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6 February 2014

10th Meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture of the
member countries of the International Centre for
Advanced Mediterranean Agronomic Studies


President of the CIHEAM,


Ladies and Gentleman,

It is an honor to join you in this beautiful city of Algiers for the 10th Meeting of the Ministers of Agriculture of the member countries of CIHEAM.

The collaboration between the Center and FAO goes as far back as 1977.

We have worked together in the fields of organic farming, irrigation modernization, plant diseases, plant genetic resources, animal production and health in dry areas, fisheries and aquaculture, and forestry.

FAO values this partnership and looks forward to strengthening it.

We must work together to overcome the enormous challenges to food security and sustainability that Near Eastern and North African Mediterranean countries are facing.

The issues are well known:

A fragile natural resources base, especially land and water;

heavy reliance on rain fed agriculture;

a population that has more than tripled over the past forty years; 

rapid urbanization fueled by a lack of rural jobs, particularly for youth;

high dependence on food imports; and

the double burden of malnutrition: undernutrition and obesity, a growing concern especially among children.

On this last point, let me take this opportunity to invite you and your Governments to the Second International Conference on Nutrition that FAO and the World Health Organization will co-organize, in Rome, in mid-November.

I also wish to highlight the intrinsic relationship between peace and stability and food security; and between hunger and conflict.

There is no security without food security. And in a globalized world, it is impossible to assure food security in one country alone.

Ladies and gentlemen,

The degree of cooperation among the countries of the Region has increased significantly in the last years, with collaborative strategies addressing food and water security, the reduction of food losses and waste and the responses to climate change, just to mention a few of them.

FAO is ready and willing to offer a bigger contribution to these efforts.

We are concluding a major transformational process that is making us more results oriented, more attentive and responsive to the needs of our Members, more open to working with partners and with a clear focus on five strategic objectives.

They are:

First, eradicate hunger;

Second, make agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable;

Third, reduce rural poverty;

Fourth, make food systems more inclusive; and,

Fifth, increase resilience of livelihoods.

These strategic objectives are linked to the regional and national levels, so that our actions are aligned to respond to the concrete needs that each region and country has identified.

We have identified three regional initiatives that are of specific interest to us today.

These initiatives address some of the main challenges identified by governments and will be presented at the 32nd Near East Regional Conference of FAO, to be held in Rome from 24 to 28 February.

I would like to invite all of you to participate in this event. Your presence will be very important as the Regional Conference plays a key role in the elaboration of our program of work in the region.

But, for now, let me briefly mention the three regional initiatives for the Near East region.

First, we have the Regional Initiative on Water Scarcity. Its focus is to improve agricultural water productivity for food security through a comprehensive set of interventions at policy, governance and best practice level.

Second, we have the Regional Initiative on Small-scale Agriculture and Inclusive Rural Development. Its main goal is to reduce rural poverty, by promoting tools and actions such as social protection, youth employment and strengthening professional organizations.

And, the third regional initiative is Building Resilience to Enhance Food Security and Nutrition for the Near East and North Africa.

Most of the CIHEAM countries have already embarked on national programs to address food security challenges, and have revised agricultural development strategies to take into account the role of smallholder farmers – examples include Morocco’s Plan Maroc Vert and Algeria’s Agricultural and Rural Renewal Programme.

Ladies and Gentleman,

I would also like to point out that 2014 has been declared the International Year of Family Farming by the United Nations, and the African Year of Agriculture and Food Security by the African Union.

This dual celebration gives us an opportunity to support a sector that plays a key role in ensuring national food security around the world.

Family farmers already are the main food producers in most countries and they can do even more with the right kind of support.

I should note that FAO recently hosted, in Tunis, a regional dialogue on family farming with a focus on the role of women and on the risks related to climate change.

Dialogue participants agreed that there is a need to put in place policies and programs that:

First, facilitate farmers’ access to credit and investment resources;

Second, provide them with insurance against bad weather conditions and other calamities;

Third, provide them with secure access to land, preferably through titling;

Fourth, help increase farmers’ share in value added production; and,

Fifth, improve the quality of research and extension services and adapt them to the particular conditions of small family farmers. 

To end, I want to reaffirm that FAO is willing to work with its Members in the Near East and North Africa, and partner with organizations such as CIHEAM, to support family farming and to achieve your wider food security and sustainable agricultural development goals.

You can always count on us.

I wish you a productive and successful meeting.

Thank you for your attention.