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Biodiversity to achieve food security and nutrition in the Near East and North Africa

Participants in Lebanon Room at FAO HQ in Rome

- Twelve countries of the region have gathered in Rome for a Regional Consultation on Near East and North Africa's Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture.
- Near East and North Africa host the greatest genetic resources base for several of the food grown and consumed worldwide.

06 April, 2016 / Rome -- “ The Near East and North Africa (NENA) has been cradle of agriculture since centuries due to vast genetic resources. However, the basic natural resources that support agricultural productivity, including soil, water and genetic resources, are eroding With the erosion of biodiversity, humankind loses the potential to adapt ecosystems to new challenges such as population growth and climate change”, says Mr Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, Assistant Director General and Regional Representative for the FAO Near East and North Africa region, stressing that “achieving food security and nutrition for all is intrinsically linked to the maintenance of biodiversity”.

The purpose of the consultation on the State of Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture in Near East and North Africa is to assess the state of knowledge and the needs and priorities for its sustainable use and conservation. The consultation, taking place in Rome and gathering twelve government representatives of the region, is part of a global assessment process under the aegis of the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

“Previous assessments have given us quite a clear picture of what we know and what we do not know about plant, animal, forest and aquatic genetic resources, in other words, the biodiversity that is of direct use to human beings, be it as food or plow horse. This report is different from our previous assessments in that it will look at the diversity of micro-organisms, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, plants and mammals that are found in and around food production systems and often contribute to the provision of important ecosystem services supporting food and agricultural production. I am confident that the report will improve our understanding of this hidden treasure, ‘associated biodiversity‘, that supports agriculture, livestock, forestry and fisheries”, said Irene Hoffmann, Secretary of the Commission.

The State of World’s Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture report, which will be launched in 2017, will look at the contribution biodiversity for food and agriculture makes to food security, livelihoods and environmental health.

The Near East and North Africa region is the center of domestication for some foods grown and consumed worldwide such as wheat, barley, lentil, forage species and many fruit trees, among others. It is also the center of domestication for cattle, goat, sheep, dromedary and donkey. The region also has a huge amount of wild foods, non-traditional and underused edible plants and animal species, a wide diversity of landscapes and production systems and rich indigenous knowledge about the usage and maintenance of biodiversity for food and agriculture. Traditional water management systems allow for highly intensive and diverse agricultural production in concentrated land areas, within large and dry landscapes.

Recognizing the importance of water scarcity, small scale agriculture, and food security and nutrition for sustainable agriculture in FAO’s work in the Near East and North Africa region, Mr Dost Muhammad, Plant Production Officer, FAO Near East and North Africa region, emphasized that exploitation and adaptation of genetic resources to climate change is important to enhance productivity under changing environments and sustaining pressure of increasing human population. Therefore, sustainable use of natural resources especially of genetic resources will be needed. The challenge for the future will be how to develop integrated farming systems in changing climatic conditions of the region that are compatible with the farmer’s need for food and the farmer’s ability to generate an income for the purchase of other commodities.

In the next three days, participants will discuss priority areas for biodiversity for food and agriculture, related to monitoring and assessment, sustainable use and conservation, policies, institutions and capacity, and regional and international cooperation.


06/04/2016

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