Your Excellency Mehmet Mehdi Eker, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, representing the host country of the IV UN Conference on Least Developed Countries,
Your Excellency Kul Chandra Gautam, Special Adviser to the Prime Minister of Nepal, representing the Chair of LDC Group,
Your Excellency Shawkat Momen Shahjahan, MP, Chairma, Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Agriculture in Bangladesh Parliament,
Your Excellencies Permanent Representatives to the United Nations,
Ms Maria Helena Semedo, Assistant Director-General and FAO Regional Representative for Africa,
Dear Colleagues from United Nations Agencies,
Dear Participants to the Pre-Conference Event,
Ladies and Gentlemen
Good morning and welcome to New York.
We gather this morning to tackle an issue that is critical to least developed countries, - agriculture production and food security- in the framework of the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries that will be held in May 2011 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Today`s meeting is one of the various pre-conference events to be held prior to the Istanbul Conference in 2011. Its outcomes will feed into the Outcome Document of the UN LDC Conference.
As you are aware, agriculture sector plays a pivotal role in LDCs, as it underpins food security, poverty eradication, employment generation, rural development and sustainable development through increased foreign exchange earnings, commodity diversification and agro-processing capacity. The failure of past policies in this important sector calls for a new rethink of appropriate strategies that put the agriculture at the centre of a more integrated development strategy in Least Developed Countries. Policymakers are therefore required to adopt far-reaching policies to raising agricultural output and tackling food insecurity and poverty. The challenge is huge.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Despite a growing world abundance of food, famines and other food-related crises continue to occur. Indeed, the number of people who cannot obtain an adequate diet seems to have increased dramatically in the last decade, notably in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The number of chronically hungry people is on rise, and is estimated to exceed one billion. Of the 33 countries in a permanent state of food insecurity, 22 are least developed.
Moreover, the decline of per capita food production has been a longstanding problem in least developed countries, - a problem compounded by a projected near -doubling of their population, from 670 million in 2000 to 1.3 billion by 2030, and mostly in urban areas, recent rising international food and fuel prices, and the negative impact of the climate change. Many Least Developed Countries continue to risk being trapped in a vicious circle of poverty, food insecurity and external shocks, both man-made and natural.
The situation is particularly worrying in Africa where farmers have lost 25 percent of their purchasing power over the last 25 years, and average farm incomes are below $200 per capita.
In South Asia, countries like India and Bangladesh were adversely affected by the impact of climate change, with losses of 30 to 40 per cent in agricultural productivity.
In Small Island Developing States, already under the pressure of increases in population and the unsustainable use of available natural resources, climate change has negatively impacted on agriculture and food security.
As a result of these constraints, an increasing number of countries have become steadily more dependent on food imports, making them vulnerable to import surges and price shocks and raising the spectrum of food-driven indebtedness.
Meeting agricultural production and food security challenges in LDCs will necessitate an integrated approach involving increased public investment, public-private partnership, strengthened South-South cooperation, as well as integrating regional integration policies into national development strategies. Agricultural strategy needs to be developed in a more integrated approach and in light of the new threats from climate change.
Sustainable improvement in food security requires a comprehensive approach that addresses it in its broad definition – access, availability, utilization, stability. A wide range of issues need to be considered at all levels, particularly at the household level - such as agricultural production, immediate food assistance and social protection, nutrition, infrastructure, trade and market access, the role of women and the management of land and natural resources.
The Secretary-General’s High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis is promoting this approach, and has presented it in its recently Updated Comprehensive Framework for Action. Small scale producers and their families and communities are at the centre of the Framework to increase both their food and nutrition security as well as to contribute to poverty reduction.
The Updated Comprehensive Framework for Action is a guiding strategic document for the UN family. It acknowledges that, while States have the primary role in ensuring food and nutrition security for all, a multiplicity of other actors have key contributions to make.
It has been released as a public good seeking to encourage a coordinated engagement by multiple stakeholders. This set of options is highly relevant for Least Developed Countries.
Together, let us together explore new strategies for a green revolution to be fomented in LDCs in view to enhancing food and nutrition security, taking into account best practices, opportunities and threats from various parts of the world. The Green Revolution in Asia offers a good model. However, this model depended on the availability of a managed water supply –mostly irrigation- and heavy use of imported pesticides, which tended to favor larger farming units. Such a response may not be appropriate to the challenges facing smallholder farmers in many LDCs today. Still, an enduring lesson from that experience is that abolishing endemic food insecurity and chronic poverty will require the international community to forge a real partnership with LDCs to promote the necessary structural change and investment to develop their agricultural sectors.
Of course, Governments of LDCs will need to play a pro-active role in the formulation, adoption and implementation of national plans, provide adequate extension services to farmers and create appropriate institutional mechanisms for a successful green revolution.
Increasing investment in agricultural is needed to enhance farmers` productive capacity, foster uptake of new technologies and innovations, develop infrastructure and expand related market services. In many LDCs, the level of investment in agriculture is very low. For example, under the African Union Maputo commitment, governments in Sub-Saharan Africa have promised to channel, on average, 10 percent of public spending into agriculture and rural development. The current figure is less than half of that, and the sector is still taxed at relatively high levels.
Moreover, the proportion of total official development assistance (ODA) to agriculture declined over the last three decade, from a high of about 18 per cent in 1979 to 5 percent in 2008. On a more positive note, it has been noted a new type of foreign direct investment (FDI) in agriculture, made of some capital-endowed, food- and feed-importing countries, such as South Korea, China and Saudi Arabia that are now investing in large FDI projects in least developed countries, with a great impact on agricultural production and food security, but also technological transfer and capacity-building.
The Fourth UN Conference on LDCs in Istanbul will then offer an opportunity, for leaders from LDCs and their development partners, to promote a new rethink on agricultural development and food security, but also to scale-up development assistance along with innovative sources of development financing.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As a contribution to your brainstorming, allow me to express five ideas to be explored during your discussions.
The first idea is related to the need to develop, adopt and implement National Food Security and Agricultural Development Action Plans, with specific targets and expected outputs, as set for in the United Nations Secretary-General`s Comprehensive Framework for Action on Food Security and Agricultural Development;
The second idea is how to raise investment levels in agriculture and rural development, in particular how to bring LDC governments to allocate at least 15 per cent of their annual national budgets and 20 to 30 per cent of ODA to agriculture and rural development. The promotion of foreign direct investment, including South-South cooperation and the involvement of the diasporas, could also be explored;
Thirdly, the possibility of launching a Global Food for Sustainable Development and Hunger Elimination Initiative to eliminate poverty-induced endemic hunger and at the same time restore and enhance environmental capital stocks;
Fourthly, investing in capacity-building and knowledge diffusion, management and sharing of innovative approaches and successful experience in the agricultural sector in LDCs;
Finally, the promotion of South-South cooperation and regional integration, in particular explore new market opportunities for LDCs products. The Global System of Trade Preferences among Developing Countries (GSTP) offers a way forward.
In conclusion, I would like to take this opportunity to once again extend my deepest appreciation to all of you who have joined us for this brainstorming and pave the way for a new compact for an agricultural revolution, and end the scourge of hunger and poverty in LDCs.
Undoubtedly, your respective wide experiences as planners, field actors and development partners will be beneficial for all of us.
I wish you a fruitful brainstorming
I thank you.