UN FAO Colombo conference to transform Asia-Pacific agrifood systems
By: Staff Writer
February 04, Colombo (LNW): A major multilateral conference opened yesterday in Colombo which aims to transform the Asia-Pacific region’s agrifood systems, after multiple human and economic crises have set back progress to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly those to end hunger and poverty and reduce inequalities (SDGs 2, 1, 10).
FAO’s 37th session of the Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (#APRC37) marks a major international, multilateral milestone in an effort to reform agrifood systems across the Asia-Pacific region, after years of pandemic, climate emergencies, volatile markets and economies that have negatively affected millions of producers, farmers, fishers, pastoralists and consumers.
The #APRC37 is convened by FAO’s Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific and hosted by the Government of Sri Lanka. The two-part conference began today, with a Senior Officials meeting which will conclude Friday, 1 February. A Ministerial session, with Ministers arriving from across the vast region, will follow on 19-22 February, also in Colombo.
The stakes are high, but there’s little time to lose. The stakes to end hunger, poverty and inequality in the world’s largest region is higher now than any time in recent decades.
“We are currently going through a period of convergent crises. The long term and deep socio-economic impacts of the pandemic on food security and livelihoods have become obvious.
But these are being accentuated by conflicts, the effects of climate change, environmental pollution, multiple hazards and risks, including trans-boundary pests and diseases and loss of biodiversity which are particularly affecting agricultural production,” said FAO Regional Representative Assistant Director-General Jong-Jin Kim in opening remarks.
The latest Asia and the Pacific Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition, published in December 2023, shows that nearly 371 million people are undernourished in this region and this represents half of the world’s undernourished. Nearly 24% of the population suffer from moderate or severe food insecurity with women tending to be more food insecure than men.
Stunting among children under five years of age, with a prevalence of 23.4%, continues to be a public health problem in the region despite the declining trend from 2000.
In recent years, the average cost of a healthy diet in the region has risen to $ 4.15 per person per day on purchasing power parity basis. Almost 45% of the Asia-Pacific population, or 1.9 billion people, cannot afford a healthy diet.
Delegates at the APRC heard that FAO is encouraging the mobilisation of investment, external and internal, to end hunger and achieve SDG2.
FAO is also assisting countries to promote tailored investment plans for poverty reduction including social protection; fighting food loss and waste and conserving water; building adaptive capacities and collectively responding to specific needs of the Small Island Developing States (SIDS), Landlocked Developing Countries and Least Developed Countries.