Dr Vili Fuavao
FAO Subregional Representative
Mrs Fusi Vave, Fijis Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Agriculture, Sugar and Land Resettlement
Distinguished Participants from Member Countries
Ladies and Gentlemen
On behalf of the Director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), I welcome you to the Workshop on Strengthening of Food and Agriculture Statistics in the Pacific in Support of Food Security and Poverty Reduction Strategies and Programs
The international community, at the 1996 World Food Summit, Johannesburg Summit and WFS: five years later identified food security and, in particular, poverty alleviation as the issues of special foci. While the world is preoccupied with war against poverty, FAO is reminding nations that they must first win the battle against hunger. The fight against poverty cannot be won without eliminating hunger and malnutrition; it is the most critical manifestation of poverty.
For still 840 million people, around 800 million of them in developing countries, suffer from chronic hunger. This leaves us much too far from World Food Summit goal set in 1996 to cut by half the number of hungry people by 2015.
In order to make progress towards reducing the number of hungry and alleviation of poverty in the world, it is necessary that bench marks to measure the progress are established. The Pacific is no exception. The importance of good statistical data and its analysis in the national development of some countries is seldom appreciated. This perception is changing though and the demand for good and accurate statistical data in the agricultural sector is increasing in recognition of the fact that the economy of the Pacific countries depend heavily on this sector. In the Pacific we still lack a clear definition and scope of the poverty that exists in our region. There is a real need to establish indicators, both regional and/or country specific, to enable us to measure food security or perhaps more importantly food insecurity and poverty. There is an apparent need to strengthen our national capacities in data collection and statistical analysis.
Decision-making and policies are based on statistics. Who produces them, how they are analyzed and presented have direct influence on the quality of the decision-making process and the soundness of the policies decided. The question we should ask ourselves is how we go about strengthening the agricultural statistics in the region so decision-makers are provided with accurate information on these important issues. This brings me to the objective of the workshop this week. The workshop is focusing on ways to measure food security/poverty in the Pacific and to develop a strategy to recognize the need for data, to obtain the required data, to analyze it and to present it to decision-makers. Specifically, it aims to assist countries in formulating and utilizing a food and agricultural statistics system in the framework of an integrated system of agricultural statistics.
You will have opportunities throughout the week to learn and share your experience with others on how we go about achieving the objective of the workshop. I urge you to take advantage of the opportunities and wish to emphasize that before we leave the friendly shores of Fiji, we must make sure that appropriate recommendations on how to achieve the objectives of the workshop are adopted for follow up by both development agencies and more importantly by you the country participants.
Allow me to take the opportunity to express our appreciation to Fusi Vave for accepting our invitation to travel from Suva and open this workshop. Thank you very much Fusi for your continuing support for all of FAO activities in the region. I want also to thanks all the participants for accepting our invitation to this workshop. Allow me also to acknowledge with thanks David Marshall from FAO Headquarters and Fred Baker and colleagues from the Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific in Bangkok for their untiring effort to assist our region on these important issues. A big vinaka vakalevu to Fred Baker who has worked tirelessly to convene this workshop. I am sure that he and his efficient team will try to provide an atmosphere conducive to sharing and free flowing of ideas.
I wish you well in your deliberation.