Maize will play an important role in the coming future for meeting rising demand for food, feed, nutrition and environment security. However, this nutritious crop needs further promotion for human consumption to fulfil under-nutrition in Asia-Pacific.
Food, feed, nutrition and environment security
The 12th Asian Conference and Expert Consultation on Maize for Food, Feed, Nutrition and Environment Security was organized on 30 October - 01 November 2014, at the Rama Garden Hotel, Bangkok Thailand.
The event was a joint effort of Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Department of Agriculture (DoA) of Thailand which aims to develop a regional strategy on maize production for Asia and to boost gender equality and social inclusiveness. More than 300 participants from 30 countries worldwide were attracted by this international Conference, which represents a major gathering of both public and private sector stakeholders in maize production from across the world.
Maize, a staple food for Asian poor communities
Maize is an increasingly important staple food for many poor communities in Asia. According to FAO and OECD, the utilization of this crop will increase by 20 percent during the next ten years. Maize has diverse uses. Nevertheless, the demand for it as an animal feed has been on the rise to meet rapidly increasing needs of the people in middle income countries whose dietary habits have shifted, preferring higher protein foods such as meat, eggs, milk and other livestock or fish products.
The Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, Mr. Hiroyuki Konuma added that “Maize is a nutritionally superior cereal and that there is a critical need to promote it as a main food source in Asia to improve nutrition, especially for children. So, more awareness and motivational programmes are needed to convince people to eat more maize in addition to our efforts in technological advancement with the ultimate goal to reduce pressure on rice production and consumption.”
Gender transformative approaches
"The persistence of gender disparities in resources, markets and technology, even after decades of research and interventions, calls for a “gender transformative approach,” said Paula Kantor, WorldFish senior gender scientist and a keynote speaker at the12th Asian Maize Conference. “
Gender transformative approaches address the underlying causes of gender inequality to facilitate the sustained achievement of positive agricultural development outcomes. These approaches also mean fostering community-led changes in unequal gender relations to promote shared power, control of resources and decision-making, topics that were under discussion at the conference from October 30 to November 1 in Bangkok.
Maize consumption – A way to combat under-nutrition
Asia-Pacific is making good progress in reducing hunger and some sub-regions are on track to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on reducing hunger by half. Still, some 12 percent –one in nine people, many of them subsistence farmers and some of the most vulnerable groups– will remain chronically undernourished post-2015. Greater human consumption of maize is seen as one way to combat the state of under-nutrition.
“Maize is a major food, feed and industrial crop of Pakistan. In addition, it is a major food security crop in several developing countries including Pakistan. Although we are getting high potential yield from maize in our country, the demand for maize is expected to double by 2050, which implies further need to increase productivity significantly,” said Mian Muhammad Shafique - Director, Maize and Millets Research Institute Sahiwal, Pakistan.
“However, maize productivity in Pakistan is severely constrained by an array of factors including limited access to improved seeds, new technologies and other critical production-related inputs, lack of knowledge transfer, market information and trainings for the resource-poor farmers, abiotic and biotic stresses, the magnitude and dynamics of which are rapidly increasing under climate change scenario” added Mr. Muhammad Naveed Arshad – YPARDian / Research Officer, Agro Climatology Lab University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-Pakistan.
Maize’s future expansion
“It is time to emphasize on working locally but thinking globally for doubling maize productivity by 2050. Specifically cultivation does not mean only growing crops but growing nations” said Ms. Shahla Salahudin – Country Representative, YPARD Pakistan.
Maize’s importance in Asia’s cropping systems has grown rapidly in recent years, with several countries registering impressive growth in production and productivity rates. There is a scope for further expansion of maize area in the region, as well as tremendous opportunities for innovations in crop improvement, management and diversification.
International and national institutions engaged in maize research and development are also emphasizing foresight, technology targeting, partnerships involving all stakeholders and capacity development to effectively out-scale innovations for greater impact. Innovations include single cross maize hybrids, quality protein maize (QPM), genetically modified (GM) maize, conservation agriculture (CA), small farm mechanization, transplanted, winter and spring maize area development, baby and sweet corn, as well as biofuel production.