From the podium

From the podium

Mr. Godwin O.P. Obasi (Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization - WMO)

It is indeed an honour and a pleasure for me to address the World Food Summit: five years later in the historic city of Rome. On behalf of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and on my own behalf, I would like to express my appreciation to the Government of Italy for hosting this Summit. I am also thankful to Dr J. Diouf, Director-General of FAO, for his kind invitation and congratulate him and his staff on the excellent preparations made to ensure the success of the Summit.

The 1996 Rome Declaration on World Food Security and the World Food Security Plan of Action provided a framework for bringing about important changes in policies and programmes needed to achieve Food for All. However, current projections indicate that the goal set by the 1996 World Food Summit and the Millennium Summit Declaration will not be achieved unless approached with renewed determination and vigour. This challenge will require the formulation of future strategies aimed at achieving food security within the wider context of poverty eradication, economic development, environmental sustainability and improved agricultural technology.

Such strategies should specifically recognize the extreme sensitivity of agriculture to weather and climate variability and change. Extreme weather events in many countries, including India, Bangladesh, the Caribbean and Venezuela, have caused mass migration of livestock and people, and widespread destruction of crops. The Mozambique floods in 2000 are estimated to have cost US$ one billion in damages, costing the economy 11.6 percent of its gross national product. Recent record-breaking droughts have severely affected much of the Middle East, the area through central Asia to northern China, Brazil and Africa. Today over 23 million people are at risk of famine in the Horn of Africa and in some parts of Eastern and Southern Africa. World-wide, drought and desertification seriously threaten the livelihood of over 1.2 billion people.

Recent advances in science and technology make it now possible to forecast these extreme events and provide accurate advance warnings. It is also possible to predict El Niņo-related events for a season to over one year in advance. This represents considerable advantages to many economic sectors such as agricultural production, water resources management and fisheries. WMO's Climate Information Prediction Services (CLIPS) project supports efforts in applying such knowledge to agricultural activities. In Peru, El Niņo information has been used for sustainable agricultural production through the alternation of crops between rice in El Niņo years, and cotton during non-El Niņo years. In Vietnam, it is estimated that food production can be increased by 0.5 percent annually by making proper use of weather and climate information. Pilot studies in Mali and Burkina Faso have shown that, with the judicious application of climate information to supplement agronomic practices, crop yield productivity will increase by up to 30 percent.

Over a longer term period, agricultural activities might be threatened by climate change. The WMO/UNEP Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Third Assessment Report (2001) has indicated that recent regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases, have already affected many physical and biological systems. It is noted that those countries with the least resources have the least capacity to adapt to climate change and would be the most vulnerable.

I would, therefore, like to urge this Summit to give special attention to Commitments in the World Food Security Plan of Action, which call among others, for the strengthening of national meteorological, hydrological and agronomic networks; the enhancement of early warning systems and availability of improved short- and long-term weather and climate information and prediction; the strengthening or establishment of multi-disciplinary teams at the national level involved in food production and food security; and the promotion of capacity-building and transfer of knowledge and technology.

In conclusion, I wish to assure the Summit that WMO will continue to enhance its support to all countries, especially the developing ones, and regional and international institutions in their efforts to meet the goals of the World Food Summit. The fight against hunger, undernourishment and poverty can only be achieved through concerted efforts, and WMO stands ever ready to cooperate with relevant partners in achieving the noble goal of food for all; a better world for all.

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