The Center in the new millennium
At the turn of the new century, Asian agriculture faced another crisis. Having sustained millions of people for thousands of years, it was and is still being threatened by long-term environmental damage from modern intensive agriculture. All over the region, agricultural resources such as soil and water deteriorated, in terms of both quantity and quality. Species diversity was also lost. This became an urgent problem for plant and livestock breeders. It threatened complex network of related species which make up our living planet.
In 2000, the Center celebrated its 30th anniversary, and held an international seminar on the management of agricultural resources. Biotechnology in the service of smallholders was also the focus of a training course on that year on the breeding of cattle and water buffalo. There was also a seminar on food safety and quarantine.
The following year, in 2001, the Center produced a new type of publication. These are leaflets which presented concise descriptions of new agricultural technologies. Called “Practical Technology Leaflets,” they provided new technologies for small farms in Asia. However, they were not distributed directly to farmers, but to a network of cooperators working in the region’s national extension systems. Another type of leaflet produced by the Center on this year is the Research Highlights. These are distributed to the national research centers, and presented the status of recent agricultural research in the Asian and Pacific Region. Another new publication of 2001 was the first issue of “Major Agricultural Statistics in the Asian and Pacific Region,” a periodical which gave an overview of Asian agriculture showing agricultural statistics and economic indicators from different Asian and Pacific countries.
A sample souvenir program of the 15 th Meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee of FFTC coinciding with the International Seminar on Issues on the Management of Agricultural Resources held on September 6-8 at the National Taiwan University.
In 2001, FFTC started to produce the “Practical Technology Leaflets,” a new type of publication which presented concise descriptions of new agricultural technologies which were distributed to a network of cooperators working in the region’s national extension systems.
Market surplus of food products
The year 2002 has been a difficult one for Asian farmers. Improved production techniques have created a market surplus of food products in many Asian countries. At the same time, the global free trade system has opened domestic markets to imported foods. Since most of the imported products are produced cheaply on large farms overseas, they cost less than local products. The result is a glut of agri products in the market sold at low prices. During this year, the Center’s information programs focused on helping the Asian farmers survive this difficult situation. A workshop on improved agricultural marketing taught the participants what consumers want, and adapt their farming to match these preferences. It was also the year when the 16th TAC Meeting was held and the TAC members recommended that the Center expand and improved its networking capabilities, so that coordinators in each country can help FFTC disseminate its information at local level, including translation into local languages.
In 2003, the Center focused its programs on invasive pests and diseases in crops and livestock , soil testing and plant analysis, water use efficiency in agriculture, postharvest technology of horticultural crops, and a special project on banana co-sponsored the International Network for the Improvement of Banana and Plantain, Banana Asian and Pacific Network (INIBAP/BAPNET). This project helped banana producing countries in the region set up disease-free nurseries for improved varieties of high-yielding, disease resistant banana and plantain. Cooperating countries were also helped to set up a repository of healthy foundation stock.
Through the years, the Center’s Technical Advisory Committee serves to provide advices to the FFTC management. The Committee meets once every two years to identify agricultural information needs, evaluate the Center’s programs and activities and make recommendations to further improve future work programs. The TAC is made up of distinguished agricultural scientists and officers of the region.
The 17th TAC Meeting was held in 2004 and one of its important features was the conduct of the Information Technology Forum with the theme “Application of Information Technology in Agriculture.” The IT forum was a productive and enriching sharing of knowledge and unique country cases and experiences on the use of IT in agriculture by five resource speakers from Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Taiwan. Other activities focused on addressing the impact of the global economy and trade liberalization on small-scale farmers, sustainability of natural resources through ecologically sound agricultural practices, food security and food concerns, changing markets, etc. A new Director, Mr. Sing-Hwa Hu, a fisheries expert, was also appointed this year.
Innovative technologies for soil and water conservation, development of farm mechanization systems, whitefly management and their control, and effective methods of disseminating new technology considering the viewpoint of farmers were just some of the seminars and workshops which FFTC focused on in 2005. It was also this year when FFTC embarked on a seminar on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) in view of the common goal among countries in the region to promote the adoption of innovative technologies and production schemes resulting in safe and healthy food while at the same time helping preserve the ecology of the farms.
In 2006, FFTC started to develop another project called the Development of the Asian and Pacific Alien Species Database (APASD) to facilitate the accumulation, sharing, monitoring of recent information among countries in order to prevent the spread of biological invasive alien species. The international workshop served as a venue to update the APASD system and make it more functional and user friendly. Other activities focused on artificial reproductive biotechnologies for buffaloes, agricultural cooperatives in Asia and modern corn cultivation technology transfer in the Philippines. This was also this year when the 18th TAC Meeting was held and suggestions were made to operationalize the proposed “FFTC Strategic Action Plan for 2007-2011.”
In many field trips, workshop participants are exposed to various types of greenhouses--from the most high-tech to low-cost and practical ones.
FFTC conducts regular visits to several high-tech farms to keep its staff abreast with agricultural technologies.
Former FFTC Deputy Director Dr. Takashi Nagai visits one of the greenhouses planted to cherry tomatoes in Taoyuan.
The following year, in 2007, activities focused on the attainment of the said strategic plan namely: increased income and improved livelihood of small-scale farmers; improved food safety; enhancement of environmentally friendly technologies and sustainable use of natural resources. There were workshops and seminars on management of agrichemical residues in foods, new solutions to soil pollution and distribution, development and adoption of traceability system for fish and fish products in Asia, appropriate use of biofertilizers, etc.
In 2008, the Center embarked on programs and activities that addressed current concerns at that time such as sustainability of natural resources and the environment through ecologically sound agricultural practices, enhancement of rural entrepreneurship, exploring alternative sources of energy, and meeting changing market and consumer preferences through food quality and safety standards amid recent trends in economic development and globalization. It was also the year when FFTC published the books on “Improved Dairy and Meat Goat Production for Small-scale Farmers in Asia” and “Food Traceability Around the World.” By April, 2008, Dr. Jen-Chyuan Lee, a fisheries expert, became the 10th Director of the Center.
The following year, 2009, the Center addressed factors affecting global agriculture like high energy process and the need for alternative sources of energy. It targeted activities that explored themes on sustainable management and utilization of forage resources, development and adoption of green technologies, pesticide and persistent organic pollutants, agricultural and food policy reforms, etc.
The Center marked its 40th anniversary with a symposium with the theme “Perspectives on Agriculture in the Asian and Pacific Region. Attended by about 100 participants composed of speakers, guests, the TAC members, and observers from all over the region, the symposium provided an opportunity for the sharing and exchange of current perspectives and challenges that all countries must face and respond to in order to achieve competitive and sustainable agriculture.
FFTC successfully marked its 40 years of existence as a regional information center with an international symposium on ”Perspectives on Agriculture in the Asian and Pacific Region.” Attended by about 100 participants composed of speakers, guests, TAC members, Executive Board members, etc., the said symposium provided an opportunity for the sharing and exchange of current perspectives and challenges that all countries must face and respond in order to achieve a competitive and sustainable agriculture.