FAO conference ends with call for better nutrition, sustainable agriculture

FAO conference ends with call for better nutrition, sustainable agriculture

Öykü Altuntaş – ANTALYA - Doğan News Agency
FAO conference ends with call for better nutrition, sustainable agriculture

AA photo

The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Regional Conference for Europe concluded on May 6, as members called for better nutrition, food security and more sustainable agriculture practices in pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) over the next two years in Europe and Central Asia.

Ministers, delegates, civil society groups and other participants called on the FAO to work with them on growing food for expanding populations and international markets while using more sustainable practices, on the sidelines of the 30th FAO Regional Conference held in the Mediterranean province of Antalya, between May 4 and May 6.

The 17 SDGs were desired to be adopted by all nations last year, over the next two years, in Europe and Central Asia. 

Improved nutrition and the promotion of pulses as food crops and as a dietary choice were underscored during the regional conference. Meanwhile, policies and other forms of support for family-run farms, strengthening of the agri-food trade, combating illegal fishing and support to women and youth were also emphasized within the event. FAO members discussed the “Save and Grow” or ecosystem-based agriculture, which is a new paradigm being advanced by the organization. 

The impact of climate change, which directly affects almost all countries in the region, on agriculture emerged as a serious concern during the conference. 

The FAO has promoted an approach called “climate-smart agriculture” emphasizing productivity, adaptation and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

Agriculture sector has main role in coping with climate change: da Silva

FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva gave a closing speech where he thanked the support and hospitality of Turkey, as well as the high participation of the conference.

“The conference was very successful; the numbers show it. We have attendance of 42 countries plus the EU delegates, out of the 53 countries in the region,” he said. 

Some 108 delegates and a total of 131 participants, including 23 observers from the U.N., NGOs and members of the private sector and academia attended the regional conference, according to official numbers.
“From the FAO perspective, we find [it] very important that this region is completely aligned with the priorities of [the] agenda [for] 2030,” da Silva said.

Da Silva reiterated concerns over the sustainability of the agriculture sector, underlining that the sector played a “main role” in coping and adapting to climate change.

Concerns about the impacts of climate change including floods and droughts were central in the agenda of the conference, he said. 

One in two face obesity 

“Nutrition and food security issues are of priority,” da Silva stated, underlining that despite the “successful approach” to food security, the FAO still saw a “growing number of overweight and obese people,” while one in two were thought to be in these categories.

He noted the importance of reducing food waste, while referring to Turkey’s “initiatives” to tackle the problem, which were “very welcomed.”

According to the FAO director-general, pulses were among the most available nutrition, which also highlighted the importance of local production and consumption. He also praised Turkey and the region’s efforts to combat illegal fishing. 

Civil society urges more effort for wageworkers, women and young people

The dialogue with civil society was encouraging, da Silva said, while listing the contributions of civil society organizations (CSOs) in the conference.

These organizations have brought up some issues including agro-ecology, access to natural sources, the use of new technologies to cope with climate change, the participation of family farms and fishing communities, along with local and regional markets, and decent working conditions for laborers. 

The message from CSOs was that the “FAO should make more efforts for wage workers and contributions to the role of women” he said, noting that young people and women should be encouraged to have direct access to land.

Farmers should not pay the bill of non-related problems: Çelik

Meanwhile, Turkish Food, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Faruk Çelik, who also co-chaired the conference, stated participation of the event was very high and described the key topics as protection of biodiversity, research and development work for agriculture and decreasing waste in food and agriculture. 

Some other important discussions were held on the sustainability of small businesses, the crucial role of the private sector and education, Çelik said.

After a suggestion by Slovenia, May 20 was decided to be declared “The day of Bees and Beekeeping,” as suggested in front of the U.N., Çelik added.

“As countries in the region, our problems are common,” Çelik told reporters, calling for cooperation and dialogue for global and regional solutions. 

“Farmers are the most disadvantaged groups in the context of share distribution of domestic income, and I believe it is wrong that the bill is issued to them for topics that are not related to agriculture,” Çelik said.

Related events draw attention to food losses, governance tenure

A two-day consultation of CSOs in the region took place immediately before the conference, which led to a position statement making FAO suggestions. A regional dialogue on responsible governance of tenure of land and other natural resources was also hosted by the Committee on World Food Security one day before the opening of the conference.

A between sessions side event drew attention to food losses and waste as “a global problem of enormous economic, environmental and societal significance.” FAO estimates show that as much as one-third of all food produced is either lost or wasted and never consumed.

A third side event illustrated how the FAO was “promoting new forms of cooperation and partnership to promote agricultural and rural development, cooperation between and among countries and with research institutions.”

The regional conference is the FAO’s highest governing body for Europe and Central Asia, attended by ministers of agriculture and other delegates from 53 member countries and one member organization (the European Union), as well as observers from civil society and the private sector. The conference discusses the region’s food and agriculture challenges and sets priorities for the FAO’s work in the region. The regional conference is held once every two years, in years when the global FAO conference does not meet in regular session.