World Economic Forum exec notes impact of climate change on SE Asia’s potential to produce food | Inquirer Business

World Economic Forum exec notes impact of climate change on SE Asia’s potential to produce food

By: - NewsLab Lead / @MSantosINQ
/ 07:57 PM May 20, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Southeast Asia has enormous potential in food production on the international stage but it is also among the most vulnerable regions when it comes to climate change, a Senior Director of the World Economic Forum (WEF) said Tuesday.


“Southeast Asia plays an extremely important role on the world stage when it comes to global food security. A lot of the growing population will be here so we know there will be increased demand by consumers,” Lisa Dreier, Senior Director of WEF Food Security and Development Initiatives, said in an exclusive interview with

“With their rising incomes, those consumers will also be demanding more variety and more quality of food, so that can be a positive thing in providing strong markets for agricultural produce,” she said.


Dreier noted that Super Typhoon Yolanda (International name Haiyan) caused widespread destruction to the agriculture sector in the Visayas region which could take more than a year to recover.

“Climate change is definitely one of the biggest threats that we are facing to global food security,” Dreier said.

“We know that it may cause significant disruption to weather patterns and our ability to produce food, sometimes with catastrophic consequences as you’ve experienced here in the Philippines where there was an enormous impact at least for one year, possibly more than one year to the agriculture production,” she said.

According to the 2014 first quarter records of the Department of Agriculture (DA), agriculture grew at a much slower pace at 0.67 percent compared to the 3.11 percent recorded in the same time in 2013. The slowdown was attributed to the devastating effects caused by typhoons that hit the country.

Poorest and hungriest

Dreier noted that majority of the poorest and hungriest people in the world are farmers and said that it’s because they are usually far from transportation links that will help them get their products to the market.

“What we are trying to do in mobilizing partnerships for agricultural growth and food security is to increase the opportunities for farmers to earn a better income and have a more sustainable livelihood for their families through agriculture,” Dreier said.


Despite this, the Asian region has very big potential in food production and the government and business leaders should capitalize on the potential.

“We know there is enormous potential to increase production within this region and we already know that Southeast Asia already acts as the rice bowl of the world in a way, some of the best and most delicious products come from this region,” Dreier said.

“We on the WEF side are very interested in supporting the ASEAN leaders and businesses in this region to really capitalize on that potential and maximize the production in this region both to improve the local farmer population and also to export to the world,” she said.

Farming infrastructure

Government and businesses have to both come together in helping the agriculture sector grow by providing infrastructure and services to the farmers.

“There’s a lot of good practices and new business models that can help to achieve that goal, whether its providing information and financing to farmers through their mobile phones or providing better seeds and fertilizers as well as information and expert extension services to help train farmers on how to produce the best crop, those are some very important programs that can help increase productivity,” Dreier said.

“The other aspect that’s quite important for small farmers is having the infrastructure that will help them, not only grow their product where you need energy and irrigation, but also to get them to market by having transportation links and other policies that enable them to connect to market. So we can see that everyone can have a role in helping improve the livelihood of small farmers whether its business providing services or government providing the infrastructure,” she said.

Climate change mitigation

Agriculture will need strong partnerships from government and private businesses in facing the severe effects of climate change in food production.

“The impact will vary in different regions, some places will experience more droughts, some places more rains and more extreme weather events. We can guess what some of those impacts may be and were already starting to see some of those impacts but others will only unfold in time,” Dreier said.

“One of the biggest challenges we’ll face globally is finding solutions to manage this. Unfortunately it seems that we can’t stop climate change but what we can do is develop solutions to have better agricultural practices that can manage some of the weather differences, and also to have stronger partnerships to be ready to recover when we do experience these severe weather events and disruptions,” she said.

Yolanda caused reduced production of coconut, sugarcane, banana, abaca, calamansi, in the Visayas region for 2013, DA records showed.


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