The third annual meeting of the Mekong Extension Learning Alliance in Cambodia discussed the role of RAS in nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food security with some very concrete aspects like the impact of misusing pesticides.
The 3rd Annual Meeting of the Mekong Extension Learning Alliance (MELA) was held from 30 October to 1st November, 2017, at Angkor Paradise Hotel in Siem Reap, Kingdom of Cambodia. It gathered participants from every country in the Mekong region.
MELA brings together agricultural extension and rural advisory service providers from five countries in South East Asia linked by the Mekong River. The Mekong River originates in the Yunnan province of China and passes through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Agricultural extension and rural advisory services in these countries of the Mekong Region have many features in common. This network was established in 2015 following discussions at the meeting held in Hanoi in 2013 on ‘Reaching the Millions’. The main objectives of the MELA meeting were to share information, knowledge, experience, and best practices in advisory services among Mekong Region countries and institutions involved in agricultural and rural development; and to provide a space for reflection, hands-on peer support and learning.
Participants included official government, regional and international organisation representatives, research institutions, researchers, universities, public and private sector actors. These participants shared their experiences in agricultural extension policies, research and best practices. Key issues that emerged for the region included the importance of addressing the impacts of the misuse of pesticides on health and the environment. Participants also discussed the roles of extension and advisory services in nutrition-sensitive agriculture, in ensuring food safety, fostering access to markets and exploring how services can be accessed by all categories of the farmer population, including the poor.
Thailand’s promising experiences of promoting ‘young smart farmers’ were shared; these young farmers have often left other professions to become farmers and make use of relevant information and services to enhance their agriculture-based livelihoods, address challenges and identify solutions using ICTs and other sources of information. An innovative mobile App for young farmers in Myanmar was discussed: the Green Way App (see the Greenovator website: www.mmgreenovator.com ). This App was designed to facilitate farmer access to reliable information and data in a context of limited farmer access to extension services.
At the same time, several participants noted that extension and advisory services in some countries remain underfunded and that extension service staff should have better logistical support and more opportunities to develop their knowledge and technical skills. Some presentations highlighted opportunities that exist to strengthen the role of farmers and their organisations in a farmer-centred approach to extension and advisory services.
On the last day of the meeting, the MELA Coordination Committee discussed its plans and activities, and the location and content of the 2018 meeting (Thailand). Mr. Karim Hussein, Executive Secretary of GFRAS, provided an update on GFRAS orientations and activities, its regional networks, and how these networks are linked with MELA in the Global Forum. Mr. Hussein underlined GFRAS commitment to the development and strengthening of MELA.
As part of the three-day meeting, a field visit was organized to exchange with melon farmers, a fresh vegetable producer group, chicken producers, a rice seed agriculture cooperative, and producer organisations engaged in agribusiness.
This event was organised by HEKS/EPER, the General Directorate of Agriculture, Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, the Cambodia MELA Coordinating Committee, with support from GFRAS and the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.
(story by Sivouthan Norng, HEKS-EPER with Karim Hussein, GFRAS Executive Secretary)
Read the full report of the meeting.