Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Hiroyuki Konuma

FAO Regional Representative for Asia-Pacific

WELCOME REMARKS

by

Hiroyuki Konuma
Assistant Director-General and
FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific 

delivered at the

International Forum on Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

Ishikawa, Japan
29 May 2013

 

Mr Hiroyasu Takenaka, Vice Governor of Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan,
Mr Yutaka Sumita, Deputy Director-General for International Affairs, MAFF, Japan,
Professor M.S. Swaminathan, High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition, and Father of Green Revolution,
Distinguished guests,
Ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning and ohayo gozaimasu!

First of all, I wish to welcome all of you to Noto and its global agricultural heritage of  Satoyama and Satoumi.  I witnessed myself  its special value from the beautiful landscape, very tasty local foods and sake, respected traditional culture and very warm hospitality.  I wish to express my special gratitude to the organizers, i.e. the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF) Japan , and the Ishikawa Prefecture for opening their doors and organizing this important International Forum on Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) here today. 

I would also like to extend our thanks to all our partners, and the delegates from China, Japan, Chile, Peru, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, the Philippines, Tanzania, India, South Korea, Azerbaijan, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Iran, Italy and Colombia. Thank you for coming all the way here to Japan.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On the occasion of FAO’s 146th Council Meeting in April this year, FAO’s Director-General highlighted the importance of strengthening and building new partnerships to eradicate hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition. Indeed, we need to find  innovative ways and solutions to meet the challenges of the modern world , and end hunger and poverty  which  cannot be done only by one organisation like FAO.

As you may know, the two biggest global challenges which we are facing today in building a sustainable future for ourselves and our children are:  (i) how to feed the rapidly growing world population and (ii) how to overcome serious challenges of  climate change.  The world population is expected to reach 9.2 billion by the year 2050. To feed the  growing population, we have to increase food production by 60 percent (or 77 percent in developing countries ) during the same period. We must achieve this goal, otherwise world peace and stability would be threatened as already witnessed in some countries in recent past.  But it must be done under existing constraints such as stagnation of expansion of arable lands, increasing water scarcity, increasing food losses and waste, negative impact of climate changes and natural disasters, stagnation of crop productivity growth, and increasing competition of use of agricultural lands and water with other purposes,  rapid urbanization and decline in agricultural labour force.

FAO predicts that  it would be possible to attain this goal, if we work harder and work together as a team for concerted efforts to increase food production, promote the access to food by the poor, and overcome the constrains or minimise negative impacts.  FAO estimates that  over 95 percent of  food production increase has to come from existing arable lands through yield increase and agricultural intensification. This makes the  conservation of biological diversity so important as it would play a key role in increasing yields through varietal improvements using diversified breeding  materials,  and in producing new varieties which are tolerant to natural disasters or high adoptability to climate changes.  Conservation and sustainable management of rural assets such as arable lands  are also key factors to increase food production to meet future demands. Having said above, agriculture has to be attractive , especially to young generation.

To address these challenges, it is important to recognize the role of small scale farmers, family farmers and traditional farming communities in providing food security, rural employment, conservation of natural resources, maintaining biological diversity and provision of ecosystem goods and services, and more importantly conserve and protect our agricultural heritage.  In fact, traditional agriculture systems are still providing food for two billion people today who also sustain biodiversity, livelihoods, practical knowledge and traditional culture. On the other hand, agricultural heritage systems would also act as  bench marks of  measuring sustainability in rapidly changing rural landscape and as an indicator of commitment of rural communities to sustainable management of their assets.  

The FAO Partnership on conservation and adaptive management of Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems or the GIAHS Initiative, which was launched 10 yrs ago at the World Summit on Sustainable Development is the first global initiative that links agriculture and cultural heritage in view of their historic, current and potential contribution to food security and nutrition, and sustainable development.

At this stage, it is important to take note on the lessons learned and best practices from GIAHS implementation around the world, to raise awareness , learn from experience and promote the deserved  recognition of Agricultural Heritage and traditional farming. The International Forum on GIAHS provides us with that opportunity; as an international knowledge exchange platform, this Forum is an opening for farmers, development experts, government representatives and the public and private sectors  to discuss and explore how to further sustain the conservation efforts and sustainable management of natural resources.

Now traditional farming is receiving more attention and recognition for its valuable contribution. Next year, 2014, is the International Year of Family Farming. FAO will continue to promote the understanding and awareness on the role of family farming in the provision of food security and a sustainable future. More importantly, through initiatives such as GIAHS, FAO will continue to emphasize that the world’s most biodiverse systems are formed in interaction with humans, and that traditional knowledge and customary practices contribute to and uphold biodiversity, food and nutrition security and livelihoods at every possible opportunity.

In this occasion, I not only welcome, but also I encourage all of you to continue supporting the efforts to protect these valuable systems as a source of safe food, nutrition and livelihoods. Agricultural Heritage holds a key to food security and feeding the world – but so do governments, civil society and private sectors, research and academic institutions. To achieve sustainable development for all, we need to work all together for a common goal. Once again, I would like to thank Ishikawa Prefecture and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan for hosting the forum and sharing with us their remarkable agricultural heritage, culture and traditions.  

During this gathering, I welcome all the participants to actively engage and interact with each other, to exchange their knowledge and learn from each other experiences.  At the end of the session tomorrow, FAO will announce “Noto Communique”  for adoption by the participants.

Again, thank you to all and I wish you all a fruitful event.