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FAO and Palau join forces to tackle El Niño impacts on agriculture and food security

The country faces significant crop losses, irrigation restrictions

12/07/2016 Rome, Italy

FAO will support Palau with technical assistance to address the challenges posed by the 2015/2016 El Niño cycle, which has resulted in a global crisis adversely affecting agriculture and the food security and nutritional status of more than 60 million people.

In Palau, significant losses to crops have been reported. All farm irrigation activities are currently suspended due to low levels of reservoir water and state of emergency has been declared as ten of 16 states have been affected by drought.

A statement of intent signed by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva and Palau’s Minister for Natural Resources, Environment and Tourism, Fleming Sengebau, paves the way for the formulation and implementation of climate change related technical cooperation programs for Palau and other countries in the Pacific with the view to accommodating, in particular, the special interests and sustainable development aspirations of Small Island Developing States (SIDS).

Through early action and preparedness - acting before a crisis escalates into an emergency – or emergency response, FAO is already providing assistance to various countries in the Pacific.

“Palau needs a lot of the technical support FAO has. We certainly don’t have the capacity to draw a lot of the water that we have, and many of our islands have very small water sources, so every time we don’t have rain for a number of months, you are going to have this kind of problem,” Minister Sengebau said in remarks following the meeting. “We last experienced this in the big El Niño/La Niña event in 1998, more recently in 2010, but it wasn’t as bad, and this year is of course when we are experiencing a big problem.”

The ocean, key for Palau’s future

FAO’s Director-General thanked the Minister’s for participating in the meeting this week of the Organization’s Committee on Fisheries (11-15 July) and at a special event held to celebrate the entry into force of the Port State Measures agreement (PSMA) on Monday. The agreement isthe world's first international treaty specifically aimed at tackling Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing,.  

“The ocean is the key for Palau’s future. Protecting and sustaining the ocean is the key for economic self-sufficiency and also the basis for our economic development,” the Minister said.

“Our tourism industry revolves around the ocean and it’s where we sustain our livelihoods, and having issues such as poaching, illegal fishing that are coming into Palau waters has really depleted these resources and threatens the very marine ecosystems that we depend on”.  

The Minister said that signing the Port State Measures Agreement gave his nation “a great opportunity to say we will not tolerate illegal fishing”. “We see the PSMA as the first line of defence to address IUU,” he added.

The two leaders also discussed food security issues in general as well as options for develop sustainable aquaculture sector attuned to the local context in the Pacific.

“We are partnering up with FAO and we have created a sub-regional organization we call Micronesian Association of Sustainable Aquaculture (MASA), and its looking at these issues”.

The Minister noted how, even though fish is the basis of the country’s diet, "unfortunately many of the families have replaced it with imported foods and that is creating a lot of health issues and non-communicable diseases". “The support of FAO in nutrition is very important in Palau and the rest of the Pacific,” he said.

New Ambassador to FAO

The Director-General also thanked the Palauan government for the recent appointment of Ambassador Olai Uludong, based in Brussels, as the country’s Permanent Representative to FAO. “I am firmly convinced that Ms. Uludong will provide a significant contribution to improve our relations with Palau and with the Pacific region”, concluded Graziano da Silva.

 

Declaration of Fleming Sengebau, Minister of Palau is here.

 

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