Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Mining Floyd Green has joined ministers, vice-ministers and other high-level representatives from dozens of countries most vulnerable to global crises and shocks, in calling for action to boost the transformation of agrifood systems to make them more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable.
Ahead of the 43rd session of its Biennial Ministerial Conference, which got under way on Saturday and runs untli July 7, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) hosted a high-level ministerial event called ‘Transforming agrifood systems to increase resilience and achieve the 2030 Agenda – Harnessing the potential of Small Island Developing States, Least Developed Countries and Landlocked Developing Countries on June 29, 2023.
The meeting proposed the establishment of a ministerial network for small island developing states (SIDS), least developed countries (LDCs) and landlocked developing countries (LLDCs) with technical support from FAO. This would share experiences, knowledge and collectively build resilience to climate change and disasters, resilience to food insecurity, the Blue Transformation roadmap and secure investments and access to finance in order to scale-up transformation of agrifood systems – especially in the face of the impacts of the climate crisis.
In his segment during the panel discussion on Building resilience to shocks: Scaling up resilience for more sustainable and inclusive development, Green called for more adaptation responses to strengthen resilience of small-scale food producers.
“While transitioning farmers to protected agriculture systems and green technologies is ideal, Jamaica, like other SIDs, does not currently have the financial resources to retool small scale producers with new technologies that will aid production. Moreover, small scale farmers also, often, struggle with varying degrees of resource poverty and are less adaptable to climate-change related challenges than larger farmers. For this purpose, building an inclusive food-system requires targeted actions to transfer climate-sensitive farming techniques to small scale producers.”
In addition to the investments led by the Government of Jamaica to improve resilience in agriculture, Jamaica has also secured strategic partners that can help to drive the resilience building agenda for the agriculture, including through infrastructure development and farmer retooling. This includes joint efforts with FAO to establish cold storage facilities/refrigerated containers in the island valued at over US$200,000.
In his closing remarks, FAO Director-General Qu Dongyu told participants that the ownership of the network was theirs, adding that with countries working in partnership together and with FAO, more and better progress could be achieved towards the common goal of transforming agrifood systems and increasing resilience.
SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs are priority countries for FAO. Soon after Qu took over as director-general, FAO became the first specialiaed agency in the UN system to have an office exclusively focused on addressing these countries’ needs and interlinked challenges.
Participants from Latin America and the Caribbean included ministers, vice-ministers and high-level representatives of Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados, Dominican Republic, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Cuba, Grenada and Paraguay. Other assistants were from Benin, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cook Islands, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Guinea, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Madagascar, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Maldives, Mozambique, Myanmar, Nepal, Niger, Palau, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Sudan, Togo, Tonga, Uzbekistan and Yemen.
The UN High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States, Rabab Fatima, and the UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs LI Junhua, delivered video messages.
The FAO director-general made it clear that the organisation was ready to further strengthen its support to SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs. To address the climate crisis, for example, Qu stressed the need to “prioritise climate-resilient agricultural practices”, which include using resilient crop varieties; increasing productivity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions, implementing sustainable and adapted soil, water and land management systems, and developing science-based tools for evidence-based decision-making.
“Key geospatial data from the Hand-in-Hand Initiative can provide the support needed,” Qu said, adding that “data provided by FAO has supported countries in the formulation of policies for efficient land use, and access to financing for farmers and local producers”.
Qu went on to outline four main points/objectives included in the ‘Call for Action’ for agrifood systems transformation in SIDS, LLDs and LLDCs.
Among the FAO initiatives that would help to implement these objectives are: The Hand in Hand Initiative; The One Country One Priority Product Initiative; The Green Cities Initiative and the Innovative Climate Financing, including support to access the Green Climate Fund and Global Environment Facility, the Call for Action notes.
The main points included in the ‘Call for Action’ for agrifood systems transformation in SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs, as outlined by FAO Director General Qu Dongyu:
Information & Data: to guide decision-making based on scientific evidence, share experiences and build networks.
Innovation: to accelerate the development and upscaling of technologies, especially digital technologies such as mobile applications and data analytics, and ensure they are accessible to all.
Investment & Access to Finance: to boost increased, targeted, bold, smart, flexible and upfront and secure funding – including public, private and blended finance. Building resilience mitigates negative impacts and reduces the need for costly emergency assistance.
Inclusivity: Eighty per cent of our food is produced by family farmers and smallholder producers, with women playing a major role in food production and supply chains, yet they are often excluded from resources, credit, and decision-making processes.