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FAO happy to contribute early-warning expertise to new platform

Measuring resilience, using artificial intelligence can flank ground action to fight famine/hunger

23 September 2018, New York - FAO welcomes a new World Bank initiative to promote action against famines and is eager to contribute its own considerable tools and resources to make it a success, Director-General José Graziano da Silva said late Sunday.

He spoke at an event held during the United Nations General Assembly on partnerships to address severe food insecurity around the world, and focused on the World Bank’s proposed Famine Action Mechanism (FAM).

FAO operates several early warning systems and set up the Global Information and Early Warning System on Food and Agriculture, known as GIEWS, in response to the famines of 1974 in the Sahel and East Africa. This platform continues to be developed and fined, and monitors a host of indicators including food supply and demand, in order to provide a better understanding of global food security.

FAO has also been one of the leading partners in the development and implementation of the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC). Designed to be even more precise in identifying the people most at risk of hunger in increasingly complex food crises, IPC has played a critical role in tackling famine in Somalia in 2011 and also in emergencies last year in northeastern Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen.

Graziano da Silva strongly welcomed the World Bank’s view that the new FAM tool should build on the IPC system, saying the two can “strengthen, enhance and complement one another”.

While welcoming the potential of investments in new technologies such as artificial intelligence in the fight against famine, he emphasized the importance of keeping local stakeholders fully engaged to catalyse consensus on food-security analyses from governments and local actors.

Primary data collection and information systems at the country level remain essential and need heavy further investments, he said.

Building resilience

Poor rural people are the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and investments in bolstering their resilience are extremely important, Graziano da Silva noted.

That means providing cash transfers, seed rations, support for vegetable production and support for livestock treatment and vaccination. Much can be done – as shown by FAO’s recent efforts in Syria – to fight hunger and famine even in times of conflict, he said. In protracted crises, farmers and pastoralists are highly likely to migrate if they do not have access to seeds and fertilizers or ways to restock their herds. Saving livelihoods is the surest way to save lives.

Investments in resilience must be targeted at reaching the people most in need, for which better information systems and evidence-based practices are needed, Graziano da Silva said.

Photo: ©FAO/IFAD/WFP/Luis Tato
A group of woman working at sorghum crops in Niger wait for a UN relief convoy.