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, even these small holdings are fragmented into 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. Small farmers are also more vulnerable to market trends and climate-related hazards, and require access to adequate equipment.
These limitations are clearly an obstacle to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. 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 readily available, precise and efficient, and providing the means to respond to a larger scope of issues that are hampering agricultural production nowadays.
In the above context, the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization (CSAM) of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) co-organized a Side Event on ¡®Empowering Smallholders through Agricultural Mechanization in the Digital Era¡¯ at the 6th Asia-Pacific Forum on Sustainable Development in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and Asian Farmers¡¯ Association for Sustainable Rural Development.
During the side event, distinguished experts representing international organizations (Mr. Santiago Santos Valle, Agricultural Engineer, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), government (Mr. Xu Zhenxing, Deputy Director General, Center of Agricultural Machinery Extension, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs, China), farmer groups (Mst. Shazada Begum, Chairperson, Asian Farmers Association for Sustainable Rural Development, Bangladesh), research institutions (Mr. Yoshiyuki Kawase, Chief of International Relations, Institute of Agricultural Machinery, National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (IAM/NARO), Japan) and the private sector (Mr. Justin Gong, Co-Founder and Vice-President, XAG Co. Ltd, China) elaborated on how the application of new technologies and the automation of agricultural machinery can improve the resilience of smallholder famers and trigger a systemic change. The importance of empowering smallholders through sustainable agricultural mechanization was also reiterated by Mr. Nicholas Rosellini, the United Nations Resident Coordinator in China, who graced the side event.
Overall, the side event took note of the unique challenges that smallholder farmers face and underscored the significant potential for information and communication technology (ICT)-enabled mechanization to benefit smallholders. It also stressed on the role of such mechanization technologies in balancing the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable agricultural development, and making an important contribution towards the global community¡¯s commitment under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to ¡®leave no one behind¡¯. Moreover, the side event reiterated the central role of multi-stakeholder partnerships and regional cooperation in enabling sustainable agricultural mechanization.