Investment in food, agriculture, and forestry is critical to provide employment, livelihoods and reduce poverty for rural and forest populations across ASEAN. An economically and environmentally robust and efficient agrobusiness value chain is also essential to ensure food and nutrition security for the region’s large and increasingly urban population.
ASEAN’s population is already above 650 million and is expected to rise to 800 million by the mid-2050s. A quarter of the population will be between 15 and 34 years of age in the 2050s.
Over 50 per cent of the population already lives in urban areas. The trend towards urbanization will continue with the region’s burgeoning manufacturing and service sector.
When done well, and if integrated with the local economy and adjusted to local needs, increased investment in agriculture, fisheries and forestry can help generate employment, promote economic development, and create environmental and social benefits. Ensuring these types of outcomes requires a series of actions from the different stakeholder groups involved, which will need to be adapted to local contexts and needs. Each stakeholder faces a unique yet interlocking set of risks and challenges.
However, investment – especially by the private sector – also comes with a set of risks that need to be addressed in order to ensure optimal outcomes. When done badly, private sector investment runs the risk of perpetuating or creating even deeper levels of inequality within and between communities and countries, with especially damaging implications for smallholder farmers and indigenous peoples’ livelihoods. It could also lead to the exploitation and depletion of precious natural resources, making it even harder to develop food systems that are sustainable over time, and complicating other production systems.
Investment in food, agriculture, and forestry affects ASEAN member states in the following key areas, among others: