Your Excelelncy Dr Yukol Limlaemthong, Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives, Royal Government of Thailand,
Dr Chanvit Tharathep, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Public Health, Royal Government of Thailand,
Dr Prem Nath, Chairman of the Prem Nath Agricultural Science Foundation,
Distinguished participants from various countries of Asia, resource persons, ladies and gentlemen,
It gives me a great pleasure to welcome all of you to the Regional Workshop on "Strengthening Urban and Peri urban Agriculture towards Resilient Food Systems in Asia” being organized by FAO in collaboration with the PNASF (P.N. Agricultural Science Foundation).
First of all, I wish to express my special gratitude to Your Excellency, Dr. Yukol Limlaemthong, Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives Thailand for his presence here this morning which gives a special value to this important gathering. I am also very grateful for the participation of senior representatives and stakeholders from 11 countries in Asia, despite of their busy work at their home country.
Fifty years ago, two- thirds of the world population lived in rural areas and only one-thirds was in urban areas. Now, a half of them are in urban areas, and by 2050, nearly two-thirds of them would live in urbn areas which is more than 6 billion.
Specifically in Asia, although urban population is just 42.2%, in the last twenty years Asia’s cities have grown at a faster rate than any other region: 13 of the 20 most populated urban areas in the world are now in Asia. Asia is urbanizing at unprecedented speed. Though still predominantly rural, this upward trend is expected to continue for many years to come. In this decade alone, it is anticipated that two- thirds of the growth in the world’s cities will occur in Asia, raising its urban population by another 411 million. Migration, primarily rural to urban, is a key driver of this growth. However, together with natural growth, reclassification of rural areas is also an important contributor: every year millions of people become city dwellers by this way even without movement, as their communities transformed into cities because of rapid urbanization.
As the cities rapidly expand, so do the food needs of urban families. The urban poor were hit hardest by financial and food price crisis in recent past as urban consumers were exclusively dependent on food purchases. Changes in life syle and dietary habit have further contributed to increased urban malnutrition and non-communicable diseases.
Despite a great diversity of food available, the urban poor are limited in their choice of locations to purchase food, and often suffer from hunger and malnutrition mostly due to lack of purchasing power and increasing food prices. As the urban population increases, more food needs to be made available to cities while maintaining its quality and freshness. In addition, increased number of foreign migrants and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in some countries further increased the demand for urban food, and negatively affected the food prices. Overall, the situation poses great concern over social stability and security as it might lead to food riots and increased number of crimes, if appropriate policy measures are not taken.
In deed, the issue of feeding growing urban population, particulary the poor and disadvantaged, has increasingly become a critical and serious challenge for many countries.
The FourthWorld Urban Forum held recently identified a need for clear policies and interventions to ensure that the growing urban poor population would not get left behind. The food diamention of poverty in urban areas is yet to be fully translated into appropriate policy action in many countries. While rural-urban linkages are inportant, urban policies also need to encourage local food production within the city boundaries and its immediate surroundings. This would include removing barriers and providing incentives for urban and peri-urban agriculture, as well as improved natural resource management in rural areas.
The FAO Comittee on Agriculture (COAG) mandated FAO to consider urban and peri-urban agriculture (UPA) as an integral part of agricultural production systems and an important approach towards recilient food systems, with emphasis on its role in feeding the cities, creating employment and generating incomes for the urban poor. In deed, urban households who practice urban and peri-urban agriculture as a means of supplementary income and for direct household consumption are generally more food secure and benefit from a more diverse diet. Urban and peri-urban food production also helps increase the availability of healthy and affordable food - mainly fresh fruits, vegetables, eggs and dairy products - for a larger number of urban consumers. It also comprises an important environmental protection and sustainable natural resource management diamentions, and their integration into urban development planning.
Yet, there is still no consensus on the precise definition of UPA. However, it does refer to food production systems and value chains within cities or their surroundings, and which effectively contribute to food access and supply while creating jobs and income opportunities for the poor and disadvantaged groups of the society.
The UPA requires both a multidisciplinary approach and multistakeholder involvement - a multidisciplinary approach to address not only the production involving sectors such as horticulture, livestock, fodder, trees, milk and dairy products, aquaculture and agro-forestry, but also ensuring the safety and nutritive value of the foods produced as well their processing, marketing and whole food value chains towards reaching table for consumption and beyond including waste treatment. There are other aspects to this issue also such as climate change, gender sensitivity, etc. that are equally important.
A multi sectorial approach involving different stakeholders is also important to include policy makers and local authorities who takes policy decisions on urban planning and support urban and peri-urban agricuture, and have knowledge of local conditions including social, economic and environmental aspects. They also need to interact with a wide range of actors to develop new technologies and techniques for production and processing and dissemination through various means.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in the area of UPA has been focussing on various issues such promotion of urban and peri-urban agriculture, animal husbandry, forests and fisheries. Alongwith this has been the focus on preventing contamination of soil and water in urban areas, as well as addressing the potential risk of salmonella, bird flu and other issues, that pose substantial challenges and must be addressed through appropriate health and safety regulation.
There are aspects such as agrobiodiversity, food loss and wastes, food markets, food and nutrition security, and agriculture, natural resources management covering soil, water, land and land tenure issues that also play an important part in UPA. Socio-economic and health factors also are a key to problems of cities such as hunger and malnutrition, Shifting diets with increase of non-communicable diseases (NCD), food safety and contamination issues from the production to consumption chain, street foods and others are also being addressed. Let me add that FAO is currently supporting some countries such as Cambodia, Mongolia, in the municipalities areas of the Philippines in setting up UPA programmes.
Ledies and gentlemen,
You may recall that a workshop entitled “Ensuring resilient food system in Asian Cities” was organized by FAO Regional Office in Bangkok in November 2011, wherein urban and peri-urban agriculture was covered in various presentations although this was not the main focus of that workshop. A report of this was circulated. As an initiative of the workshop, a virtual network on food for cities in the region was created and I am pleased to inform you that this network has been quite successful for communication and sharing of information.
Before concluding, I sincerely hope that this workshop would provide a valuable opportunity to exchange knowledge and experience, and lead to the identification of appropriate and effective priority measures for follow up actions at regional and country levels. We would not rerquire a huge investments at the beginning, but need your strong will and commitments, and perhaps we should endeavour to start with some pilot interventions to guide the process. I also hope that this unique gethering of multistakeholders including senior policy makers and planners both from agriculture and local administration as well as experts from partner organizations and CSOs, would lead to a formation of long-term plat form to enhance collaboration and concerted efforts on urban and pre-urban agriculture.
Finally, I should like to take this opportunity to assure you of FAO’s commitment to strengthening its efforts to promote urban and pre-urban agriculture and also to work together towards implementing the recommendations jointly with you.
It is indeed a pleasure for FAO to be able to organise this important Regional Workshop. I would like to thank the PNASF for collaborating with FAO. I would also like to thank all the countries present for sparing their time as well as providing their inputs and sharing their experiences to support this important workshop.
I wish you a successful Regional Workshop and look forward to the successful outcome of your deliberations in this crucial field of UPA.