FAO Regional Conference focuses on innovation and digitalization to fight crop and livestock diseases and build resilience to climate and weather threats
Dhaka/Rome — Ministers and high-level delegates from across Asia and the Pacific gathered today to focus on improving nutrition, living conditions and livelihoods in the aftermath of the global pandemic, while addressing current threats related to climate and severe 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.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina highlighted her country’s achievement of self-sufficiency in several key foods and noted that agriculture remains the “backbone” of the economy, providing 40% of livelihoods. of the working population. She called for “realizing food security and nutrition in the real sense of the word”, and she called for collaboration among 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.
The Director-General said FAO will work to achieve this through four regional priorities. They focus on transforming agri-food systems for sustainable production and healthy diets; accelerate the sustainable management of natural resources for biodiversity conservation and climate action; support inclusive rural transformation for sustainable agrifood systems and equitable rural societies, and build sustainable and resilient agrifood systems in Pacific Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
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 the FAO 1000 Digital Villages Initiative , for example, and the creation of a solutions platform for SIDS, for example. .
“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 to the conference.
The regional conference agenda includes several high-level segments with ministerial roundtables.
Indeed, the conference “is an excellent opportunity to discuss national and regional priorities as well as pressing issues and needs in the region such as the impacts of climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, the state of agriculture, natural resource management, food security and nutrition,” said Mohammad Abdur Razzaque, MP, Minister of Agriculture of Bangladesh and President of APRC36.
“The gaps in our global agrifood system have been laid bare. The dots no longer connect,” said Hans Hoogeveen, Independent Chairman of the FAO Council. “We need transformative change, and we need it now. Transformative change through transformative action. There are no more excuses not to act.”
“We need broader innovation in the way we govern our food systems, locally, nationally and globally: what I like to call ‘governance innovation’,” said Gabriel Ferrero, Chairman of the Committee on World Food Security.
The FAO Director-General expressed his gratitude to the government and people of Bangladesh for hosting APRC36 in difficult times and for the participation of delegates who joined the meeting both virtually and in person in Dhaka.
Regional structural reforms to better serve Members
The Director-General highlighted that he has initiated institutional reforms to give FAO regional and sub-regional offices more flexibility to help them implement flagship initiatives and support the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-2031. Organization.
As examples of this improved delivery, he cited nine countries in the region that are already participating in the Hand-in-Hand initiative, which aims to increase agricultural production in areas with the highest rates of poverty and hunger. . He also highlighted the 1,000 Digital Villages initiative, which aims to bridge the digital divide faced by smallholders and rural dwellers, while the new One Country One Priority Product initiative, focuses on products with unique and offers significant opportunities for implementation in the region. , says Qu.
More actions are to come, added the Director-General, as FAO develops its regional strategy on digital innovation and completes the Regional Technical Platform on Aquaculture, which will become a knowledge center on the subject, allowing countries around the world to benefit from the vast experiences gained in the Asia-Pacific region.
At its headquarters, FAO also hosts a coordination center to guide follow-up actions 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.
36th Asia-Pacific Regional Conference
List of documents
FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific
FAO Strategic Framework 2022-2031
Hand in hand initiative
SIDS Solutions Forum Report
1,000 digital villages initiative