Director-General QU Dongyu notes that conflict remains the main cause of global hunger
new York – The head of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today called for more funding for agriculture to ensure that food is available and accessible in crisis situations, noting that conflict “remains the biggest driver of hunger”.
“My message is more relevant today than before: agriculture is one of the keys to lasting peace and security,” said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu at a UN Security Council debate in New York entitled “Maintaining International Peace and Security – Conflict and food security.”
Despite its critical importance, Qu noted that only 8 percent of total funding for the humanitarian food security sector goes to agriculture. Meanwhile, the war in Ukraine risks adding to the already rising number of people at risk of food insecurity around the world.
In 2021, the number of people facing acute food insecurity rose to nearly 193 million, up 40 million from 2020, and is set to increase further this year, according to the Global Food Crisis Report. Afghanistan, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen are all threatened by famine.
The recent surge is the result of several factors, including the COVID-19 pandemic and the climate crisis.
However, conflict remains the single largest contributor to global hunger. Between 2018 and 2021, the number of people in crisis situations in countries where conflict is the main reason for acute food insecurity increased by 88% to just over 139 million, Qu said.
The war between Russia and Ukraine, two of the world’s largest suppliers of wheat and sunflower oil, has disrupted exports and logistics and seriously affected food availability. In addition, rising energy and fertilizer prices are jeopardizing the next global harvest. According to the latest FAO scenarios, the conflict could add another 18.8 million people to chronic malnutrition by 2023.
The Role of the FAO
FAO reached more than 30 million people worldwide with emergency agricultural assistance and resilience programs in 2021. For example, in Afghanistan, FAO provided 3 million people with wheat growing packages that cost just US$160 each and provide the basic grain needs of a family of seven for a full year. In Ethiopia, despite access difficulties, the seeding and planting materials provided by FAO and agriculture cluster partners enabled local farmers to produce 900,000 tonnes of food – five times more than the humanitarian and commercial food shipments that reached the region.
However, major challenges remain.
To prevent acute food insecurity trends from accelerating in the coming months and years, Qu stressed the importance of expanding food production at the country level by providing cash and critical inputs for grain and vegetable production; and the protection of farm animals through treatments, vaccinations, feed and water.
“Agrifood supply chains and value chains need to be strengthened through public and private sector engagement to support small farmers and households,” he said.
Qu also called on the global community to commit new resources to sustain agricultural production in challenging contexts, and to invest more in innovation and new technologies, particularly in water management, and in more transparent market information systems.
“Members urgently need to transform their agri-food systems to be more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable to achieve better production, better nutrition, better environments and better lives – and leave no one behind,” QU said.
The New York meeting was chaired by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (the United States currently holds the rotating Security Council presidency), which was also attended by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and World Food Program Executive Director David Beastley.
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