Redefining MRC's Role in the Agriculture Sector

There are many national, international and bilateral agencies that are involved in various aspects of agricultural development and management in the Lower Mekong Basin. The Mekong River Commission (MRC) is in the process of re‐orienting its agriculture sector activities focusing on the provision of advice, guidance and analysis for the sustainable development and management of the Lower Mekong Basin.

In 2008 and 2009, a series of brainstorming workshops with national and international stakeholders was conducted to scope out a more strategic role in agriculture, with a focus on agricultural water management. A clear outcome of the consultations was that Member Countries would like active engagement in agriculture by the MRC. Engagement is especially important for promoting closer two‐way collaboration on agricultural sector planning and for enabling development-scenario modelling of agriculture, forestry and land use change aspects and responses to climate change, and for monitoring land use change.

Agricultural management and support is the responsibility of national agencies in the Mekong Basin, but the options and agricultural plans developed imply water use and land use changes that affect production systems, and can have cumulative, transboundary and/or basin scale impacts. Complementary to this, MRC’s role is to understand and evaluate the combined effects of 1) development activities, and 2) the potential effects across the Basin of medium and long‐term development planning by all Member Countries. This role requires the integration of the many sectoral perspectives that involve water – including aquatic ecosystems, fisheries, hydropower development, potable water supplies, navigation, irrigation and agriculture.

MRC’s Future Activities in the Agricultural Sector

Since the MRC is primarily concerned with transboundary water resources management, its prime focus is on understanding the hydrology of the Basin, and in using this understanding to support and advise on the sustainable management and development of land and water resources, with particular emphasis on improving the livelihoods of the poor.

Therefore, future agricultural expertise and activities at MRC should focus on:

  • Land cover and land use – and its implications for upstream watershed management and on downstream water availability and quality.
  • Agricultural water management, including informal traditional water systems and irrigation and drainage management and development using both surface and ground water; with a particular focus on cumulative and transboundary aspects, as well as environmental implications.
  • The relationship between basin‐wide water and related resource planning and agricultural sector management and planning in Member Countries, centred on 1) scenario assessment and planning; and, 2) ensuring alignment of Basin‐wide and national perspectives.
  • Management and mitigation of drought and flood impacts on agricultural communities.
  • Future direction of the sector ‐ longer‐term qualitative and quantitative trends of water and related resources, for instance climate change implications on the agricultural sector.