LOS BAÑOS, Philippines – On November 20, in the middle of APEC 2015, Mr. Shigetoshi Aoyama, director of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), took time to visit the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters two hours south of Manila to learn about a proposal that seeks to speed up mechanization of rice farming in Asia.
Migration of rural laborers from farm to urban centers has created labor scarcity that is affecting agricultural production in many Asian countries, including Japan. Millions of smallholder farmers across Asia do not have the means to pay the high wages of workers to carry out labor-intensive farming activities. In India alone, labor shortage affects the farm operations of about 600 million smallholders.
Labor scarcity is an increasingly widespread problem that IRRI is trying to solve through mechanization, said Bruce Tolentino, deputy director general for communication and partnerships at IRRI.
Engr. Martin Gummert, senior scientist at IRRI’s Postharvest Unit, presented to Mr. Aoyama a proposal for a mechanization hub in which IRRI will be the center of a network that will facilitate transfer of mechanization technology and build capacity on the use of such technologies in target countries. The network will bring together countries such as Japan, China, and the US; the private sector; donor and funding agencies; and major rice-producing countries.
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