FAO names 2020 as the UN’s International Year of Plant Health
Plants reportedly make up 80 percent of the food humans eat, and produce 98 percent of the oxygen we breathe. Yet, they are said to be under constant and increasing threat from pests and diseases.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has launched the United Nations’ International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) for 2020, which aims to raise global awareness on how protecting plant health can help end hunger, reduce poverty, protect the environment and boost economic development.
According to FAO, up to 40 percent of global food crops are lost to plant pests and diseases every year. This is said to lead to annual agricultural trade losses of over $220 billion, leaving millions of people facing hunger, and severely damages agriculture – the primary income source for poor rural communities.
FAO has stressed that this is why policies and actions to promote plant health are fundamental for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals.
“Plants provide the core basis for life on Earth and they are the single most important pillar of human nutrition. But healthy plants are not something that we can take for granted,” said FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu. “As with human or animal health, prevention in plant health is better than cure.”
Protecting plants from pests and diseases is considered to be more cost effective than dealing with full-blown plant health emergencies. Plant pests and diseases are often impossible to eradicate once they have established themselves and managing them is said to be time consuming and expensive.
Qu Dongyu also urged for prompt action, pointing out that much still needs to be done to ensure plant health.
“On this International Year and throughout this Decade of Action to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals, let us dedicate the necessary resources and increase our commitment to plant health. Let us act for people and planet,” said António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.
What will the International Year of Plant Health do?
FAO and its International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) will reportedly lead activities to make the year a success as well as promote plant health beyond 2020.
The year will emphasise prevention and protection, and the role everyone can play to ensure and promote plant health.
The key objectives of the year are:
- Raising awareness of the importance of healthy plants for achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
- Highlighting the impact of plant health on food security and ecosystem functions
- Sharing best practices on how to keep plants healthy while protecting the environment.
FAO has stressed that governments, legislators and policymakers should empower plant protection organisations and other relevant institutions, and provide them with adequate human and financial resources. It added that they should also invest more in plant-health related research and outreach, as well as innovative practices and technologies.
Strategic partnerships and collaborative action with all stakeholders, including governments, academia and research institutions, civil society and private sector, are also essential to achieve the objectives of the International Year of Plant Health, noted Qu Dongyu.