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23 April 2014

9th Edition of Forum on Agriculture in Morocco

Your Royal Highness Moulay Rachid,

Your Excellency Alpha Conde, President of the Republic of Guinea

Your Excellency Ibrahim Keita, President of Mali

Your Excellency Aziz Akhannouch, Minister for Agriculture and Marine Fisheries of Morocco,

Your Excellencies Ministers,

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, 

It is an honor to take part in this Forum on Agriculture in Morocco, that has become a central event in the international agricultural calendar.

I am especially grateful that the theme of this year’s Forum on Agriculture shines the spotlight on family farmers and on their role in food security and nutrition and sustainable development.

This is very fitting as the United Nations declared 2014 the International Year of Family Farming.

Estimates point to around 500 million family farms in the world. And in a sample of 93 countries surveyed by FAO, they account for an average of 80 percent of all holdings.

But when we speak of family farmers, we also refer to smallholders and medium scale producers, as well as peasants, indigenous peoples, traditional communities, fisherfolk, pastoralists, collectors and many others.

This group is responsible for guaranteeing the food supply in most parts of the globe.

But, at the same time, family farmers, especially subsistence producers, are part of the 70% of the world food insecure that live in rural areas of developing countries.

This shows you the challenge and the potential that are there.

By providing adequate support to family farming we can combat food insecurity by reaching out to a group that is in itself vulnerable and by increasing food supply where we need it the most.

This way, we transform a sector that for too long has been negatively associated to the problem of hunger into part of its solution.

And the benefits for food security can be even more significant when we manage to link the productive support to social protection.

This combination can jumpstart sustainable processes of local and inclusive sustainable development.

We cannot underestimate the importance that agriculture and small-scale production have in creating jobs and generating income.

We do not need to look far. Take Africa, for example.

Over half its population is under 25 years old. And in the next decade, 11 million people are expected to enter its labor market every year.

So, we cannot speak of sustainable and inclusive growth for Africa without speaking of youth and agriculture.

This becomes even more important as we are seeing how, more and more, Africa’s youth is searching for opportunities elsewhere.

Many times, they are forced to do so because of conflict or lack of alternatives at home.

We need to give the youth other possibilities. Revitalizing the agricultural sector needs to be one of them. 

Ladies and gentlemen,

I also want to point out that many countries that are succeeding in supporting family farming, in strengthening social protection and in linking them together are among those winning the war against hunger.

60 developing countries have already met the First Millennium Development Goal hunger target for 2015 of halving the proportion of undernourishment.

FAO is awarding the countries that are winning the war against hunger. We will hold a ceremony during our next FAO Council, in June in Rome.

And taking the opportunity that I am in Meknes, I would like to announce that Morocco is on the list of countries that will be awarded for achieving the first Millennium Goal two years in advance.

Among the strategies that help explain Morocco’s success in reducing undernourishment, I would like to highlight the Plan Maroc Vert, launched in 2008.

The Plan Maroc Vert helps lever the already important role that agriculture plays in the country’s sustainable development: it responds for nearly 19% of the GDP and employs around 45% of the national workforce.

Maroc Vert looks at the agricultural sector as a whole, differentiating support to small-scale, family farmers and larger-scale modern agriculture.

This is important as each sector has different needs that must be addressed. However, they do have at least one thing in common: the need to face the challenge of climate change.

In the past weeks the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presented results from their 5th Assessment Report.

The IPCC report shows many things, I want to focus on four of them.

First, it confirms that the climate is already changing. That means that we need to step up our efforts to mitigate, to adapt and, most importantly, to shift to more food sustainable systems. And the time is now. We cannot afford to wait.

Second, the world’s poorest are particularly vulnerable. Not only do they have fewer means to react, but also tend to live in already marginal production areas where the impact of climate change on agricultural production will be felt harder.

Third: climate change has the potential to reconfigure the planet’s food production scenario. Dry areas can become drier. And some of the main food producing areas of today can see their productivity fall.

And, fourth: climate change reintroduces an element of uncertainty in food supply after decades in which hunger was caused mainly by lack of access to food and not insufficient food production.

This brings us back to my first point: we have enough food today, but to have enough food tomorrow, we need to mitigate, adapt and shift to more sustainable systems.

So, everything we do needs to take climate change into consideration.

That is why addressing climate change is an issue that cuts across the strategic objectives that FAO Members have asked us to focus on: ending hunger, supporting sustainable production, reducing rural poverty, improving food markets and building resilience.

FAO is working at the global level, for example: contributing to the IPCC report, compiling data on greenhouse gas emissions, and participating in the policy-making debates.

At the regional and national levels, FAO is helping countries and communities to adapt and start the shift to more sustainable practices that needs to take place in order to mitigate agricultural gas emissions.

In North Africa, the Sahel and Horn of Africa, in particular, FAO is implementing regional initiatives that will help countries cope better with water scarcity, strengthen small-scale and family farming, and build resilience to extreme weather events such as the recurrent droughts we are seeing in the region.  

Ladies and gentlemen,

The challenges we face are great. But so are our possibilities and our commitment to overcome them.

And to reach this future we want, we need equitable, efficient and sustainable agriculture and food systems.

We are on the right track. And we must continue to build this momentum. We are in this together.

Thank you for your attention.