Belgium (Brussels Morning Newspaper), The EU, and the international community have joined forces in voicing “concern” at the “rising threat” to global food security.
This, it is said, is particularly the case for populations that are already “food insecure” and lack access to healthy diets.
This was one of the keynote messages to emerge from an international conference on food security.
The EU joined others from the international community at the event which thrashed out a new agreement defining the main priorities of international cooperation on food security.
Concern was expressed at current projections which indicate that around 670 million people will still be hungry in 2030 and over the “growing threat” posed by climate change to food security in Central Asia and the rest of the world.
The conference stressed that as climate change impacts cut across national boundaries, especially on water resources and land degradation, it is an issue that demands international cooperation.
This, it was said, includes promoting agriculture “in the most environmentally friendly way.”
The International Conference on Food Security (7-8 September), hosted by the government of Uzbekistan, heard that the clock is rapidly ticking on the much-vaunted 2030 Agenda and the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).
The SDGs, also known as the Global Goals, were adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.
As there are only seven years left to implement the 2030 Agenda there is an urgent need to “accelerate and intensify” action, the event was told.
Other areas of concern highlighted at the conference include growing uncertainties about the prospects for agri-food trade and the global economy in the near future.
The impact of trade restrictions and slowing economic growth are also worrying, it was noted.
This message was reinforced on Monday (11 September) by the European Commission when it presented its 2023 Economic Forecast.
The forecast revises growth in the EU economy down to 0.8% in 2023, from 1% projected in the Spring Forecast, and 1.4% in 2024, from 1.7%.
Charlotte Adriaen, ambassador of the European Union to Uzbekistan, hailed the event last week as an opportunity to “ join forces to ensure access to safe and nutritious food.”
She added, “Food security is an essential and extraordinary issue for the entire world. This conference was all about food security with people from different countries and organizations joining forces in an effort to work together to ensure that people have access to good, nutritious, and safe food.”
“It is all about accessibility and affordability but one thing now is climate change and its impact on agriculture and output.”
The conference was organized with technical assistance from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
Initiated by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, it took place at the Silk Road Samarkand complex and was attended by ministers and diplomats from more than 30 countries, as well as representatives of international organizations and financial institutions.
Participants identified climate change, water depletion, and land degradation as the “main” food security challenges.
The “Samarkand Declaration”, issued after the event, outlines 24 objectives for participating countries, including:
- Developing agriculture in an environmentally friendly and biodiversity-promoting way, while making the best use of water resources;
- Encouraging the promotion of healthy eating habits among the public, particularly children and teenagers, through the implementation of all-encompassing nutritional initiatives in schools and
- Expanding women’s rights and opportunities in rural areas, to increase their participation in agro-food systems;
- Supporting small and family farms at a state level, increasing their access to financial support and their ability to produce and utilize natural resources.
Commenting, Dr Qu Dongyu, Director-General of FAO, said the conference was “an important opportunity to review the state of global food security in the context of agrifood systems transformation, on the path towards achieving the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals).”
Part of the solution, Qu said, is to “improve production and at the same time offer a sustainable supply through international trade and through smooth logistics, food availability, food accessibility, and food affordability.”
Further comment came from Aziz Voitov, Uzbekistan’s Minister of Agriculture, who said, “Now more than ever, it’s vital to support our farmers and agribusinesses.
“The government is restructuring Uzbekistan’s agro-food network, and we plan to attract the world’s leading scientists to strengthen the potential of our agriculture sector and provide quality food for the population. The need to deliver new solutions and innovations around the world were discussed during the conference, and formed the basis of the Samarkand Declaration.”
EU Ambassador Adriaen added that the EU was working with the Ministry of Agriculture on water and irrigation projects, “to ensure people in Uzbekistan have access to good, healthy food at affordable prices.”
She said one of the aims of the conference was to try and ensure that the SDGs are reached by 2030 though, on this, she conceded: “We know this will be difficult and climate change is an important issue.”
The EU, she added, was working closely in the field of food security with the relevant government ministries in Uzbekistan.
“Agriculture is food and water is life,” she added.
Meanwhile, agreements worth US$1.88 billion were signed at an Agri-Food Investment Forum on 8 September, that took place alongside the main conference.
The agreements included:
- Direct investments – 24 projects worth US$857.3 million;
- Grants and funds from international financial institutions – 14 projects, totaling US$707.5 million;
- Trade agreements valued at US$319.2 million.
- More than 100 companies from 26 countries participated.
Round table discussions involving 150 foreign scientists from 26 countries and 200 scientists from Uzbekistan also took place during the conference. The scientists considered the possibility of working together on future research projects.