Director-General  QU Dongyu
A statement by FAO Director-General QU Dongyu

Ladies and gentlemen, it is my great honour to participate in this first meeting and event of the CFS, with the Chairperson Mario Arvelo, who has been here for quite a long time. 

We do not want to elaborate again the importance of the CFS, but one thing which is really important is the need to help the farmers – this needs to be done first. 

I was born the son of a farmer, as I just told Musa. When you start early, around 4 o’clock, and get the rice planted before sunrise, it has a higher survival rate.  Farmers have much real experience, so if you talk too much to farmers, they will ignore you, because you do not bring good results at harvesting, to their house.

Inclusiveness is highly important, and no one can be left behind.  And that is why I welcome that last year the Civil Society Mechanism changed its name to the Civil Society and Indigenous Peoples’ Mechanism, acknowledging the need to increase the voice of indigenous people in the CFS.   Because we have a lot of indigenous people, not only located in northern Canada or in Nordic countries.  In China, we have more than 100 indigenous peoples in different regions; and also in other countries, in Russia, and in other parts of the world. 

Ladies and gentlemen, you are here to discuss the role of the CFS in the future architecture of global food governance. FAO still has to keep the function as a strategic place of thinking; to bring all the different, inclusive ideas together; and to help governments and farmers to get things done more efficiently, more effectively.

The number of people suffering from hunger is still growing since 2016, and reached 821 million in 2018. We must gain a keen appreciation of the underlying trends of our times, to make a detailed and systematic analysis and provide guidance for the international community.

The work of CFS does not end with the approval of international instruments. FAO will continue to make significant efforts to proceed with the implementation of CFS outcomes, and will support countries to integrate and use those instruments adapted to their national context.

I think that exchanging experiences and information between food producers through innovative and more extensive forms of cooperation can bring agricultural transformation to the necessary scale and speed.

I just came back yesterday evening from Serbia.  I visited several farms there, some big and some small.  And I also visited the green market there in Zemun, which is very colourful, with a lot of food diversity there. Farmers, especially smallholder farmers, can benefit from biodiversity by offering more international-standard food diversity. 

Look at the case of Western Europe, where in supermarkets there is a very limited number of different foods. So why not explore more biodiversity by offering more food diversity? That is a solution where we can get the meeting point between the consumers, and the growers and farmers.  

At FAO we recently launched the Hand in Hand initiative, which aims to support the smaller, weaker hand by the bigger, strong hand; through match-making partnerships, including donor countries, private sector, civil society, NGOs and academic institutions. We really focus on landlocked, small island and least developed countries. Farmers, and family farmers will be the final beneficiaries of this initiative.

Dear friends of this forum, the mission of food and agricultural governance spaces should focus on attaining “Zero Hunger.”  But we should do this through innovative ways of doing business, not only doing business as usual.  I encourage her (Silvia) to speak English rather than speak in Portuguese, because she is young, and she has a long time to go! 

We are improving the livelihoods of people by “four betters”: better production, so farming should be improved, practices, agronomic practices. Also, better nutrition, better environment and better life. That is four betters, I do not have time to repeat it again.  But anyway we have to keep the balance of development with environmental issues and also consumers’ needs.  

And of course, the UN Decade on Family Farming gives us a great  opportunity to leverage on this multifunctional nature of family farming while facilitating the implementation of CFS tools. Smallholders play a key role in the implementation of this Decade. FAO counts on the CSM to disseminate and use the Global Action Plan that can guide the development of policies and programmes in a comprehensive and systematic manner.

But my question to you today is: what are new farmers? New type of farmers, no matter small or big, or family farmers.  I got to know - I just visited one big farmer in Serbia yesterday afternoon – you need at least several criteria or benchmarks to meet the new demands of consumers, to be the new type of farmers.  Firstly, you have to fully work on innovation, green production, inclusive and open.  Open your mind to the different sectors of society.  

More importantly, you have to have enough knowledge and technology, and management on how to exploit market access.  Because nowadays it is not a question of production, it is how to get your production to be valued by consumers in the cities.  People living in the cities see food in the supermarket, even though food comes from every drop of the farmer’s sweat in the field.  So, we have to ask the people in the cities to appreciate what we have produced.   

That is why it is important that we are going to encourage the new Food Systems Summit in 2021.  All the young generation of politicians should understand that food is not only an economic affair, it is environmental, social, and it is a public good.

In order to do so, we need civil society to play a key role, an active role.  Not a passive role. An active role.  You are here, you observe. You have to make your voice bigger, and stronger, and more properly.  And then the people, high ranking officials, scientists or people in other sectors will listen to you.  

FAO is here to help you, to get business done more efficiently and more effectively, and in a way that is more beneficial to the people. 

Thank you.