Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences | JIRCAS

Opening Remarks

JIRCAS International Symposium Proceedings
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It is my pleasure to take this opportunity to deliver my Opening Remarks on behalf of the
University of Tokyo which is supporting this symposium. First of all, let me express my
warmest welcome to the distinguished participants, especially to the excellent speakers who
came from abroad.
For our school, the Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, where research
activities on food and agriculture are carried out with an international perspective, it is quite an
honor that this auditorium, the Yayoi Auditorium, was selected as the venue of this event.
Likewise, as an agricultural economist, I am personally very pleased to make the welcome
speech for this symposium where the role of social sciences will be discussed.
I am confident that that year 2009 is indeed an unforgettable year as a historic turning point
for human society. Firstly, we are now in the midst of a worldwide recession, which was
triggered by the crash of the Lehman Brothers and is often described as the worst one so far
since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Secondly, the recent soaring prices of grains and
oilseed have been seriously threatening food security, in particular that in developing countries.
As you may know, the current number of undernourished population exceeds one billion
according to the estimation by FAO. And thirdly, the COP15 UN Climate Change Conference in
Copenhagen will appeal to the world on the crucial importance of the mitigation of, and
adaptation to global climate change as the most urgent challenge for mankind. In the sense that
we are now standing at the very threshold of change in terms of three vital issues: food,
economy and environment, one can say that the new century, or even the new millennium, has
just started in the year 2009.
In view of this drastically changing world, it is quite useful and timely to have this
opportunity to discuss effective ways of research and development for agriculture. No doubt,
enhancing the supply capacity of food production is one of the most pressing needs in the
developing world. In this context, the role of aid by developed countries will attract more
attention than before. It is needless to say that the transfer of food itself, as an emergency aid,
may have played an indispensable role during that period such as in the year 2008 when the
food prices soared up. Yet, food aid alone does not lead to a sustainable solution for the problem
of food security. Furthermore, food aids have not necessarily been carried out with a purely altruistic intention. As most of you might know, a positive correlation was observed in the past
between the amounts of food aid and the level of the global stocks of grains.
What is needed for the sustainable improvement of food security in the developing world is
the type of development aid whose aim is to strengthen the supply capacity of food stocks.
Different from a mere transfer of food itself, the enhancement of food supply capacity is
normally accompanied by income creation in agricultural and related industries. The food
security problem in the developing world is nothing but the problem of shortages and uneven
distribution of purchasing power. In this sense, the role of development aid which effects into
income creation should be strongly stressed.
Let me add one thing more. That is to say, an improvement of food security conditions in
the developing world is closely related to the food security problem in developed countries. In
some developed countries like Japan, where the domestic food production capacity is regarded
as insufficient, the problem of food security as a part of national security attracts the people’s
strong concern. This sort of concern about national food security will be shared among countries
where the domestic food production capacity is stagnant or declining due to the high rate of
economic growth. I would like to stress that the improved food security condition in the
developing world will contribute in alleviating or even eradicating the causes of local conflicts
which in turn will contribute in making human society as a whole much more stable. In this
sense, international cooperation towards improvement of food security in the developing world
will reduce the burden of developed countries in ensuring their own food security. International
cooperation for agricultural development meets the needs of people in the developed world who
are hoping to see a more peaceful human society. We know that sometimes the serious problem
of food shortages existed behind or caused some tragic scenes of violence in history.
The outcomes of research and development cannot be easily transferred into the rural areas
of the developing world. It is a well-known fact that the transfer of technology without careful
attention to the actual factor endowment which gives comparable advantage to a local area of
concern tends to be unsuccessful. Here, coolheaded analysis and proper orientation based on
empirical studies by social sciences are highly needed. Likewise, as a researcher who has been
deeply engaged in local irrigation systems for a long time, I would like to add one more
argument. That is the proper understanding of bequeathed wisdom, especially the proper
understanding of the managerial wisdom regarding local commons. Essentially, agriculture is a
human activity which utilizes reproducible natural resources in a local area. Therefore, through
its long history, rural society must have accumulated large amounts of wisdom regarding the sustainable use of local resources. In this sense, a sensible agricultural development can be said
to be a well-balanced fusion of traditional wisdom and newly introduced technology.
It is widely known that Garret Hardin stressed the mechanism of the tragedy in human
society, using the metaphor of the shared commons which everybody used for grazing.
According to his argument, human society, as it is, will collapse as a result of the unmanaged
commons. Of course, some actual commons in rural areas were properly managed and were
sustained for a long time. In view of the great challenge against global warming, what is badly
needed now is to alter the earth as an unmanaged commons into the wisely managed commons.
In this context, there must be a lot to learn from inherited wisdom in rural society. The role of
social sciences in agricultural development, in my view, lies not only in the proper orientation of
development but also in the discovery of the historical wisdom of human beings and its
preservation towards our common future.
I hereby conclude my Opening Remarks here, while expecting fruitful discussion this
afternoon and tomorrow as well.

Date of issued2009-11-04
CreatorShin-ichi Shogenji
PublisherJapan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences
Dates2009-11-04
Issue2009
spage9
epage11
RightsJapan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences
Languageeng