Interview - Korea Program on International Agriculture (KOPIA)
Korea imported 900,000 tons of rice every year in the 1970s and became self-sufficient in five years. What made this happen?
First, it was thanks to technology development. Korean scientists concentrated their efforts on developing new varieties of rice and succeeded in making their own high-yielding varieties.
Second, rapid technology dissemination. Over 7,000 extension agents across the country had been dedicated to achieving the national goal of rice self-sufficiency. As a result, the new varieties could grow on 70 percent of the total rice paddy area in five years.
Third, the government's active support. Korean government quickly assisted in constructing fertilizer factories, consolidating arable lands, and securing irrigation water at the national level.
This integrated approach combining technology development, dissemination and government support has made the rice self-sufficiency possible.
What should be the first priority for Africa to feed itself and develop agriculture?
There are many factors in agricultural development, but technology development is the key. Technology accumulation requires a long time and a lot of investment, but this should be done.
To accumulate technology, investment in research and development needs to be strengthened. Also, public education needs to be strengthened. According to analysis, one of the main drivers of Korea’s economic miracle was the people’s passion and investment in education.
What kinds of approaches can be taken to develop African agriculture?
Looking ahead, we can see the answer.
By 2050, the world’s population will reach nine billion. Africa’s will increase from 1.3 billion to two billion. But the outlook for food security is still uncertain.
The urban population of Africa will gradually increase, and by 2050, 60% of the population will live in cities. In particular, the inflow of young people into urban areas will be accelerated. It will be difficult to find young people to work in rural areas in the future.
First, it is because farmers find it difficult to earn profits from farming. Doing a business or getting a factory job in the city looks better for making money. In this regard, the government’s roles are critical to boosting farmers' incomes. The government needs to subsidize farmers to reduce production costs and increase profits.
Second, farming is hard and low productive. We need to make sure that farmers can work more easily and conveniently. Therefore, agricultural mechanization is essential. If it is not promoted, people, especially young people, will not want to farm any more.
What kind of technical cooperation with Korea would be possible?
Korea's agricultural technology is highly developed. There are many areas where technical cooperation is possible, but the following areas are particularly strong in Korea:
Improvement of crop varieties, especially of rice, vegetables and fruits; cultivation techniques; production technology for cows, pigs and poultry; soil study; pest management; agricultural mechanization; biotechnology; and agricultural application of ICT.