Challenge in addressing food security and poverty in Asia Pacific

By Soldier Buruka in Vietnam

Food security and rural poverty reduction are two relevant and urgent themes that needed to be addressed more closely. There are nearly one billion people in the world living in hunger and poverty and 65 per cent of them are from Asia and the Pacific. This was the message delivered at the opening of the 31st FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific in Hanoi, Vietnam, by its Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Cao Duc Phat.

Adding value to local food to address food security - PNG farmers admiring flour processed from sweet potato

Mr Phat said food security and rural poverty reduction are the core themes of the conference and urged the participants to discuss these themes seriously and come up with solutions. He said negative factors like global economic crisis, climate change, reduction of agricultural land and water resources, and decrease of agricultural investment have aggravated the situation.

Therefore, to achieve the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of hungry and extremely poor people by 2015 is apparently a great big challenge for the world and the region as well, said Mr Phat.

“This goal would be achieved only if multiple efforts at regional and international levels are well coordinated and are complementary in combating hunger and poverty.”

Senior officials from more than 20 FAO member countries, including PNG are meeting in Hanoi to discuss in depth the issues of food security and rural poverty reduction and provide consultancy on strategies and measures which the Heads of the delegations will endorse in the Plenary Session later this week.

Two new countries, Singapore and Brunei Darussalam, are attending as observers as a step towards their FAO membership.

FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, Hiroyuki Konuma, told the delegates that FAO’s vision is of a world free of hunger and malnutrition, where food and agriculture contribute to improving the living standards of all, especially the poor, in an economically, socially and environmentally sustainable manner.

However, eradicating hunger has become more and more complex and challenging in this region in the consequence of increasing and volatile food prices, affected by climate change and natural disasters, trade policies of food exporting countries, soaring crude oil prices, increased use of staple foods for bio-energy, and other factors.

Mr Konuma said FAO estimates that it should be possible to meet the food and feed demand of the projected world population of year 2050, based on reasonable assumptions in sustainable yield increase and in land and water use. Achieving this, however, will require several significant challenges to be met including huge investment in agricultural sector such as research and infrastructure development, agricultural extension, training and post-harvest loss reduction, and effective and sustainable natural resource management. On the other hand, major factors of future uncertainties, especially the impact of climate changes and bio-fuel development need to be dealt with, as a priority, including the promotion of agricultural adaptation and mitigation to climate changes, and harmonization of food security and bio-energy policies and development.

Mr Konuma said it must be realized that the production focused intervention or cereal based nutrition alone could not solve the all fundamental problems of hunger and under nutrition. While social safety nets, such as conditional cash voucher scheme is an effective tool to secure access and protect the most vulnerable consumers on short-term emergency basis, and nutrition awareness and education must be prompted further, countries must also promote long-term strategic and social protection actions to promote income and access to adequate and nutritionally balanced food by the poor, especially small scale and landless farmers who constitute the majority of poor and hungry population.

He stated that promotion of pro-poor agriculture and rural development policy, crop and agricultural diversification including livestock and fisheries, value chain development, inclusive rural development and employment generation especially for women, strengthening farmer organizations and cooperatives to promote their bargaining power, and the promotion of rural credit and agricultural insurance schemes are some of the key areas for immediate

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