The Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), QU Dongyu, today (27 July 2021) reiterated his call for more investment in rural areas and actions to end hunger and poverty at the Pre-Summit of the UN Food Systems Summit.
He made the appeal at one the Pre-Summit’s special events organised by FAO and Italy “From the G20 Matera Declaration to the Food Systems Summit: A Framework for Emerging Coalitions of Action”, following the same call at the Italy-presided G20 Foreign Affairs and Development Ministers' meeting last month where - for the first time - food security and nutrition were at the centre of the agenda, culminating in the Matera Declaration - a declaration by the G20 Ministers, FAO and other UN agencies and partners to support agri-food systems’ transformation and overcome challenges to end hunger.
SOUNDBITE (English) Qu Dongyu, FAO Director General, “The pandemic caused a decline in farm and off-farm sources of income. That affected the incomes of rural households negatively across all developing regions. 80% of the world’s poorest, that is 600 million people, live in rural areas, work in the agricultural sector, and yet go to bed hungry. Almost half of them are children under the age of 15, with fewer opportunities for education and jobs than their peers in urban areas. Let me repeat my main message again: we must refocus our energies and investment on rural areas! Investing in the agriculture sector is the solution to eradicate hunger!”
Qu’s message comes amidst a dramatic worsening of world hunger in 2020, much of it likely related to the fallout of COVID-19. According to a report issued this month by FAO and its partners, around a tenth of the global population - up to 811 million people – faced hunger last year - up to 161 million people more than in 2019.
The pandemic has also caused a decline in farm and off-farm-related income, and affected the rural households’ incomes negatively across all developing regions. Eighty percent of the world's poorest, or 600 million people - more than Europe's entire population - live in rural areas, working in the agricultural sector, and yet go to bed hungry.
In response, the G20 Matera Declaration provides a path to ending hunger, outlining priorities for the food security and nutrition sectors – from underscoring the relevance of the One Health approach, empowering women and the youth to adapting agri-food systems to climate change.
The Declaration also emphasized the importance of partnerships, and encouraged countries to join the Food Coalition - an Italy-proposed and FAO-led initiative that aims to mobilize political, financial and technical support for countries affected by COVID-19.
The year of 2021 is a unique year to restate our commitments, urged Qu as it provides ample opportunities, including the current Pre-Summit and the UN Food Systems Summit in September.
SOUNDBITE (English) Qu Dongyu, FAO Director General, “FAO stands ready to lead and co-lead Coalitions of Action relevant to our areas of expertise and where we have a comparative advantage. The UN Food Systems Summit in September needs to be the beginning of a new era.
The start of time-bound and inclusive partnerships of all stakeholders. Alliances that will hold all partners accountable to their commitments. Because, unless we assume responsibility and take urgent actions, we might gather in 2030 to announce that not only did we not eradicate hunger and poverty; but that 660 million people are still hungry!”
The event was chaired by Maurizio Martina, FAO Assistant Director General/ Special Adviser to the Director-General, and also saw the participation of Josefa Sacko, Commissioner for Rural Economy and Agriculture of the African Union Commission; Syahrul Yasin Limpo, Minister of Agriculture of Indonesia; Gerd Müller, Federal Minister of Economic Cooperation and Development of Germany; Victor Villalobos, Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development, Mexico; Ettore Prandini, President, Coldiretti.