Senior agriculture and environment officials from the six Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) countries met in Xiengkhouang, Laos on April 2 to discuss environmentally sustainable agriculture and natural resource management in the region, according to the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

The bank said in a press release that more than 130 participants attended the meeting, including officials from energy, transport, and tourism ministries, as well as representatives from ADB and development partners, national development organizations, and other stakeholders.

Delegates discussed opportunities for increased collaboration between the Working Group on Agriculture and Working Group on Environment, co-hosts of the event and two of nine working groups under the ADB-supported GMS Economic Cooperation Programme. Both working groups must work together to tackle the growing concern for water scarcity, climate variability and volatility, and consequent rising risks of food and ecosystem service supply disruptions.

Agriculture remains the backbone of economies in the GMS and directly supports the livelihoods of nearly 200 million people. However, agriculture gains have come at the expense of the environment, causing forest and biodiversity loss, water pollution and shortages, soil degradation, and greenhouse gas emissions.

The two working groups are scheduled to hold their annual meetings on April 3, followed by a joint field trip the next day to visit environmentally friendly agriculture projects in Xiengkhouang, one of the ‘green’ provinces in Laos.

In late 2012, both working groups began implementing the second phase of their flagship initiatives: the 14 million USD Core Agricultural Support Programme and the 23.1 million USD Core Environment Programme.

The six Mekong countries are Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam.

Since 1992, the GMS Programme has invested more than 15 billion USD in roads, airports, railways, power facilities, tourism infrastructure, and disease prevention in the region.-VNA