Working for food security and sustainable development in the face of overlapping crises and challenges – World
The last two years have been a turning point, profoundly transforming all spheres of our lives. Fortunately, science has helped us better understand and deal with the challenges posed by COVID-19. Meanwhile, we have also witnessed the impact of the pandemic on the production, trade, logistics and consumption of goods, including food and other agricultural products.
The United Nations and its agencies have worked hard to protect the health and safety of people and the planet, encouraging governments to find ways to build back better. In particular, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has advocated for transformed, more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable agri-food systems, to achieve the four best: better production, better nutrition, better environment. and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.
This call for the transformation of our agri-food systems has echoed around the world.
The UN Food Systems Summit in September 2021 was a key step on the path to this transformation, encouraging all countries to innovate to build resilience in the face of climate crisis, natural disasters and conflict.
Also in 2021, FAO Members agreed on the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-2031 which articulates the Organization’s vision for a sustainable and secure world for all in the context of the 2030 Agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals ( SDGs).
This strategic document became even more important at the beginning of 2022, when global food security was hit by a new crisis.
With each passing day, the war in Ukraine negatively affects global food security. Ukraine and the Russian Federation are key pillars of global markets. They are major suppliers of agricultural products (wheat, maize, barley and sunflower) and other basic inputs, including fertilizers. Together, the Russian Federation and Ukraine account for about 30 percent of world wheat exports and 20 percent of maize exports.
Shortages will likely continue into next year. According to FAO estimates, at least 20 percent of Ukraine’s winter crops – wheat, notably – may not be harvested, and Ukrainian farmers will likely miss the May planting season. This will further reduce the global food supply, with serious implications for the Europe and Central Asia region and beyond.
Nearly 50 low-income, food-deficit countries in Africa and the Near East are heavily dependent on grain supplies from Ukraine and Russia.
Food prices were already on the rise due to concerns about crop conditions, export supplies and price inflation in the energy, fertilizer and feed sectors. As the war in Ukraine rocked markets for basic grains and vegetable oils, food prices soared further, reaching an all-time high in March.
Coordinated actions and immediate – and especially joint – policy responses are needed to mitigate the impacts of today’s food security challenges, and FAO has a key role to play in this regard.
It is crucial that food and fertilizers circulate without interruption. Agricultural production and trade should continue to supply domestic and global markets, and supply chains should protect standing crops, livestock, food processing infrastructure and logistics systems.
FAO strongly recommends that the Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) be strengthened as an existing platform for food market transparency and coordinated policy action in times of market uncertainty.
In addition, countries in Europe and Central Asia – and around the world – should improve their efficiency and productivity in the management of natural resources, not only to reduce the costs of agricultural production, but also to build the capacity to ‘innovation. This is particularly crucial when dealing with exported goods.
Better management of natural resources is a cornerstone of sustainable development. To this end, achieving the SDGs, as outlined in the Organization’s Strategies on Climate Change and on Science and Innovation, is at the heart of FAO’s Strategic Framework 2022-31. To support the achievement of these goals and respond to interconnected challenges, FAO has launched the Regional Technical Platform on Green Agriculture, which provides a digital and user-friendly gateway to share information on mainstreaming the green agenda. An international conference to be held on May 6 in Baku, Azerbaijan will focus on these topics.
Finally, we need to increase the resilience of livelihoods. The most vulnerable depend on agriculture and natural resources for their livelihoods, and they are usually the hardest hit by shocks and disasters.
By working with governments, partners and communities – before, during and after disasters – FAO is in a unique position to help Members build a more resilient and food secure future by linking prevention, preparedness and rehabilitation for sustainable development, and helping farmers and rural economies become more agile, efficient and innovative. Without losing sight of our strategic objectives, FAO responds actively to emergencies to mitigate the effects of conflict on human lives and livelihoods.
The world has never been so interconnected. Conflicts in one region reverberate around the globe and their ramifications are serious for food security and all other development aspirations.
Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)