Global cooperation needed for food security and agriculture amid climate change: FAO Director General

Global cooperation needed for food security and agriculture amid climate change: FAO Director General

Öykü Altuntaş - Antalya / Doğan News Agency
Global cooperation needed for food security and agriculture amid climate change: FAO Director General

AA photo

The agenda on food security and agriculture, as well as fight against climate change, hunger and poverty, can only be implemented through a global cooperation, according to the director of The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, José Graziano da Silva.

Refugee crisis and migration from conflict zones including Syria must be also addressed “at the deepest roots,” Silva said in his inauguration speech at the 30th FAO Regional Conference held in Turkey’s Antalya on May 4. 

Da Silva also highlighted that the organization’s efforts to boost food security resilience of those in Syria. FAO seeks to tackle humanitarian crises, which mostly affect women, according to the FAO chief.

“FAO is aware that food and agriculture lie at the very heart of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) agenda,” the FAO chief said.

FAO’s governance structure is prioritized for different regions in parallel with efforts on food security on global level and key challenges such as climate change, so as to increase the resilience of rural livelihoods, he explained.

FAO Director General also emphasized the need for the private sector, civil society, academia and regional organizations to work together in directly addressing this year’s agenda.

Stressing the importance of Turkey’s partnership with FAO to extend technical expertise and better assist neighboring countries, Silva thanked the Turkish government for “hosting Syrian refugees both in local communities and camps, thus [enabling] those to have decent and dignified lives.” 

FAO is already helping assist refugees as part of its humanitarian work, he said, while underlining the organization’s assistance to farmers “to prevent even more displacement and to set foundations for rebuilding the country in a post-conflict situation.” 

Rural development helps the establishment of peaceful and sustainable societies, da Silva noted, outlining the FAO’s efforts to support farmers and producers.

“It is not only conflicts that are causing people to seek refuge. Many smallholders and family farms are fleeing their lands because of the impacts of climate change,” the FAO chief said.

“The [COP21] Paris Agreement, signed by 175 countries two weeks ago in New York, is a milestone in this regard. It recognizes the importance of building the resilience of the most vulnerable, as well as the fundamental role of agriculture to promote adaptation and mitigation,” he said. 

According to da Silva, climate change is generating “a world of uncertainties and complexities, in other terms, a ‘new normality.’” 

“It is difficult to foresee all the challenges of tomorrow in our quest for sustainable development. We are constantly facing new and unexpected situations at national, regional and global levels,” he said, pointing to the need of joint strength and courage for a safer and more peaceful world.

Meanwhile, Turkish Agriculture Minister Faruk Çelik said the FAO’s conference in Antalya was taking place at “such a critical period in the region and the world” amid an economic, political and socially critical period.
In the 1960s, 35 percent of the world’s population suffered from starvation, Çelik explained, adding that today this amount has been reduced to 11 percent. 

“[This decrease] might look like important progress; however, 500 million people are obese, while 800 million people are hungry,” he said.

Each year, 1.3 billion tons of food are wasted, while 34 countries (17 of which are in Africa) do not have enough food to ensure proper nutrition of their people, he said in this speech. 

Last September, sustainable development goals were adapted with the target to end hunger by 2030, Çelik said.

“The key to international peace is access to food… We can end world hunger just by reducing food waste. With the increase of world population, governments’ main duty is to assure easy access to food. Agriculture production should be increased by 60 percent compared to today as the world population is expected to reach 10 billion,” he said.

However, twelve million hectares of agricultural lands are losing their agricultural value, according to Çelik, who called for the allocation of more resources. 

“Agriculture depends on human labor and natural conditions. The man-made global warming and related disasters are influencing production negatively,” he said, urging protection for producers.

We need to work more to mitigate negative impacts of climate change, he said, while reiterating the signed Paris agreement.

“When you look at this blue Mediterranean, you will think of sea, sun fishery and tourism. However, the sea is seen as a graveyard today,” he said, underlining the “tragedy in Syria” that has forced thousands to cross dangerously to European countries.

“If we cannot assure the food supply, many countries can experience the tragedy similar to the one in Syria,” he warned.

Meanwhile, he claimed Turkey’s agricultural yield was $55 billion while its product exports reached $17 billion dollars last year, making it a “highly convenient country for agriculture.” 

“But we need agricultural strategic objectives which are based on high technology and are efficient, demand-oriented, and internationally competitive,” he said.

According to Çelik, Turkey needs “farmer trainings, rural development, organizations, contracted production and use of certified seeds.”

This year marks the “International Year of the Pulses,” Çelik also noted. “Turkey is working on increasing awareness in terms of pulses, which are preferred products in Turkey and the world. Turkey is the motherland of lentil and chickpea,” he added.