FAO chief highlights peace as a powerful force for ending hunger

FAO Director-General addresses international agriculture forum in Paris

5 July 2018, Paris - The Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization José Graziano da Silva has highlighted the vital role agriculture plays in preventing conflict and promoting sustainable peace, during a keynote speech delivered today at a forum on agriculture, defence, diplomacy and development (L'Agriculture en 3D: Défense, Diplomatie, Développement) in Paris.

"Hunger and peace are closely linked. Conflicts have a major impact on local food systems. They contribute to the worsening of hunger in the world," Graziano da Silva said.

Nearly half the population in countries affected by violence live in rural areas, where livelihoods largely depend on agriculture. Two recent FAO-led reports, the State of the World's Food Security and Nutrition (2017) and the Global Report on Food Crises (2018) indicate that hunger is on the rise and one of the main driving factors is conflict.

"But we must keep hope," the Director-General said. "Even in areas worst hit by violence, farmers, herders and fishers continue to produce food."

Speaking of his visit to South Sudan last year, Graziano da Silva said he met with farmers and herders who are producing food under the worst circumstances. "But this resilience capacity needs to be continually funded, because once local food systems are broken, it is more difficult to rebuild."

The Director-General also urged stronger partnerships for peace among those working in the humanitarian and development sectors.

"Humanitarian action, while fundamental, is not enough," he said. "It alone cannot stop this trend of worsening food crises... To this must be added actions for sustainable development to generate new opportunities."

The Director-General described a visit to Maiduguri in north-eastern Nigeria, where he saw that unless young people - especially young men - are provided with legitimate livelihood options they have no choice but to join armed groups or attempt to migrate in search of better lives. "This is why support for local food systems plays a crucial role in contributing to peace".

Graziano da Silva outlined FAO's more than 40 years of experience in supporting livelihoods to save the lives of farmers, herders and fishers, including in areas of conflict.

"The employment of young people and women is a crucial element of FAO's efforts to combat hunger in conflict contexts. For example, in Niger, France's support to FAO and the World Food Programme allows us to provide work opportunities for young people and women in the agri-food sector. This has resulted in a slowdown in the flow of people leaving their land, and increased resilience."

"If agricultural activities are not supported, more and more farmers, shepherds and fishermen will have no choice but to abandon their land to migrate to other countries. What is a shepherd without his goats? A potential migrant".

Peace for Zero Hunger

The Director-General also highlighted the FAO Nobel Peace Laureates Alliance which unites FAO expertise and Nobel Peace Prize winners such as Muhammad Yunus, Adolfo Peréz Esquivel, Tawakkol Karman, Juan Manuel Santos and others. The Director-General described the laureates as advocates of peace "and passionate defenders of the belief that food security is an essential prerequisite to build a world free from hunger."

The Director-General concluded by quoting Nelson Mandela: "Let us make peace so that we can concentrate on the really important work that needs to be done. That is, alleviating the plight of the poor and the defenceless, for as long as most of humanity feels the pain of poverty we all remain prisoners."

The forum was jointly organized by France's Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, and Club Déméter, the international agri-food association focused on solutions for the future.    

Photo: ©FAO/Stefanie Glinski
A child in Aweil, South Sudan. In a speech in Paris, the FAO Director-General has highlighted peace as a powerful force for ending hunger.