Countries of Asia-Pacific warned improvements to food safety and mitigating the effects of climate change on agriculture
FAO and others have been working with member countries in this region and others as part of a global initiative to support improvements to food security, nutrition and sustainable development in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), including how to deal with climate change and obesityFAO | Updated: 09-04-2018 08:48 IST | Created: 09-04-2018 08:46 IST
Located in a region with some of the biggest country populations on the planet, and many countries – large and small – increasingly vulnerable to extreme weather events and continuing concerns about food safety, the Asia and Pacific region could face a future of food insecurity if action isn't taken now, the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned today.
While the Asia-Pacific region has made remarkable progress in recent years – both economically and in efforts to improve nutrition – the fight against hunger has slowed and in some parts of the region regressed. With nearly half-a-billion (490 million) people still hungry and undernourished, this is a major concern in its own right, but other factors are aggravating a lack of regional progress toward the goal of zero hunger by 2030.
"A poor record of food safety across much of this region, persistent hunger alongside increasing rates of obesity, the threat of zoonotic diseases, climate change and the impact of extreme weather events on agriculture, particularly on small islands states – these things are converging – and they are bedeviling our member countries' efforts to end hunger, improve nutrition and expand trade," said Kundhavi Kadiresan, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific.
Kadiresan made the remarks at the beginning of FAO's 34th Session of the Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (#APRC34), a forum where all 46 Member Nations of FAO in the Asia-Pacific region are invited to convene every two years to monitor progress toward food security, improved livelihoods and eradication of hunger in all its forms.
"The outcomes of this conference will be critical to making sure we are once again moving forward on the road to zero hunger, by helping us find our way around the obstacles blocking our paths, and making sure no one gets left behind," Kadiresan said.
Climate action for agriculture
A wide array of foods are threatened by climate change in Asia and the Pacific. Priority areas identified by Member Nations in the region focus on national adaptation and mitigation action on agriculture and land-use sectors ranging from forestry to crops to livestock, land and water.
FAO, at the global level, introduced its Strategy on Climate Change at the FAO Conference in July 2017. Regionally and nationally, FAO's work will be delivered through the newly established Regional Initiative on Climate Change. Strategic engagement and leadership by agriculture ministries in the climate change agenda will enhance national capacity to scale up measures to strengthen climate resilient food and agriculture systems, reduce poverty, promote gender equality, and address food insecurity and malnutrition in Asia and the Pacific.
Special focus on the Pacific Islands
APRC34 is being held in Fiji, hosted by the Government of Fiji. It's the first time the Conference has convened in a Pacific Island nation in more than 20 years. While a major concern for the Pacific is climate change and extreme weather events, so too are diets and obesity. In Oceania, the sub-region which also includes Australia and New Zealand, between 2000 and 2016, the prevalence of overweight children under five almost doubled from five percent to nine percent. Obesity is also a major health concern for adults in Oceania (and other parts of Asia-Pacific), because it can lead to non-communicable diseases including type-2 diabetes. As people live longer, this obesity "time bomb" could place a great strain on public health services.
FAO and others have been working with member countries in this region and others as part of a global initiative to support improvements to food security, nutrition and sustainable development in Small Island Developing States (SIDS), including how to deal with climate change and obesity.
Addressing food safety challenges in Asia and the Pacific
A lack of hygiene and sanitation, along with poor awareness of proper practices in food processing and handling, continues to endanger the health of the region's inhabitants and damages confidence in food trade, including international trade in food commodities, which is worth some US$ 1.7 trillion, according to estimates by World Bank and UNCTAD.
The APRC delegates are discussing ways to improve food safety in ways that will be beneficial to a wide range of producers and consumers, from small holder farmers to local consumers to food exporters. The delegates are looking closely at the experiences of some countries in applying international food standards and strengthening national committees on food safety. The use of an international food safety framework developed by FAO and WHO (Codex) is being enhanced in ASEAN countries, according to a Conference paper, and is "supported to harmonize standards at the regional level to promote free trade within the bloc and with key non-member partner countries such as Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand and the Republic of Korea."
The 34th Session of the Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific has drawn government Ministers and Delegations from the far west of Asia and countries from South, Southeast and East Asia and Oceania. FAO Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, will speak to the Conference later in the week and participate in a Ministerial Roundtable on Zero Hunger on Thursday. The final recommendations from the Member Nations to FAO will be finalized on Friday.