Agriculture sector needs ‘blue revolution’ – Indonesian expert

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An economist and former agriculture minister who played a key role in advancing agricultural and rural development in Indonesia said there is need for the farming sector in Southeast Asia to promote a “blue revolution” that highlights the role of farmers as change agents, in order to promote a more sustainable food production pattern in the region.

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In his lecture entitled “Dare to Turn Around: An invitation to turn back to farmers as change agents to achieve agricultural success,” Dr. Sjarifudin Baharsjah stressed the need for a new agricultural policy that takes into account availability of natural resources and best agricultural practices developed that forms the basis for a blue revolution.

The former Indonesian agriculture minister was conferred the 2013 Dioscoro Umali Achievement Award in Agricultural Development, popularly known as the Umali Award in January in rites held at the New World Hotel in Makati City. He delivered his lecture during the event.

Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) Director Dr. Gil Saguiguit Jr. led the conferment ceremonies for Dr. Baharsjah.

Baharsjah advocates the shift from the Green Revolution model that pervades the agriculture sector in his country to the so-called blue economy model, which is more suitable for the uplands and other more marginal land type areas.

The economist explained that the blue economy as espoused by the distinguished scholar of agricultural development, Gunter Pauli, recognizes the key role of farmers as change agents and promotes multiple cropping systems, processing and other value -adding products and ecology-friendly agricultural practices such as zero-waste management.

Among Baharsjah’s recommendations are the expansion of food production areas in the uplands and swamplands, adoption of the principles of blue economy, re-orientation of agricultural research focusing on uplands and swampland areas, a re-orientation of agricultural extension, re-orientation of government approach to agricultural development, a reversal of the roles of government and farmers and allocating development budget to support upland- and swampland-based agriculture.

From 1997 to 2001, the Indonesian official served as Independent Chairman of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations Council. In 2001, he served as a member of the Board of Trustees of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los Baños, Laguna and the International Food Policy Research Institute in Washington.

Baharsjah, 80, is recognized for his efforts to promote food security in Indonesia through policies and measures, particularly the agribusiness approach, intended to effectively increase productivity of rice farms and uplift the welfare of Indonesian farmers.

He is the first Indonesian and only the fourth to receive the Umali Award, which recognizes lifetime achievements of exemplary individuals who have advanced agricultural development in Southeast Asia.

The Umali Award, which promotes agriculture research and development in the region, is a collaboration among Searca, the National Academy of Science and Technology Philippines and the Dr. Dioscoro Umali Foundation Inc.

Umali was a renowned Filipino agriculture scientist, educator, and institution builder who advanced agricultural research and development in Southeast Asia. He was a National Scientist and the founding Director of Searca.

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