By James Laraki (February 17, 2013)
FOOD and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the UN is urging the international community to adopt a specific time frame for the eradication of hunger and extreme poverty.
In addressing a special joint meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council and the Economic and Financial Committee of the General Assembly last week in New York, FAO Director General, José Graziano da Silva, has called for a final push as we approach 2015, the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDG).
“We are approaching 2015, the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals. Reaching MDG 1 (halving extreme poverty and hunger) is possible. Let's make a final push and let's use this momentum to set a bolder goal moving into the post-2015 period," he said.
"Let us collectively embrace the Zero Hunger Challenge and fix an established time frame to end hunger and extreme poverty."
The Zero Hunger Challenge launched by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June 2012 calls for the eradication of hunger "within our lifetimes". Graziano da Silva added, saying we need a more specific objective in time.
"Setting a hunger eradication goal reflects the urgency we need and that needs to be present in post-2015," he declared.
A global, multi-stakeholder consultation held in Rome the week earlier on the world development agenda on hunger beyond 2015 agreed that food security and nutrition should be the central element in future development efforts.
FAO's governing Council agreed last December to make the eradication, rather than the reduction, of hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition its number one objective.
This has been the stand of the FAO, the UN body responsible agriculture and food security. FAO is at the fore front to ensure food security is being pursued at all levels globally, particularly in relations to threats posed by climate change.
It is doing so for all us to contribute to this global concern, particularly food and nutrition insecurity. This requires us to have appropriate policies and investment to for sustained food security. PNG and other pacific island countries face many challenges; land scarcity, water shortages, and crop vulnerability from climate change. Achieving productivity improvements in the face of these pressures certainly is a challenge.
While we remain relatively food secure, the present situation cannot be used as an excuse for inaction. Under business as usual, food insecurity will increase in all dimensions.
We need to invest now for long-term food security. We need to help smallholder farmers to diversify crops and livestock, create local markets, improve postharvest skills, better manage their water resources, and improve their nutrition. We need to develop new technologies to bolster drought tolerance, pests and disease resistance and improve crop yield.
Developing countries have been criticized for turning a blind eye when it comes to investing in agriculture in general, and particularly in food security. PNG is no exception. This has to change. It is important for us to invest now for long term food security.
While sustaining food security remains a challenge, we can work towards it by pooling our resources and efforts together. We have to reach more farmers and communities, and multiply our impact. We have the resources. We have an advantage because of our huge resource base and potentials which are yet to be explored.
We are fortunate to have organizations like NARI that has made modest advances on the technology front in terms of improved varieties and practices for a range of agricultural commodities and environments.
There is a huge potential in applying modern biotechnology, processing techniques and value adding, and linking farmers to markets. Much of these can be achieved through appropriate policy, capacity development and adequate investment.
There must be concerted efforts, by the government and us, the people to help ourselves. The primary responsibility naturally lies on our own hands. We certainly know what needs to be done. We need to pool our resources together and rededicate ourselves to achieving a sustained food security. We may not able to achieve the set target by 2015, but we must act to ensure we are working towards it and make a final push. In doing so we may create the moment. We can then use this momentum to set a bolder goal moving into the post-2015 period. We may not set specific time frame, but we must every efforts to working towards doing our part to eradicating hunger and extreme poverty.
We often view food and nutrition narrowly as an issue of production. Many of us tend to argue that we have in abundance of everything; so why worry. We are convinced that we have everything and there should be little concern towards food insecurity. But we must ask ourselves ‘why does food and nutrition insecurity continue to exist’ even when we have in abundance of everything.
Photo: Martin Lobao (left) of NARI Tambul, explaining to visitors the activities undertaken at the NARI Highlands regional centre at Tambul, Western highlands. Picture: Ken Moui