This is the old United Nations University website. Visit the new site at

International Symposium on
Alternative Approaches to Enhancing Small-Scale Livelihoods
and Natural Resources Management in Marginal Areas
-Experience in Monsoon Asia-

29-30 October, 2003

Co-organised by:
United Nations University
Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University
Japan International Research Center for Agricultural Sciences


Monsoon Asia has benefited from so-called modern technologies, such as high-yielding crops, chemicals and irrigation, which have brought about many miracles in agriculture and rural development. Despite this, more than two-thirds of the world's poor live in the region, and a significant portion of them still relies on small-scale livelihoods and fragile natural resources, especially in marginal areas. Marginal areas are characterized by geographical diversity such as mountainous, semi-arid and rain fed areas, forest margins, and wetland areas, which extend from the Himalayas and Southeast Asian inland areas to coastal areas and the Korean and Japanese mountain ranges.

Marginal areas share the common characteristics of inadequate soil fertility and water, low agricultural potential, and difficult access to commercial inputs, yet have very complex and diverse natural and socio-economic conditions. And, these areas have scarcely benefited from the modern technologies and most people are still suffering from poverty and environmental degradation.

Recognizing the limitations of the modern technologies for marginal areas, various alternative approaches have been proposed to overcome these limitations and to explore wider options of agricultural development. These include farming systems research and extension and participatory research and development, in which, in most cases, farmers' site-specific knowledge and site-appropriate technologies play a significant role. Some of these approaches have placed emphasis on institutional reforms and better governance for enhancing the social capital of the poor and their roles in policy making, such as community organizing and development. Still others focus on policy options, including access to markets and public services.

In this region, various efforts for the sustainable development of marginal areas are expanding to meet the increasing pressure for poverty reduction, food security, and environment protection. These include projects, programs and policies, and abundant field experiences on alternative approaches have been accumulated, and there is an urgent need to bring together these various experiences to offer better approaches.


The objective of this Symposium is to review and exchange lessons from field experiences using alternative approaches for enhancing small-scale livelihoods and natural resource management in marginal areas in monsoon Asia.

Symposium Themes
The Symposium will focus on the following themes and issues for marginal areas of monsoon Asia

  • Theme 1: Contributions of 'modern technologies' How have 'modern technologies' including technological innovation and dissemination affected the agricultural development process and natural resources? How have 'modern technologies' been influenced by alternative approaches?
  • Theme 2: Contributions of alternative approaches How have alternative approaches such as farming systems research and extension, participatory research and development, and community-based approaches contributed to the enhancement of small scale-livelihoods and natural resource management? How have 'alternate approaches interacted with 'modern technologies'?
  • Theme 3: Institutional reforms and empowerment How have both modern technologies and alternative approaches been connected to and influenced local and national policies focused on institutional reforms, better governance, and empowerment?

Target Audiences
The target audiences for the Symposium will be development practitioners, extensionists, scientists, and policy makers. In particular, those from Japanese institutions collaborating on East, Southeast, or South Asian development, as well as those from countries in those regions are welcome. The Symposium will be open to all other interested individuals and institutions willing to share their knowledge and experiences relating to the above themes.

Expected outputs/results

The anticipated outputs will include publication of Proceedings of the Symposium, establishment of regional linkages, and collaboration among various stakeholders on topics of common interest.

Structure of the Symposium

The Symposium will consist of one key note session, five thematic sessions, and one synthesis session on agenda for action as indicated in the programme outline below:

Opening Ceremony
Session I: Keynote Presentations
  • Roles of Modern Technologies for Marginal Areas
  • Alternative Approaches: PLEC Experience
    Session II: Agro-diversity Management
    Session III: Farm Management and Livelihoods
    Session IV: Forest Resources management
    Session V: Upscaling farmers' technology
    Session VI: Institutional Reform and Empowerment
    Session VII: Synthesis and Agenda for Action
  • Potential presenters for the Session I to Session VI will be invited for submission of abstracts and full papers by 30 June and 30 September 2003, respectively.