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PRESS RELEASE March 22, 2018

World Bank Lays Out Vision for Cleaner, Safer Agriculture in East Asia

BEIJING, China, March 23, 2018A new World Bank study highlights the incidence, drivers and significant consequences of agricultural pollution in China, Vietnam, and the Philippines yet offers a hopeful outlook given the available technical solutions and the increased political will to address the problem.

The Challenge of Agricultural Pollution: Evidence from China, Vietnam, and the Philippines compiles available data on a broad range of pollutants and impacts, and lays out a vision for a cleaner and safer agriculture. Although agricultural pollutants are many, a wide range of technical solutions can help improve animal and crop waste management and optimize the use of agrochemicals, plastics, veterinary drugs, and feed. Many of the solutions offer opportunities to boost the quality and value of agricultural production.

Agricultural growth has played a significant role in increasing food security and lifting millions of people out of poverty in East Asia over the last three decades. However, this growth has also come at a high price, resulting in unprecedented soil, water and air pollution in the region.  Investing in the prevention and control of pollution is key to ensuring that development gains in agriculture are sustainable.  Good pollution control policies and measures can increase the profitability of agriculture and spur the development of a competitive food industry while enhancing human and environmental health,” said Laura Tuck, Vice President for Sustainable Development, World Bank.  

Acting on pollution has the potential to energize the pursuit of emerging national policy priorities, which

include enhancing food safety, adding value to agricultural products, improving diet quality, attracting a new generation of farmers and food entrepreneurs, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions to fight climate change. In this light, addressing agricultural pollution issues can be considered a gateway to achieving countries’ broader sustainable development goals.

Agricultural growth and intensification have allowed East Asia to support some of the world’s fastest growing and urbanizing societies, but in parts of the region, the agricultural sector is becoming a victim of its own success as its environmental footprint deepens. In intensively farmed areas, agriculture has become a major if not leading contributor to soil, air, and water pollution. Excessive levels of drugs or chemicals in food have also affected domestic food safety and international market access. Yet farm pollution is highly diffuse by nature and has remained under-scrutinized even as it has accumulated.

The report outlines how the public sector can elevate this issue and direct adequate resources toward pollution priorities; compel and motivate farmers of various sizes and capacities to produce in better ways; back innovation and learning to stay ahead of the pollution challenge; and structurally shape the sector to grow more sustainably. While pollution control requires upfront investments, many of the solutions offer win-win opportunities to both increase efficiency and reduce impacts.

This report shows that a reorientation of public policy and spending toward pollution control can benefit farmers and consumers alike. The World Bank is committed to helping countries act on this promise,” said Victoria Kwakwa, Vice President for East Asia and Pacific, World Bank.

As part of its mission to end poverty, the World Bank backs efforts to control agricultural pollution in East Asia and around the world. In China, a portfolio of projects exceeding $1 billion is tackling agricultural pollution through multiple approaches including reducing ammonia from fertilizer application in Hebei province, managing the risk and remediating polluted soils in Hunan province, reducing agricultural runoff affecting Qiandao Lake, and reducing crop and livestock pollution in Guangdong province to protect coastal and estuary ecosystems. In Vietnam, World Bank financing will help scale up innovative aquaculture practices which increase shrimp yields while reducing water pollution on about 100,000 hectares over the next 5 years in the Mekong Delta, helping boost farmers’ livelihoods and resilience to climate change. In addition, the country is scaling up the adoption of biogas digesters in livestock operations and promoting the use of more judicious fertilizer and agro-chemicals among rice farmers in the Mekong Delta region. In the Philippines, a World Bank-financed irrigation project has trained farmers in alternate wetting and drying growing methods that save water and energy while increasing rice yields. In addition, a methane reduction project backed by the Carbon Fund aims to reduce emissions from pig farms across the Philippines. 

For more information, please visit: www.worldbank.org/pollution

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