Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, 12 Mar 2014 -- While the environments of small islands in the Pacific and landlocked countries with no access to the sea may seem polar opposites, they share common problems that need collaborative efforts to address and resolve if food security is to be guaranteed for future generations, a specially convened meeting in the Mongolian capital has heard.
Concerns about the effects of climate change on agricultural production has brought together some 50 delegates including 10 government Ministers and other high-level participants from landlocked developing countries and small island developing states of the Asia-Pacific region. Organized by the Government of Mongolia, with the support and cooperation of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the forum, “Climate Change and Food Security in the Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States in Asia and the Pacific Region,” also attracted a number of observers from UN agencies, other multilateral organizations, regionally based development partners and non-governmental organizations.
The main theme of the meeting is climate change and the toll it’s taking on both landlocked countries of Asia, the many small islands in the Pacific and concerns over how to mitigate the negative effects on future food security.
“It threatens our production, economy, our choices of lifestyles, and indeed affects almost all our lives,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific.
As is frequently the case, the most vulnerable countries – the Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – find they are in the worst possible situation. The people of these countries are disproportionately affected from “changing weather patterns that will likely bring untold misery to millions of people in LLDCs while rising sea levels will threaten submerging lands and the very survival of many SIDS,” a document prepared for the forum reveals. The UN estimates that globally some 860 million people in LLDCs and SIDS will suffer, many even becoming environmental refugees.
In the Asia-Pacific region, there are five landlocked countries: Afghanistan, Bhutan, Lao PDR, Mongolia and Nepal. All five of these countries are vulnerable to climate change. In the least developed countries of Afghanistan, Bhutan, Lao PDR and Nepal, where most of the population still depends on agriculture, they are particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change on food production. Agriculture, forestry, water resources and public health will be the most seriously affected sectors.
Mongolia, one of the most sparsely populated countries in the world, is a middle-income country with vast plains and a population that is now largely urban. Still, Mongolia’s food security is at high risk from climate change and the country is already prone to natural disasters including winter storms, forest fires and floods.
Effects of climate change already felt by many Small Island Developing States
The Pacific island countries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming that include more frequent and intense natural disasters, such as cyclones, floods and even droughts - as recently experienced. With sea-level rise, there is the danger that some of the islands will disappear. These countries are already over-dependent on food imports, and this can only exacerbate with climate change taking a severe toll on limited domestic agriculture, the FAO warns.
“Climate change is destroying our main Taro crops,” a Delegate from Micronesia told the forum. “Taro is our main stable food. It takes five years to grow. Imagine five years of starvation (if wiped out). So this (climate change) is real for us,” said Akillino H. Susaia, Micronesia’s Ambassador to China who was attending the forum.
The Cook Island, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Timor Leste, Tuvalu and Vanuatu in the Pacific as well as the Maldives in the Indian Ocean comprise some of the most vulnerable small islands to effects of climate change.
The high-level forum formulated and agreed key policy recommendations and actions.
Closing the forum, in a statement read by Konuma, José Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, said: “You have all stridently pointed out that in the face of new constraints such as climate change, there is a greater need to revise and renew the strategy to revitalize the agriculture sector to achieve food security.”