Tehran/Rome, 12 March, 2002 - Home
to 6.2 percent of the world's population, the Near East
Region is the most water scarce region in the world, possessing
just 1.5 percent of the planet's renewable fresh water
resources, warned UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Director-General Jacques Diouf.
"The future emphasis
must be directed towards increasing the efficiency of water
management systems and increasing water productivity, getting
more crops per drop, as well as to move seriously towards
tapping new non-conventional water resources to increase
agricultural productivity," Dr. Diouf told Near East
Agriculture Ministers at the 26th FAO Regional Conference for
the Near East, 9-13 March 2002.
the state of food security in the region Dr. Diouf stated that
the Near East, compared to other regions in the world, has the
lowest indicators relating to undernourishment (7.2%) and
extreme poverty (2%). "However," he
"these average figures hide a
wide range of variation among its countries." The Near
East region contains two of the most food insecure countries in
the world - Somalia, where some 75 percent of the population is
undernourished, and Afghanistan where as much as 70 percent of
the people suffer from hunger. Undernourishment in Iraq has not
improved in recent years, while the situation in Palestine has
worsened in the past year, the FAO Director-General said.
FAO Conference documents show that
agricultural production did not keep pace with the rapidly
increasing demand for food in the Near East, resulting in a
widening food gap that has to be filled by imports of cereals,
dairy products, sugar and vegetable oil. The region's
value of agricultural imports is, on average, about $30 billion
a year - three times the value of its exports. Net cereal
imports rose from 6.5 million tons in 1960-71 to 55 million tons
in 1999, which is about one-fifth of world cereal imports,
according to FAO.
Some 815 million people
in the world continue to go to bed hungry every night. To
achieve the 1996 World Food Summit goal of reducing by half the
number of hungry people in the world by 2015, the number of the
hungry would have to drop at an average annual rate of 20
million a year. But, FAO statistics put the annual rate of
reduction at an average of 6 million people since 1996.
that the number of the undernourished in the Near East region
would, by 2015, still remain far from the 1996 World Food Summit
target of reducing their number by 50 percent," Dr.
Diouf said. "Therefore, I wish to recall commitments
of the member countries to this goal and emphasize that
concerted and focused development efforts, combined with
investment in manpower development and productivity of land and
water, can make a difference and reverse the current
One of the major tasks
before the FAO Conference for the Near East will be to prepare
for the World Food Summit: five years later, which will be held
this year in Rome from 10 to 13 June to speed up implementation
of the decisions taken in 1996.
"The participation of Heads of State and
Government of the Near East Region at the World Food Summit:
five years later is essential for its success. It is
imperative to reinforce the political will at the highest level
and to mobilize the necessary financial resources to revitalize
the fight against hunger," Dr, Diouf said.
"This regional conference is taking place in
a global economic, social and political context that is under
rapid change. Globalization and liberalization of trade in
agricultural products, the movement of capital and the transfer
of technology should take place in such a way that both the
developed and developing countries will be able to enhance the
living conditions of their people," Dr. Diouf said.
"FAO will continue to make
available to its member nations the analyses and information
needed to reinforce the technical skills of negotiators in
agricultural trade," the FAO Director-General