People suffering from extreme poverty in Asia and the Pacific predominantly live in rural areas and are engaged in agricultural activities. In this backdrop, the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the agricultural sector has brought unprecedented challenges. The pandemic threatens to not only stagnate progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals including Goal 1 (No Poverty) and Goal 2 (Zero Hunger), but has the potential to reverse the gains made in recent years, thus jeopardizing the global community’s shared promise to ‘leave no one behind’. Sustainable agricultural mechanization can play a key role in supporting countries in the region respond to the crisis.
A webinar on Impact of COVID-19 on Agriculture in the Asia-Pacific Region and Role of Mechanization was organized on 18 June 2020 by the Centre for Sustainable Agricultural Mechanization of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP-CSAM). The webinar discussed how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the agricultural sector in Asia and the Pacific, and how the region can support recovery and build resilience to future crises through sustainable mechanization.
Opening the webinar, Mr. Kaveh Zahedi, Deputy Executive Secretary of ESCAP, said “In the span of a few months, there is virtually no aspect of human life that has been left untouched by the COVID-19 pandemic. As is so often the case with crisis, the pandemic has hit the poor, the vulnerable, and the marginalized disproportionately hard, depriving people of lives as well as livelihood.” In the context of impact of COVID-19 on agriculture, he remarked “Sustainable agricultural mechanization is among the solutions that can strengthen the resilience of the farming community to crisis.”
During the webinar, experts from Thailand and Sri Lanka presented country-level perspectives on the impact of the pandemic on agriculture including, for instance, difficulties in timely marketing and sale of agricultural produce, and restrictions on transportation and trade. Panelists from the Republic of Korea and China also highlighted the potential of innovation, particularly in the areas of ICT-enabled mechanization and post-harvest mechanization, in enabling recovery from the crisis and building long-term resilience of farmers in the region.
The webinar, which was broadcast live on YouTube to over 1,000 viewers, concluded by underscoring the need for response measures to be inclusive and to address the needs of smallholder farmers, rural women, elderly workers and youth. It also reiterated the key role of regional exchange and cooperation during this time.
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