Hanoi, Viet Nam, 15 Mar 2012 -- Vowing to take a new approach to ending hunger in the face of soaring food prices and scarcer resources, the Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) called for sustainable increases in agricultural production and fairer and more inclusive food and agricultural systems, during a regional conference in Hanoi on Thursday. Food prices, already persistently high and volatile, are forecast to rise even higher, resulting in greater hunger and malnutrition, increased poverty, disparities within and between countries, and slower economic growth.
Intensifying agriculture in harmony with the environment is the centrepiece of the new approach urged by the FAO.
“Our first global challenge is to eradicate hunger and improve food security. That means that we need to have better access to food and also increase the production of agriculture, forestry and fisheries while ensuring sustainable ecosystem management and building on the many promising examples that already exist,’’ said FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva.
It is also essential to “ensure fairer and more inclusive food and agriculture systems from the local to the international level,’’ he added.
Rural poverty remains a major problem
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dzung of Viet Nam told the conference that ensuring food security and reducing poverty were becoming increasingly difficult, especially for developing countries in the region.
“Farmland is reducing in both area and fertility. Water resources for agriculture are becoming scarcer. The impacts of climate change are getting more severe.”
Nonetheless, Viet Nam has had successes in food production and poverty reduction, and the Prime Minister said his country was “willing to share our experience and cooperate with other countries in the cause of agriculture and rural development.”
No more hunger in the Asian Century
Graziano da Silva noted that the Asia-Pacific region faces its own specific problems.
“In a number of countries, we have come close to the limits for agricultural expansion. High food prices and volatility remain a threat. The retail price for rice, for instance, remains 10 to 30 percent higher than last year in many countries in Asia.”
With increasingly decentralised operations, engagement with farmers cooperatives and civil society groups, and its focus on the poorest, FAO is supporting countries to realize the slogan No more hunger in the Asian Century – a call for greater equity as an integral component of the region’s economic progress.
A range of measures comprise the new FAO approach advocated by Graziano da Silva, including eradicating nutrient deficiencies and unsafe food; improving the livelihoods of rural people and increasing their resilience to food security shocks.
Eat healthy, grow what’s healthy
Those living in developed countries and urban centres also need to play a role in ensuring there will be enough food for all as the global population is expected to increase by another 1 billion people by 2050.
“A vast amount of food is wasted every day. By promoting healthier diets and reducing loss and waste in the food chain, we can meet demand, thereby contributing to sustainable development,” Graziano da Silva said.
The speech marked the first address to an FAO regional conference by Graziano da Silva, Brazil’s former Minister of Food Security, since assuming the post of FAO Director-General in January.
Over 300 delegates from 39 countries are attending the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific in Hanoi. The region is home to 578 million people suffering from hunger and malnutrition, or 62 percent of the world’s total. The conference is running from 12 to 16 March. Participants include observers from seven UN organizations, six inter-governmental organizations, 28 civil society groups and special observers from Singapore, Brunei and the Holy See.