The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Thailand on 13 January 2021 announced a $2 million technical assistance grant to help promote the adoption of climate-smart agriculture in highlands of northern Thailand.
The Technical Assistance, funded by the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction, will help local governments demonstrate to highland farmers climate-resilient practices and technologies for improving agricultural productivity, value addition and food traceability, and tap into local knowledge to enhance food security in a changing climate.
“Providing opportunities to raise incomes in the countryside will help reduce poverty and income inequality, and boost resilience of highland communities and their ecosystems,” said ADB Principal Climate Change Specialist for Southeast Asia Srinivasan Ancha. “The grant will improve local governments’ technical and institutional capacities and help them integrate climate change adaptation in agricultural planning. It will also help boost rural employment and support Thailand’s economic recovery amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.”
The virtual ceremony on 13 January 2021 was attended by Thailand’s Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Chalermchai Srion, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives Thongplew Kongjun, ADB Thailand Country Director Hideaki Iwasaki, and President of Asian Institute of Technology Eden Woon representing the Consultant consisting of AIT, Nippon Koei Co. Ltd. of Japan and Team Consulting Engineering and Management Public Company Limited (TEAM), Thailand assisting the implementation of the Technical Assistance. The ceremony was also attended by officials from different ministries, including finance, commerce, and natural resources and environment. Officials from the Embassy of Japan and the Japan International Cooperation Agency also participated.
“The Consultant team comprises 16 experts with extensive experience in areas required in the technical assistance, such as climate change adaptation, water management, soil management, digital technologies, climate-smart agriculture, food safety and quality, value additions, traceability of agricultural products etc. The team is therefore fully equipped to support the capacity building of local governments and communities, especially in Nan and other highland provinces in Thailand,” President Woon said.
“On behalf of the partners and the Consultant team, I take this opportunity to express our sincere gratitude to MoAC and ADB for entrusting us with this important assignment. I also wish to acknowledge and appreciate the financial support provided by Japan through the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction,” President Woon added.
Poverty in Thailand is concentrated in the north, with average household incomes there less than half of that in the Greater Bangkok area. Rural households are aging rapidly as younger generations continue to migrate to urban areas. The area has seen frequent droughts and floods, as well as rising temperatures. Private sector investments in highland agriculture have been limited, largely because of the high cost of logistics and limited capacity of farmers to grow safe, high-quality agri-food products. Unsustainable farming practices and natural resource degradation, exacerbated by climate change, led to low productivity and unstable incomes.
The technical assistance aims to draw a roadmap for local governments to reverse the above trends and attract private sector investments in agriculture, agribusiness, and horticulture value chains, to increase farm productivity and rural incomes while reducing greenhouse gas emissions and vulnerability to climate change. Lessons learned from this technical assistance may be applied to similar agricultural systems of Thailand’s neighbors, thus offering opportunities for cross-country knowledge sharing through the Greater Mekong Subregion program.
The grant will help the government promote climate-friendly agribusiness, identify opportunities for value-added agri-foods, and improve market connectivity, which can promote private sector investments and support post-pandemic economic recovery. The assistance can help upgrade the labor skills of returning migrants from urban areas, which is key to addressing income disparities that are worsened by supply chain disruptions amid the pandemic.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty. Established in 1966, it is owned by 68 members—49 from the region. ADB has so far committed $8.55 billion for 100 loans, 3 grants, and 179 technical assistance projects for Thailand.
According to Professor Mukand S. Babel of AIT’s Water Engineering and Management program, the Technical Assistance: Climate Change Adaptation in Agriculture for Enhanced Recovery and Sustainability of Highlands will contribute to nine Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Thailand.
It will target SDG1-No Poverty; SDG2-Zero Hunger; SDG5-Gender Equality; SDG6-Clean Water and Sanitation; SDG9-Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG10-Reduced Inequalities; SDG12-Responsible Consumption and Production; SDG13-Climate Action; and SDG15-Life on Land. “The Technical Assistance will also contribute to Thailand’s nationally determined contributions (NDC) under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change,” Prof. Babel added.