditional ways of providing food. High use of agricultural inputs such as antibiotics, pesticides and chemical fertilizer, poorly regulated or illegal imports, lack of traceability and cross-contamination are also important factors in assuring safe food but the biggest challenge lies in changing the practices of vast numbers of small producers. Vietnam’s food safety performance to be result-oriented and risk-based. International experience should gradually improve levels of food safety.

Next steps:

 Vietnam is taking the initiative together with the Netherlands based on a national sense to come up with solutions for climate change and growing demand for high-quality food. This with the objective to transform Vietnamese agriculture into a more resilient, productive and sustainable economic sector. The blend of water, agriculture and climate change is the main ingredient to deal with. There was at the conference an active engagement of high level government authorities of both countries as well as many national and international experts and representatives of Development Banks.

 Support to Vietnam in the modernization of agriculture is needed to increase efficiency. But increased efficiency may require increased capitalization which – as happened in western countries – could displace many small farmers and reduce agricultural employment opportunities which should be avoided. Support for Vietnamese experts to study Agriculture Coop’s at regional level is needed and several Development Partners could work on this together for improvements in Asia.

Last but not least there is a discrepancy between the appreciation for the quality of the Vietnamese cuisine and the invisibility of most Vietnamese foods abroad. This needs to be solved over time. Vietnamese food and it particular cuisine will be more known and consumed internationally in the future.

Annex: communique of the Chair of the Conference.

Hanoi, May 2017