FAO members call for closer collaboration to transform food systems
FAO member countries have joined others from across the food system to call for closer collaboration and a focus on innovation to end food insecurity and hunger.
More than 40 member countries of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) have called for innovation, solidarity, coherence and strong partnerships between countries in Asia and the Pacific to deal with food insecurity and chronic undernourishment in the region.
About 750 participants, including representatives of the private sector and civil society, pledged to work to transform food systems, making them more sustainable, productive and resilient, and to feed a hungry world in a way that is profitable for farmers yet produces healthy food that is accessible to all.
“To transform food systems for sustainable healthy diets we must have coherence, partnerships and solidarity to reduce the costs of production,” FAO Director-General, Qu Dongyu, said on the final day of the 35th Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, hosted by the Government of Bhutan.
“Big data, a digital economy and mobile technology will help producers achieve that,” he said. “A smartphone in the hands of a smallholder farmer is his new farming tool/”
The Conference also learned more about the establishment of a FAO Office of Innovation and the creation of an International Platform for Digital Food and Agriculture.
It heard that agricultural innovation can reduce back-breaking drudgery, and that food chains in the Asia-Pacific region are increasingly benefitting from technological innovation such as drones, satellite imagery, big data and block chains.
“Leveraging data, innovation and technology has shown that, here in Asia and the Pacific, we have brilliant minds, scientists and an entrepreneurial spirit that will lead us through the challenges presented by COVID-19 and help us conquer malnutrition and poverty,” the Director-General said.
The Conference held a special session dedicated to the application of new technology and innovation in agriculture, which is attracting young people and empowering women in the sector, according to participants. It was agreed that new and innovative food and agricultural policies, processes, investment and learning could get the region back on track to achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2 (ending hunger and promoting sustainable agriculture) by 2030.
The Asia-Pacific region is home to more than half of the world’s undernourished people, and with the impacts of COVID-19, the number of hungry people in Southern Asia could rise by nearly a third to 330 million in the next 10 years, it was highlighted at the Conference.
The Conference was chaired by the Minister for Agriculture and Forests of Bhutan, Yeshey Penjor, who called for strengthened collaboration: “While great strides had been made to reduce poverty and hunger by so many countries, COVID-19 has upended the momentum. We must prepare for higher risks ahead of us and make sure that there is sustainability in the food supply chain,” he said.
“Ironically, the fact that COVID-19 has driven us to meet remotely has, in some ways, helped us to move away from formalities and get closer together,” said Dongyu, referring to the fact the Regional Conference was held entirely in virtual mode for the first time in FAO’s history. “So while we are separated by some 11 time zones, we have still managed to come together, have thought-provoking discussions and reach consensus on a number of important issues.”