Ladies and gentlemen,
The AFC U-19 Women’s Championship 2011 final match tomorrow 16 October is coinciding with FAO’s celebration of its 66th anniversary. This anniversary however comes with a strong warning. A warning about the impact of high and volatile food prices on the poor.
FAO’s best estimate of the number of hungry people for 2010 remains at 925 million – close to nine percent higher that the 850 million hungry people for the 2006-2008 period.
This increase in hunger is largely due to high and volatile food prices which have occurred during the financial, fuel and food crisis since the 2007.
Among the regions of the world, Asia and the Pacific has by far the largest number of malnourished people: 578 million people in this region – or more than three-fifth of the world population – live in a condition of serious food insecurity.
Food prices – from volatility to stability
High food prices are likely to remain with us in the coming years.
Demand from consumers in rapidly growing economies increases; population continues to grow, and growth for biofuels and animal feeds places additional demands on the food system.
On the supply side, there is increasingly scarce land and water, and stagnating rates of yield growth in key staple food such as rice and wheat.
Food price volatility may further increase because of stronger linkages between food and fuel prices, as well as negative impact of climate change and weather shocks.
For the poor, who spend as much as 70 percent of their money on food, the consequences of food price hikes can be catastrophic.
We celebrate 16 October as World Food Day, the day FAO was founded in 1945.
This year’s World Food Day comes at a time when the world economy is slowing down, shattering the hopes of hundreds of millions of people living in poverty and hunger. To add to their miseries, food prices remain high and volatile.
Let us create solidarity among all citizens in society to help those suffering from hunger on the planet. Let us stimulate investments in agriculture to achieve food for all, today and for future generations.
Let us think. Let us act now. Act together to end hunger.
AFC and FAO signed a cooperation agreement in May 2010 with the intention of using football and football-related activities to help combat global hunger.
The “Asian Football against Hunger” campaign, launched in Doha last January 2011 during the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011™ achieved the objective of providing over USD 400 000 to implement about 40 community projects which will change the lives of thousands of people giving concrete solutions to the poorest communities and give them the possibility to produce their own food and have a better life. FAO is presently bringing this support to selected farmers and rural communities in Asia.
This cooperation is an example of my call for acting together and forming partnerships. A partnership for ending hunger. A partnership based on the popularity and power of football. With millions of football fans mobilising social willingness and support for political decisions and resources needed to eradicate hunger.
This is why the Asian Football Confederation and the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) have joined forces to battle hunger and starvation.
Through the “Asian Fooball Against Hunger” campaign AFC and FAO aims to draw the attention of society and governments to the inalienable right of all human beings to feed themselves in dignity and independence.
Through the theme, ”Asian football against hunger”, we are highlighting that sport, and football in particular, has the power to increase awareness, political will and financial resources in helping to address this issue.
AFC U-19 Womens’ Championship
FAO advocates for a recognition of the contribution and role of women in society – and in agriculture – and in addressing needed changes.
Specifically, we recognize that women comprise, on average, 43 percent of the agricultural labor force in developing countries; that women in agriculture and in rural areas have less access than men to productive resources and opportunities; and that closing the gender gap in agriculture would generate significant gains for the agricultural sector and for society.
If only women had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20-30 percent. The net effect of this could be a raise in the total agricultural output in developing countries by some 2.5 - 4 percent.
Production gains of this magnitude could reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 12 -17 percent.
In conclusion, Asian women’s football players are not only competing but supporting the rural women of Asia.
Women feed the world but lack access to key inputs and have little voice in decision making. As such, AFC and FAO are committed in reducing hunger and malnutrition by giving women the tools, empowerment and financial support to create better lives for their families.