29 October 2013

AIDF Food Security Summit at UNCC, Bangkok to tackle food, agriculture and nutrition security

Sustainability has unquestionably become the key focus for development. Asia is poised for more rapid growth, but growth without sustainability will be untenable. Now more than ever there is a need for innovative yet sustainable solutions for tackling issues such as economic development and poverty alleviation. One key area in Asia where sustainable solutions are of fundamental importance is in tackling food insecurity.

Despite the rapid growth of many economies in the Asia Pacific, this region still has the highest number of malnourished people in the world, with over 700 million people still living in poverty (defined as living on less than $1.25 a day). Food insecurity can lead to child underdevelopment, starvation and often death; the resulting weakening of the population also has far-reaching repercussions on a country’s economic performance and global standing, making it extremely difficult for these countries to develop to their full potential.

Significant progress in achieving food security has already been made in Asia, however many different factors are accentuating the problem today. Rapidly rising populations combined with increased consumerism and consumption is putting immense strain on food supplies in Asia and the Pacific; IFAD predicts that food production in developing countries will need to increase by 50% by 2050 in order to satisfy demand. Furthermore ineffective farming methods and the negative effects of climate change inflate the problem; up to 40% of the world’s arable land has already suffered the adverse effects of climate change, which include soil erosion, flooding and droughts.

Day one of the summit will focus on nutrition and will include topics such as food fortification, child nutrition and micronutrient malnutrition. Nomindelger Bayasgalanbat, Regional Nutrition Officer at the FAO and Dr. Rajan Sankar, Senior Advisor South Asia at GAIN, are debating child malnutrition and its possible solutions. Day two will turn attention to sustainable innovations in the field of agriculture. Panellists will discuss innovations in hybrid rice, seed technology, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides and will debate how these developments can be achieved in a sustainable way. Alongside the panel discussions, high profile speakers will include the Deputy Executive Secretary of UN ESCAP, Mr. Shun-ichi Murata, who will share his extensive knowledge gained from directing UNDP’s Tokyo Office and working for UNDP all over the world, and Katinka Weinberger, a leading Agricultural Economist who currently serves as head of ESCAP’s Centre for Alleviation of Poverty through Sustainable Agriculture.

Commenting on the upcoming summit, Dr. Andrew Jackson said, the AIDF summit is a welcome step in addressing this very major problem; food insecurity is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, threats to the successful escape from poverty for millions of people in the Asia Pacific regions”, he added, “there is great hope that the summit will really push for change and force key practitioners to readdress the issue and come up with effective solutions”.

Hiroyuki Honuma, Assistant Director General of FAO’s Regional Office for Asia and Pacific added, “This forum is very important to us as it is an arena for both UN Staff and citizens to discuss our common issues and find solutions”.

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