Asia-Pacific countries discuss ways to improve life after pandemic

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TEMPO.CO, Jakarta – Ministers and high-level delegates from across Asia and the Pacific met on Friday, March 11, with a focus on improving nutrition, lives and livelihoods in the wake of the global pandemic, while addressing current threats related to climate and extreme weather, and combating diseases and pests that affect crops and livestock in the most populated region of the world. Improving ecosystem responses in the Pacific Islands is another key topic.

The 36th Asia-Pacific Regional Conference (APRC), convened by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and hosted by the government of Bangladesh, is taking place in the capital, Dhaka, on March 11.

Indonesian Agriculture Minister Syahrul Yasin Limpo attended the conference virtually representing Indonesia as the head of delegation. In his speech, he highlighted lessons learned from the global COVID-19 pandemic and stressed the importance of building a resilient and sustainable national agrifood system.

“The global COVID-19 pandemic has taught us the importance of building a resilient and sustainable national food and agriculture system,” Limpo said.

The Minister also said that in the context of Indonesia’s G20 Presidency, the development of the food and agricultural system will focus on three priorities, namely building resilient and sustainable food and agricultural systems, encouraging the creation of open and predictable cross-border trade and the development of agriculture, entrepreneurship and digitalization.

“We believe this proposal will help create better economic growth in the region,” Limpo said.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina highlighted that her country had achieved self-sufficiency in several essential foods and noted that agriculture remained the “backbone” of the economy, providing livelihoods for 40 percent. cent of the working population. She called for “realizing food security and nutrition in the truest sense of the word”, and she called for collaboration between countries in the region in areas such as education, biotechnology and green investments.

FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu, who attended the regional conference in person, acknowledged the toll the global pandemic has taken on the lives and livelihoods of people in Asia and the Pacific. He noted that there was a long way to go for the region to end hunger and improve nutrition, citing an FAO report last year which found that 40 percent of the population had no ways to afford a healthy and nutritious diet.

Reversing many years of progress, hunger in Asia and the Pacific is on the rise again and inequalities are widening, especially between rural and urban populations, while too often women and young people are left behind. “The pandemic has forced us to reconsider our priorities and approaches and has underscored the importance of more sustainable and resilient societies, as well as the urgency of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals to ensure food, health, education, a healthy environment and a decent life for all,” the Director-General said in his statement to the Conference.

This has led to a movement to transform the region’s agrifood systems and make them more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable, he added.

Scaling up digitalization in the food and agriculture sectors to transform agri-food systems

One of the main areas of focus of this APRC is the digitization of agriculture and food processes sweeping across Asia and the Pacific, and the potential they have for the region and the world, if further expanded. , to help transform agrifood systems in ways that also benefit smallholder farmers. This would support the achievement of the “four best”, as set out in the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31: better production, better nutrition, better environment and better life for all – leaving no one behind.

FAO has been a leader in promoting digitalization and innovation in agricultural processes – from producers to processors, transporters, retailers and consumers – through FAO’s 1000 Digital Villages Initiative, through example, and the creation of a solution platform for SIDS.

“The 1,000 Digital Villages initiative aims to convert villages around the world into digital hubs to support accelerating rural transformation,” Qu said, noting that the initiative has been rolled out to 15 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Pacific and will facilitate small producers. ‘ access to knowledge and markets, while bridging the digital divide, including gender and rural divides.

This “will leverage the entrepreneurial spirit of youth and women in the region by creating an enabling environment and supporting the development of national e-agriculture strategies and digital tools and services. And I have great expectations for this region because there are so many ‘champion countries’ and you already have digital value, digital governance and digital economy in rural areas,” the Director-General said during his statement. at the conference.

At its headquarters, FAO also hosted a focal point to guide follow-up action on the ground after the 2021 UN Food Systems Summit.

While the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference is convened every two years to seek the views and guidance of FAO member country governments in the region, it has broadened to become more inclusive of other actors, such as civil society organizations and the private sector, both of which participated in #APRC36.

Read: FAO conference focuses on resilient post-COVID-19 food and agriculture system

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