On the third day of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia-Pacific, the FAO Director-General QU Dongyu, Government Ministers as well as civil society and private sector representatives voiced concern over COVID-19’s impacts on the food security and livelihoods of millions of people and urged for greater action to overcome the food and agriculture challenges facing the region.
The FAO Director-General highlighted that small and vulnerable farmers must be at the centre of the response.
“Smallholder farmers and their families, food workers in all sectors, and those living in commodity- and tourism-dependent economies are particularly vulnerable. They urgently need our attention,” QU urged.
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 ten years.
“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,” said the conference’s chairperson Yeshey Penjor, Bhutan’s Minister for Agriculture and Forests.
Other high-level speakers noted the importance of acting in two fronts simultaneously: revising public policies and implementing practical measures in the field.
The FAO Director-General and many participants also urged for sustained and stronger collaboration, including leveraging agricultural technologies and innovations, to end hunger and tackle COVID-19’s impacts
In this respect, the FAO chief presented the organization’s recently launched COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme – aimed at mitigating the immediate impacts of the pandemic while building back better – as well as other key initiatives, with a focus on innovation, that can accelerate global hunger-fighting efforts.
These include the establishment of an FAO office of innovation and the creation of an international platform for digital food and agriculture, as well as the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which is supported by “state-of-the-art tools”, namely the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform and the FAO Data Lab for statistical innovation.
“The point of all these initiatives is to get the latest knowledge and tools into the hands of decision-makers but also smallholder farmers, fishers, herders, and foresters. This is the region where a vast majority of smallholders are producing the food and agricultural products that we rely upon,” said QU.
The FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific will continue until 4 September.
Original source: FAO