18 January 2010

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

We Must Involve Smallholder, Women Farmers in Global Response to Food Insecurity,

Secretary-General Stresses in Message for Summit of World’s Regions

Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the Summit of the World’s Regions on Food Security, delivered by David Nabarro, Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Food Security and Nutrition, in Dakar, Senegal, today, 18 January:

It is a pleasure to greet the participants in this important meeting.

In recent years, we have witnessed the collapse of food security for the world’s most vulnerable communities.  The global economic downturn has caused high food prices and reduced buying power -- a disastrous combination.  Hundreds of millions more people cannot afford to feed themselves or their families.

Many factors have played their part in creating this crisis.  One of them is the inability of farmers to produce enough food to meet demand.  Farmers face volatile markets which offer prices that are sometimes too low to cover their costs.  Meanwhile, seeds and fertilizers can be too expensive.  Those who produce food often experience difficulties in getting their goods to markets at the right price since the structure of trading systems often works against them. 

Smallholder farmers are hit particularly hard.  Their problems are exacerbated by credit shortages, lack of access to technology and the impact of climate change.  And women -- who do most of the farming in the world’s poorest communities -- suffer their own particular ill-effects from food insecurity.  When times are difficult, they must make stark choices between childcare and income-earning.  Disproportionate numbers of women and children experience undernutrition and nutritional deficiency.  We must do a better job of listening to these smallholders and women farmers, and involving them in our response. 

But there is some good news.  Civil society, the private sector and Governments are working more concertedly at several levels.  World leaders have become increasingly outspoken on the need for a sustained response to food and nutrition insecurity.  Africa’s leaders have committed themselves to increasing investments in agriculture, infrastructure and food processing, especially for smallholders, and to strengthening social protection programmes, safety nets and direct assistance to the hungry.  Similar twin-track initiatives have emerged in Asia and Latin America. 

World leaders at last year’s G20 summits in London and Pittsburgh, and at the G8 Summit in L’Aquila in July, agreed on a comprehensive, country-led and coordinated approach to food security, and on a programme of long-term investment to support it.  It is at the local and regional levels that such initiatives need the greatest support. 

I commend President [Abdoulaye] Wade, the Government of Senegal, and the Forum of Global Associations of Regions for convening this meeting, which is an opportunity to engage in decentralized cooperation on food security.  The United Nations system is here in full force -- the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Food Programme (WFP), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Bank and others.  They have also been working together in my High-Level Task Force on Food Security.  We are all strongly committed to working with you to help those at risk enjoy food and nutrition security, and to build up their resilience in the face of today’s grave economic, climatic and environmental threats. 

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For information media • not an official record