Virus crisis an opportune time for innovation in agriculture - GulfToday

Virus crisis an opportune time for innovation in agriculture


Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.

Mariecar Jara-Puyod, Senior Reporter

 A panel of agriculture scientists and farming community advocates, including a local government official, said no one would get hungry if fully supported were the interest of farmers to sustainably provide healthy produce for consumers who ought to be educated on their healthy food requirements.

“Farmers are frontliners too (and I hope we always remember that),” said PAKISAMA executive director Raul Socrates Banzuela, from the webinar “Food (In)Security in the Midst of COVID19.”

Banzuela added that consumers, knowing their health food requirements, and conveying these to farmers would further strengthen food security.

From the Wednesday webinar, Food Agriculture Organisation (FAO-Philippines) National Farming Systems specialist Dr. Jaime Montisur also encouraged the 267 participants in the UAE, Oman, Canada, Austria, US, UK, Indonesia, Australia, Taiwan and the Philippines about vertical farming, saying it is one of the solutions to ward off food insecurity, even through worst scenarios and heightened urbanisation.

“Vertical farming is the best if you have limited space. It is (widely-used) in Japan and South Korea,” the Agronomics and Soil expert replied to one of the forwarded questions.

In his 15-minute presentation, Montesur said the COVID19 crisis is another opportune time for innovation even in agriculture.

The webinar was co-organised by the University of the Philippines-International Training Centre for Authorities and Leaders-Philippines and the United Nations Institute for Training and Research; in partnership with the FAO, the Pambansang Kilusan ng mga Magsasaka (PAKISAMA-Coalition of Farmers Organisations in the Philippines) and the non-profit market farmers’ support group The Veggie Drop-Off.

It was held ahead of the June 7 (Wednesday) “World Food Safety Day 2020” of the World Health Organisation and the FAO.

The Emirates Environmental Group (EEG) had commemorated the special day on May 28 (Thursday), as well, through its “Feeding A Thirsty World Food & Water Security” webinar.

The EEG webinar panelists called for urgent water security strategies on the global and regional levels in order to contain COVID19 and more importantly ensure food security for all.

EEG chairperson Habiba Al Mar’ashi said: “This year’s UN Water Report has found that opportunities are being missed to use water projects to cut greenhouse gas emissions while improving access to clean water. We at EEG, a UN-accredited organisation, would like to emphasise the importance of UN Sustainable Development Goal 17: Partnerships and collaborations to achieve (this) are crucial and necessary to attain sustainable development.”

International Centre Biosaline Agriculture director general Dr. Ismahane Elouefi said: “Immense work needs to be done in the next 10 years to curb the challenges of water stress, with special focus on the agricultural sector that uses 80 per cent of water.”

Prime Minister’s Office-UAE Food Security Office Senior Research analyst Fatema Al Mulla said: “Long term plans, adoption of technologies and advancement in research and development for sustainability are the key priorities of the Ministry of State of Food Security. Global committees need to scale up to disrupt food production and consumption patterns for sustainability.”

From the Wednesday webinar, Pasig City (Metro Manila) Mayor Victor Ma. Regis Sotto stressed that the smooth and safe flow of food production, distribution and fair-priced marketing depends on astute leadership and governance for the benefit of both the farmers and consumers.

Pasig City is host to the Pasig City Megamarket, venue for 5,000 fresh food suppliers/merchandisers and their thousands of clients seven days a week.

Banzuela and The Veggie Drop-Off coordinator Evangeline Lopez-Arriaga said farmers should not be left out of the ecosystem as they are its ptincipal players.

Both cited from their respective domains inter-generational and novel practices by the sector.

One of these are the  community and cooperative food banks where rice, vegetables snd other agricultural crops are stored; proved to be exrremely helpful not only through these anxious COVID19 months but even through other natural and man-made-caused calamities.

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