Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Poor agricultural workers a core priority for FAO

Nepal, 12 May 2002 -- Kathmandu – Increasing the productivity and incomes of resource-poor agricultural workers who feed Asia and the Pacific, yet are hungry themselves, is a central goal ofthe UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in the region, a top FAO official told a gathering of Asian civil society groups that concluded here today.

Achieving this objective is vital for eliminating hunger from Asia and the Pacific, which has two-thirds of the world’s about 800 million undernourished people, R B Singh, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific told the meet. To ensure this, FAO is working closely with civil society groups, he added.

About 100 representatives of some 80 non-governmental and civil society organizations (NGOs/CSOs) from 13 Asian countries working in the field of food security and rural poverty, met in Kathmandu on 11 and 12 May to formulate regional civil society’s stand on food security issues for the10 to 13 June 2002 World Food Summit: five years later (WFS: fyl) at FAO headquarters in Rome.

Equitable access to resources - material, institutional and social - isvital for unleashing the tremendous productive potential of the rural poor and is a main objective of FAO’s endeavours in the region in the coming years, Dr Singh said in his closing remarks to the NGO/CSO RegionalConsultation. The NGO/CSO meeting was held in conjunction with the 26thFAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, which opens on 13 May inKathmandu to take stock of regional progress toward the 1996 World Food Summit goal of reducing by half by the year 2015, the number of hungry people.

In their statement, which is the Asian civil society declaration to WFS:fyl, the peoples’ groups demanded recognition of “food sovereignty as the basis and principle for food production and consumption including food and agricultural policies”. They urged countries to adopt an “InternationalConvention on Food Sovereignty” and an “international code of conduct on the right to food and resources”.

Taking note of the concerns expressed by the civil society groups, the FAO regional chief asserted that the world food and agriculture agency is striving to ensure that liberalization of agricultural trade under the new world trade rules does not hurt the interests of developing Asian countries and particularly those of resource-poor cultivators. In this context, Dr Singh called for globalization with a human face.

He also emphasized the importance of peace as a vital enabling condition for food security, pointing out that armed conflicts in this mainly rural region usually take place in the countryside with disastrous effects for agriculture and food security.

Dr Singh explained that small and marginal farmers make up the bulk of agricultural households in Asia and the Pacific, which is home to 75 percent of the world’s farm families. Three-fourths of the region’s undernourished people live in villages and depend on agriculture, fisheries and related rural industries for their livelihood.

The NGO/CSO consultation followed up on a similar regional civil society meeting in August 2001 in Bangkok. Over the two days, delegates deliberated on a range of issues central to food security in these countries. The Asian statement for WFS: fyl was the outcome of brainstorming sessions on the following themes - right to food; empowerment through access to resources; sustainable paths to food security; and food sovereignty.

RAP 02/13