By James Laraki (October 14, 2012)
WORLD food day will be observed this Thursday. The theme for World Food Day 2012 is ‘Agricultural Cooperatives – key to feeding the world’. It has been chosen to highlight the role of cooperatives in improving food security, generate employment and their contribution to our efforts to eradication of hunger.
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has acknowledged the roles of agricultural cooperatives around the global which have helped in providing food security, generate employment and contribute to the eradication of hunger. Their importance has also been recognized through the UN’s declaration of 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives.
Agricultural cooperative exist in almost every country in the world and have played crucial roles to a range of human needs and aspirations. Cooperatives proven to provide food security, generate employment and contribute to the eradication of hunger. They have also provided other vital services in health, education, gender equality, the environment, to name a few. By providing such vital services, they have contributed to the wellbeing of members, to their communities and to overall nation building.
Cooperative societies are founded on good intentions and they are seen to be critical to rural development in general through creation of employment, improve access to markets and social services.
We have number of them in PNG, most of them rural based. They have been active, especially in our rural areas and continue to support our rural people who depend on farming, fishing, forestry and related activities for their livelihood.
As we celebrate world food day this week, we need see what progress we have made to improving food security and eliminating hunger. It is being said repeatedly that we have the means to achieve this and what is needed is the establishment of an enabling environment that would allow smallholder farmers to take advantage of any available opportunities. It is also essential that agricultural cooperatives are an essential part of that enabling environment.
While cooperatives are independent organizations, we should consider that they important partners in development.
Where cooperatives are seen to be achieving their objectives, the government should assist them by way of developing adequate policies, legal frameworks, incentives and forum for dialogue.
We should to continue to strengthen and support cooperatives as they are key partners in our efforts to achieve our goal in food security and eliminating hunger. And where possible the government should enter into partnerships with cooperatives for the benefit of the people.
On this occasion, let us see how we can work with cooperatives and other organizations that are puuting in tireless efforts to the fight against hunger and extreme poverty.
A variety of activities are planned for the day worldwide. In PNG, the main event is being organized by the Department of Agriculture and Livestock. The official celebration will be held at the Highlands Agriculture College outside Mt Hagen.
World Food Day is a global observance day celebrated every year on 16 October. It was proclaimed in 1979 by the Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It marks the date of the founding of FAO in 1945. The aim of the day is to heighten public awareness of the world food problem and strengthen solidarity in the struggle against hunger, malnutrition and poverty. In 1980, the General Assembly endorsed observance of the day in consideration of the fact that food is a requisite for human survival and well-being and a fundamental human necessity.
As we observe this important day, we should remind ourselves of what progress we have made towards achieving its objectives and where required make necessary adjustments towards realizing them.
Let us make an honest assessment of where we stand in terms of food for our families, communities, and our country. And we should explore options to see how we can contribute to feeding the most vulnerable populations of the world, taking into consideration the rising international food prices.
This WFD will be observed during a time where the world food prices are close to record highs and the severe drought in the Horn of Africa which is living millions of hungry people in need of urgent aid.
The current food crisis being fueled by several global trends including; growing population, changing eating habits, conversion of food crops to biofuels, and climate change induced stresses will only worsen if measures are not taken now to mitigate their impacts.
As we observe WFD, we should take time to reflect on the food crisis the world has gone through. The 2008 world food crisis forced many people into hunger and global unrest. The world population is expected to reach more than 9 billion people in the year 2050. To feed them, the focus is to increase food production by 70% and may be higher in developing countries. This is worthy and essential goal, but comes with challenges.
And on Thursday, while celebrating the day, we should ask ourselves this question “how is the world going to get 70% increase in food production?”
By asking this question, we must begin to appreciate and realize that the food we have each day is a product of a complex and broken global food system.
And there are farmers and organizations all over the world that are putting in tireless efforts to address the challenges improve food security.
We hope you observe WDF 2012 with a purpose.
Photo: Fresh taro being sold at the Lae Main Market