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G-77 countries call for resolve and solidarity in malnutrition battle

Nutrition dialogue ahead of upcoming ICN2 with Bolivian President Evo Morales and other leaders

30 October 2014, Rome - Evo Morales Ayma, current chairman of the Group of 77 and President of the Plurinational State of Bolivia, urged an expansive reading of state's duties to guarantee food, land and access to water for all during a visit to FAO today.

"Food security and nutrition are indispensable," he said. "We endorse the idea that each and every person has access to healthy food and does not suffer hunger."

Bolivia's president also spoke of his country's recent measures to take state control of the provision of basic goods and services such as water, its opposition to genetically-modified crops, his government's use of subsidized credit and grants to agricultural smallholders, and a scheme to buy surplus produce when harvests are strong. "We're working for food sovereignty," he said.

Morales spoke at a third "Dialogue on Nutrition" devoted to gathering views from the G-77 bloc in the lead up to the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) set to start on 19 November. Previous dialogues in the series engaged officials from the United States and from the so-called BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

"Nutrition is a public issue," FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said. "That means something very simple: Governments are responsible to lead efforts aimed at assuring adequate nutrition to all of their citizens."

He cited "opposing trajectories" in which fewer people are experiencing chronic hunger but the ranks of those suffering from obesity are on the rise.

While ICN2 will result in voluntary agreements, "it is very important that countries set up nutrition plans with resources, targets and indicators," Graziano said.

Exchange of experiences

Other speakers at the dialogue noted the role of poor and smaller-scale farmers in advancing nutrition and food security, emphasizing the importance of policies and programmes crafted to optimize their contributions.

Smallholders and pastoralists in Sudan play a big role in safeguarding biodiversity, while farming families that are too poor to buy and use fertilizers end up relying on "their knowledge and heritage" that can bolster resilience, said Ambassador Amira Daoud Hassan Gornass of the Sudan, speaking on behalf of G-77 members in the Near East region.

Carla Elisa Mucavi, permanent representative to FAO for the Republic of Mozambique, noted that small family plots, often farmed by women, provided the bulk of food in her country. African governments have pledged to spend 10 percent of their budgets on agricultural development and should focus those resources so that smallholders gain more efficient access to markets and to credit, she said.

"Changes that build on what smallholders do tend to be more effective than changes that are imported wholesale from elsewhere," Mucavi added.

"We must make images of hungry children on our television screens a thing of the past,'' said Tehmina Janjua, ambassador from Pakistan, speaking on behalf of the G-77's members in the Asia-Pacific region.

Malnutrition issues remain persistently high in South Asia, making the ICN2 conference an urgent event, she noted.

She also emphasized that the Asia-Pacific region was particularly susceptible to climate change, which would inevitably affect food production and security and make sustainable development even harder to achieve for many countries.

The Dialogue allowed for discussion of a wide array of issues, including the role of smallholders, the importance of sustainable genetic biodiversity and even the prospect for income security schemes, all of which will be key issues at the coming ICN2 conference, said Dominique Awono Essama, ambassador to Rome for Cameroon and chair of the G-77's Rome chapter.

Photo: ©FAO/
Evo Morales and FAO's Jose Graziano da Silva during the G77 nutrition dialogue.