27-29 March 2019, United Nations Conference Centre, Bangkok, Thailand

APFSD side event on ‘Empowering Smallholders through Agricultural Mechanization in the Digital Era’

28 March 2019 (12.15-13.30)
Public Foyer (UNCC)

Concept Note and Programme 

Smallholders are a fundamental actor in the agriculture sector of the Asia-Pacific region. About 90 per cent of the world’s small farms are in this region while the average size of land holdings in Asia is only about 1 ha. In many countries, these small holdings are also fragmented in smaller plots in different locations, with limited access to relatively large farm machines. Furthermore, most smallholders usually do not have investment capacity to adopt mechanization technologies, equipment and practices. Renting equipment for hire stands as one of the best choices to face the increasing shortage of labor and ensure adequate crop yields.

As income from growing staple crops is very limited, smallholder farmers are diversifying into labor intensive, but more profitable activities like production of fruits and vegetables, fish and livestock: which are perishable produce that makes the farmers more vulnerable to market trends, climate related hazards and needs for investing in adequate equipment.

These limitations are clearly an obstacle to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, but emerging information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled sustainable agricultural mechanization solutions can play a key role to overcome some of these limitations. New technologies such as self-driving tractors, precision input application, agricultural drones, and mobile applications for hiring machinery have shown the potential to transform the agricultural mechanization sector into an agent for change, making machinery more available, precise and efficient, and providing means to respond to a larger scope of issues that are hampering agricultural production nowadays.

The key questions to be discussed in this side event are:
• How can the application of new technologies and the automation of agricultural machinery improve the resilience of smallholder famers facing climate-induced threats to their livelihoods?
• How can new technologies applied to agriculture trigger a systemic change through which the smallholders are protected from their vulnerabilities and enabled to access and participate fully in the economy?
• What can research institutions do to ensure that technological developments are well aligned with the needs of the rural workforce and the objective of rural revitalization?
• How important are multi-stakeholder partnerships and regional cooperation to enable smallholders to derive optimum benefit for agricultural mechanization in today’s Digital Era?

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