Bangkok: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Government of Thailand today announced a $2 million technical assistance grant to help promote the adoption of climate-smart agriculture in the 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, while tapping 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 the 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 was attended by Thailand’s Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Chalermchai Srion, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives Thongplew Kongjun, ADB Country Director for Thailand Hideaki Iwasaki, and Asian Institute of Technology President Eden Woon. 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.
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, have 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 in order 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 has so far committed $8.55 billion for 100 loans, 3 grants, and 179 technical assistance projects for Thailand.
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.