People call it in different ways: the new green revolution; renewed farm focus; global community's new commitment to agriculture. But the message is clear: while the agricultural landscape has been experiencing rapid changes, we must all adapt in order to attune ourselves to the call of the times.
Rural poverty, food shortages, food safety, climate change, emerging plant diseases, aging farmers — these are just some of the pressing issues hounding global agriculture. In the Asia Pacific region where land is getting scarce and where technological innovation and globalization trends have placed many small-scale farmers in a more vulnerable state, the call to concrete action has never been more pronounced.
The availability of timely and relevant agricultural information has been known to empower and improve the farmers' quality of life. We at the Food and fertilizer Technology Center (FFTC) for the Asian and Pacific (ASPAC) region are committed to serve the small-scale farmers by giving them information on improved agricultural technology.
FFTC has an unusual role among the world's international agricultural centers. It collects and disseminates research results generated by agricultural centers in the ASPAC region. The aim is to provide farmers with knowledge and information about new technology, so that they can achieve higher yields and incomes.
Large amounts of research data are being generated every year all over the world. However, a great deal of it is not being put to any practical use. The success of agricultural research should be seen in terms of the benefits it brings to farmers and consumers.
The Center also acts as an intermediary between international and national agricultural institutes in the ASPAC region. In this way, the Center makes each country's research available to its neighbors. This gives more scope for collaborative work, and helps avoid duplication of effort. The Center's information services have always had a regional focus, and all its programs involve participants and partners from Asian and Pacific countries.
FFTC was established in 1970 to act as a clearing house for the research carried out in the ASPAC region, and to help bring the results to extension workers and farmers. The creation of the Center was in response to severe periodic shortages of both food and fertilizer in the 1970s. It was apparent at that time that a lack of technical information among farmers was the basis of the problem, compounded by an inadequate fertilizer supply and a shortage of improved seeds. The underlying motive for the creation of the Center was the concern about food shortages in the densely populated Asian countries.
For the past years, FFTC has played an immensely important and productive role in collecting, exchanging, and disseminating information and technology on a very wide range of modern agriculture and agriculture-related topics, covering the full spectrum of small farm needs and activities relevant to the ASPAC region. This integrated technology approach is what makes FFTC a unique international center. While most agricultural research centers are specialized, and study a single crop or a single agro-ecological zone, FFTC offers practical technologies that are matched to the reality of the region's small-scale farmers, whose farm incomes are determined by total farm production.
By far one of FFTC's most significant milestones, and for which it is now widely recognized, is laying the foundation for an established mechanism for technology transfer within the region. Through its various activities like seminars, training courses and workshops, thousands of scientists, administrators, policymakers and extension workers not only had the chance to learn about the latest developments in the field of agriculture, but equally important, they had the opportunity to learn from their more advanced neighbors and to meet experts from other countries.
Through its various activities, FFTC has accumulated a huge body of knowledge and information on agriculture made possible through the works of hundreds of people from member countries and partner institutions. Disseminated through publications, training courses and demonstration projects, and through its website and database, these knowledge and information have given countless resource-poor farmers and extension specialists in the region new opportunities and new solutions to their problems.
The Center now is faced with more daunting challenges, as well as vast opportunities, arising from the promise of globalization contrasting with the disquieting reality of the stubbornly high numbers of hungry and poor people in the region. Through the provision of timely information on practical agricultural technology, we envision not only well-informed farmers who are able to make practical decisions regarding their farm operations, we also envision a better quality of life for farmers in the region. Farmers who are able to raise their incomes, increase their productivity, become more competitive and environmentally conscious and are able to sustain their farming operations.