25 October 2011
General Assembly
GA/EF/3318

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

Sixty-sixth General Assembly

Second Committee

22nd Meeting (AM)


Treat Farmers like Entrepreneurs to Boost Creation of Wealth, Jobs, Urges Delegate


as Second Committee Concludes Debate on Agriculture Development, Food Security


Farmers were not just farmers, they were also entrepreneurs and should be treated as such, the representative of the Netherlands told the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) today as it concluded its consideration of agriculture development and food security.


Farmers needed access to financial services, training and land titles to help them grow and create wealth for themselves as well as jobs for others, he continued.  Noting that the world would have 9 billion mouths to feed in 2050, he said that in order to accomplish that task, food production would have to grow by 70 per cent whereas arable land would increase by only 15 per cent.  To raise food production, it was imperative to improve the business environment in rural areas while promoting entrepreneurship and creating jobs.


He noted that nearly a billion people suffered from hunger every day and another 2 billion faced hidden hunger, including chronic shortages of essential nutrients such as iron, iodine and Vitamin A.  Food security in many countries was also hampered by poor infrastructure, lack of skills and insufficient access to markets, he said, adding that very often it was the latter that stood in the way.


For example, an estimated 30 per cent of crops were lost after harvest as a result of poor infrastructure.  Food security would remain a central component to the international development policies of the Netherlands, the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products, he said, noting that the Government would invest at least €200 million in programmes run by the International Finance Corporation’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme, the development bank of the Netherlands, and others.


Many delegates warned that the number of people affected by the global food crisis would continue to grow unless measures were taken to resolve it.  Representatives attributed the food crisis to price speculation, climate change, low investment in agriculture, unfair trade regulations and the lack of social safety nets.


Speakers called for greater international attention to the 13.5 million famine-affected people in the Horn of Africa, many of them women and children.  Ethiopia’s representative said the current drought conveyed the “inconvenient truth” that drought, land degradation and desertification would likely put an even greater number of people at risk.  He said the Ethiopian Government was taking measures to mitigate the impact and reduce the risk of spreading food insecurity.  Many representatives speaking also stressed the importance of emergency food aid and relief, emphasizing at the same time the vital need for long-term strategies. 


Several speakers also raised the issue of climate change, with Thailand’s representative describing it as an overarching issue affecting food supply worldwide.  He said the floods ravaging his country were the worst in decades and had seriously hampered the agricultural sector, affecting millions of people.


Meanwhile, Israel’s representative said his country had compensated for its geographic positioning, lack of natural resources and small agricultural sector by developing cutting-edge technologies in both the water and renewable-energy sectors and had enjoyed successes in solar and geothermal power.


Other delegates said measures should also be taken to provide fair access to trade and to the technology needed to improve the conservation of food.  Burkina Faso’s representative said Africa needed the infrastructure to get harvested crops to market on time, as an estimated 30 per cent of crops were lost while awaiting transportation.


A representative of the World Food Programme (WFP) said food security was not only about food or agriculture, but about ensuring access to adequate and nutritious food for every household member.  As seen in recent headlines, price volatility was not confined to a few crises, but was a long-term challenge shared by the international community.


Also speaking today were representatives of Australia, Congo, Ireland, Trinidad and Tobago, France, Myanmar and Malaysia.


Other speakers were representatives of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).


The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. tomorrow, 26 October, to discuss the permanent sovereignty of the Palestinian and other Arab peoples in occupied lands over their natural resources.  It is expected to take up information and communications technology in the afternoon.


Background


The Second Committee (Economic and Financial) met this morning to conclude its consideration of agriculture development and food security.  For background information, see Press Release GA/EF/3317 of 24 October.  In the afternoon, it was expected to hold a panel discussion on “means of implementation for sustainable development”.


Statements


AMOS RADIAN ( Israel) said his country’s lack of natural resources and small agricultural sector had prompted a focus on sustainable technological innovation.  Israel had turned its competitive disadvantage into a strength by developing cutting-edge technologies in both the water and renewable-energy sectors, including sophisticated systems for drip irrigation, seawater desalination and water reclamation.  It had also had successes in solar and geothermal power, he said, adding that Israel would host the WATEC Conference in Tel Aviv this year where those solutions would be shared.


Israel’s agricultural programming abroad was designed to increase the sustainability and quality of agricultural production, he said, describing its work with citrus farmers in Ghana and its Techno-agricultural Innovation for Poverty Alleviation project, which had been implemented in Senegal, in partnership with Italy.  The latter relied on low-cost drip irrigation techniques.  Underlining the importance of sharing agricultural technology to promote sustainable development, he said his delegation would submit a draft resolution on agricultural technology for development, containing concrete measures to advance the goals of the 2008 Comprehensive Framework for Action.  He urged developing countries to develop their own capabilities.


ALISON CHARTRES ( Australia) said the drought in the Horn of Africa and the floods in South-east Asia and Pakistan reminded the world of the impact of extreme weather events and of the urgency needed in responding to them, particularly as resurgent commodity prices raised the prospect of another global food crisis.  Immediate and collective action was required to increase food production to meet the needs of the growing global population, she said, noting that the World Bank’s Agriculture for Development report described agricultural development as the best way to attack poverty in developing countries.


Nonetheless, obstacles hindering progress must be addressed to increase the opportunities and incentives for farmers to raise food output, she stressed, calling for open trade to help countries develop their agricultural sectors and realize food security through trade.  Australia’s approach to food security entailed giving emergency assistance and social protection to the most vulnerable, providing aid for agriculture and rural development, investing in research and development on agriculture as well as climate change mitigation and adaptation, and adopting appropriate economic and trade policies.


She went on to say that her country provided multi-year core funding to the World Food Programme (WFP) in addition to support for other programmes.  Its investment in research and skills-transfer included funding the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).  Australia’s official development assistance (ODA) was having an impact elsewhere, she said, describing increased yields in Timor-Leste, Afghanistan and the Solomon Islands.  It was also working with African farmers to improve livestock and productivity, and helping to safeguard fish stocks in the Pacific.  Australia had joined other G-20 member States in adopting the Action Plan on Food Prices Volatility and Agriculture, and in establishing the new Agricultural Market Informational System.  The country’s own experiences in coping with drought and floods had given Australians expertise and they were committed to sharing it with other countries, she added.


PIANG-OR WACHARAPRAPAPONG (Thailand) associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, said climate change remained a real threat to food security in her country, where the worst floods in decades had impacted the agricultural sector, affecting millions of people.  The Government recognized the need for long-term solutions, including improvement of water-management and irrigation systems, and the need to put an effective early-warning system in place, she said, noting that the agricultural sector employed 40 per cent of the population, making farmers the country’s “backbone”.  However, farmers also made up most of the rural poor.


She went on to emphasize that ensuring agricultural development by enhancing food security, boosting agricultural productivity and reducing poverty was vital.  Even though Thailand was a major food exporter, more must be done to develop its agriculture sector and improve the livelihoods of farmers.  It was also important to support intensified research and development efforts in agriculture while remaining mindful of biodiversity.  To ensure food accessibility, Thailand recognized the need for a free, fair and open international food market, and called for the conclusion of the Doha Round of World Trade Organization negotiations, she said.


HERMAN SCHAPER ( Netherlands) said the situation in the Horn of Africa was a stark reminder that although there had been increased prosperity for large numbers of people around the world, hunger had not been eradicated.  Some 925 million people went hungry every day and another 2 billion faced hidden hunger, including chronic shortages of essential nutrients such as iron, iodine and Vitamin A.  In 2050, the world would have 9 billion mouths to feed, he noted, adding that to do so, food production would have to increase by 70 per cent whereas arable land would increase by only 15 per cent.  In order to increase food production, it was imperative to improve the business environment in rural areas while promoting entrepreneurship and creating jobs.


Emphasizing that farmers were not just farmers, he said they were also entrepreneurs and should be treated as such.  They needed access to financial services, training and land titles to help them grow and create wealth for themselves as well as jobs for others.  Food security in many countries was also hampered by poor infrastructure, lack of skills and insufficient access to markets, he said, adding that very often it was the latter that stood in the way.  For example, an estimated 30 per cent of crops were lost after harvest as a result of poor infrastructure.  Food security would remain a central component to the international development policies of the Netherlands, the world’s second largest exporter of agricultural products, he said, noting that the Government would invest at least €200 million in programmes run by the International Finance Corporation’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Programme, the development bank of the Netherlands, and others.


APOLINAIRE DINGHA (Congo), associating himself with the Group of 77 and China, said the tragedy taking place in the Horn of Africa, particularly in Somalia, reinforced the need to include agricultural development in considering sustainable development.  The High-level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis could catalyse and coordinate action against hunger and the efforts of the G-20 in Seoul, as part of the Multi-Year Action Plan for Global Food Security, would bring about appropriate solutions.  Welcoming a number of other initiatives and reforms that had contributed to agricultural development and food security, he noted that 12 countries had benefited from subsidies totalling $525 million.


Pointing out that the right to food was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other documents, he said the gravity of the current situation demonstrated that extra action was required to protect that right.  Congo was implementing initiatives to achieve food security, including a national food security plan for 2008-2012, he said.  It included experimental projects to help counter rural-urban migration and establish a genuine agricultural network to help reduce the need to import food.  The World Bank supported a rural roads project that aimed to open up markets and increase rural income, he said, adding that, besides a number of other projects, the Government was involved in addressing the structural causes of food insecurity, particularly low investment.


ANNE ANDERSON ( Ireland) said her country was responding to famine in the Horn of Africa with immediate relief and direct assistance.  The international community was failing to keep its promises; it needed to do more than just respond rapidly to famine and come up with a longer-term strategy.  The Government of Ireland had commissioned a report by its Hunger Task Force, which recommended a focus on boosting smallholders, targeting under-nutrition in infants, children and mothers, and on promoting governance and leadership, she said, adding that 20 per cent of the country’s aid budget would be directed towards fighting hunger.


The focus on smallholder farmers was of key importance, as it represented a value-chain approach, she said, urging greater support for research on pro-poor policies on agriculture.  Sustainability was essential and increasing productivity should not be at the expense of the environment, she said.  It was also important not to focus only on increasing productivity, but also on improving household nutrition, which was the real mark of success.  She described initiatives such as the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which had brought stakeholders together in support of country-led efforts to tackle under-nutrition.  Pointing to the project’s substantial progress in its first year of existence, she said Ireland was a lead donor-convenor for the SUN Movement in the United Republic of Tanzania and Malawi as well as a supporter of its work in Ethiopia, Zambia and Uganda.


AMAN HASSEN BAME (Ethiopia), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said the current drought in the Horn of Africa conveyed the “inconvenient truth” that drought, land degradation and desertification would likely put an even greater number of people at risk of famine.  As a victim of cyclical droughts and food insecurity, Ethiopia had suffered over the last several decades and the Government had designed appropriate policies to mitigate the impact of drought and reduce the risk of food insecurity.  Subsistence farmers were at the centre of the Government’s policies and strategies, he said, adding that it had schemed massive water- and soil-conservation programmes to which millions of men and women farmers contributed free community labour.


He said that with 85 per cent of its population’s dependent on agriculture for their livelihoods, and given its abundant water resources, temperate climate and untapped agricultural farmland, Ethiopia should not be subject to poverty and food insecurity.  However, ensuring food security transcended the bounds of traditional practices, he said, stressing the importance of innovative approaches, among them developing appropriate policies, mobilizing local resources, sensitizing communities, building strong partnerships and creating an enabling business environment for the private sector.  Defending the Government on the issue of the so-called “land grab” described in the Secretary-General’s report, he emphasized that the Government would in no way allow the displacement of communities in favour of foreign investors.  Only a fraction of arable land had been made available to investors, with the full consent of the pertinent communities, he added.


RUENNA HAYNES (Trinidad and Tobago), associating herself with the Group of 77 and China, said that in light of her net-food importing country’s extra vulnerability to external shocks, the Government was collaborating with international and regional agencies, including the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), on joint research and capacity-building projects and programmes aimed at ensuring agricultural development.  They were focused on developing a national campaign for food security, and a national food and nutrition security policy based on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy, with an inter-ministerial committee managing implementation.  They were also focused on improving smallholder agriculture and initiating crop-protection research to address the issue of invasive alien species, and on establishing the infrastructure needed to attract greater investment.  She underlined the importance of the multilateral system in implementing the World Food Summit Plan of Action and the Rome Declaration on World Food Security, in addition to calling for a successful conclusion to the Doha negotiations and welcoming the reform of the Committee on World Food Security, particularly with the aim of strengthening linkages between that body and actors at the regional, national and local levels.


DER LAURENT DABIRÉ ( Burkina Faso), associating himself with the Group of 77 and the Group of Least Developed Countries, said his country was a developing and landlocked one hindered by its own geography.  The exploitation of national resources, exacerbated by a growing population, had led to low crop yields and had a negative effect on agriculture.  Yet, agriculture was the dominant sector driving the economy, with more than 80 per cent of the population’s livelihood dependent on farming and livestock rearing, she said, adding that developing the sector required an effective partnership with small farmers.  To guarantee development and ensure food security, farmers should be better organized and pool their resources together, he said.  Measures should also be taken to provide fair access to trade and to the technology needed to improve the conservation of food, so as to prevent it from going bad before it even reached the market, he stressed.


JULIE MORIZET (France), associating herself with the European Union, focused on efforts to reform the global governance of food security, saying that the Global Partnership for Agriculture, proposed by France in 2008, had been adopted internationally in 2009.  On the political level, the Committee on World Food Security had been reformed, and a panel of experts had published reports on land rights and international investment in agriculture.  On the financial level, the L’Aquila signatories had pledged $22 billion to deal with food security between 2009 and 2011, and were also taking part in an accountability exercise.  The High-level Task Force on Food Security was essential to improving the coordination of stakeholders, she said.


Describing food security and price volatility as key focuses of the French Presidency of the G-20, she said cooperation and coordination had been essential in identifying tangible outcomes, as part of its agricultural-development efforts.  The Meeting of Ministers for Development had led to reports on food security and agricultural development, and the latest one entailed the development of a plan of action for dealing with price volatility.  Regarding the United Nations food-security agenda, she expressed hope that the relevant draft resolutions would contribute to new global governance in that area, and that it would be addressed in 2012, particularly within the framework of the Rio+20 Conference.


PHYO THY ZAR AUNG (Myanmar), associating herself with the Group of 77, ASEAN and the Group of Least Developed Countries, attributed the food crisis to price speculation, the surge in biofuel production, climate change, low investment in agriculture, trade distortions and the lack of social safety nets.  Short-term solutions should include emergency food aid and financial responses to food and nutrition insecurity in vulnerable countries, but global long-term solutions required a comprehensive approach, including investment in the agriculture sector, she stressed.


With its abundant arable land, water resources and favourable climate, Myanmar had great potential for expanding and agricultural production, she pointed out.  To develop the agriculture sector, the Government had placed emphasis on ensuring self-sufficiency in rice, expanding the cultivation of pulses and beans for export, as well as promoting and increasing the cultivation of cotton, sugarcane, oil-seed and culinary crops.  Private entrepreneurs and companies had been encouraged to reclaim fallow, virgin and wet lands, which had resulted in a 2.9 million acre expansion in cultivable acreage, she said, adding that with 70 per cent of the total population living in rural areas, the Government’s National Development Plan was designed to give top priority to rural development and poverty eradication.


ZALWANI ZAKAPLY ( Malaysia), associating herself with the Group of 77 and ASEAN, stressed that short- and long-term measures must be embedded in national policies to mitigate issues related to food security.  In response to the 2008 world food crisis, the Government of Malaysia had implemented the National Food Security Plan, in hopes that the food supply would remain sufficient at all times.  The Ministry of Agriculture had implemented several programmes entailing greater production of rice, increased productivity in agriculture, fisheries and livestock, and the creation of incentives for agricultural entrepreneurs.  As a result, Malaysia’s rice production had risen and more green jobs had been created, she said, emphasizing the need to involve the younger generation in the agriculture sector, and the importance of managing it through the use of cost-efficient and environmentally friendly technologies.


CHRISTOPHE LOBRY-BOULANGER, observer for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), noted that the 2011 World Disaster Report focused on hunger and malnutrition.  It looked critically at the global food system which was failing 1 billion people, he said, adding that the Horn of Africa crisis was a reminder of the international community’s collective failure.  Agricultural practices and marketing mechanisms needed improvement and more global action was required in a broad range of development areas, he said, calling for urgent action to stem the continuing rise in food prices, exacerbated by commodity speculation.


He went on to emphasize the need to build the resilience of local communities and to empower people to identify their development priorities while diversifying their livelihood options.  “Sustainable intensification” involved the scaling up of innovations that would raise productivity without destroying the essential resource base upon which it depended.  He called for the eradication of gender discrimination, saying that would lead to a 20-30 per cent increase in productivity.  He also called for greater investment in agriculture and social protection, for measures to ensure proper land management and for the promotion of women farmers.


XENIA VON LILIEN, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), said smallholder farmers held the key to food security and economic growth.  They had tremendous potential to contribute to the elimination of poverty and to improving food security and nutrition.  Smallholders needed access to productive resources, markets, finance, technology and support to manage the many risks they faced, she said.  Improving the ability of the poorest people to feed themselves could improve their ability in turn to feed others, generate income, create new jobs and contribute to stronger and more vibrant rural economies.


She said it was ironic that the majority of hungry and undernourished people lived in the rural areas of developing countries and were engaged in one way or another in agricultural activities.  The food crisis was the result of nearly three decades of declining support for agriculture, on both the national and international levels, she noted, adding that just two weeks ago, the FAO, WFP and IFAD had reported that food-price volatility and high prices were likely to continue and could even increase, making poor farmers, consumers and countries more vulnerable to poverty and food insecurity.


But there was some cause for hope, she continued, noting that the food-price crisis had caused renewed commitment to agriculture on the part of donor countries and international financing institutions, in addition to increased funding from emerging economies and the mobilization of domestic resources in developing countries.  To meet growing demand, global food production would need to increase by 70 per cent in less than 40 years and production in developing countries would need to almost double in a sustainable manner, she said.


PEDRO MEDRANO, World Food Programme (WFP), said the extent of hunger and child under-nutrition remained alarmingly high due to disasters, armed conflict, economic and financial crises and food-price volatility.  Food security was about much more than food or agriculture; it was about ensuring access to adequate and nutritious food for every household member.  Price volatility was not confined to only a few crises, as headlines had shown, but a long-term challenge for the international community.


Rising food prices affected the most vulnerable, including women and children, who resorted to cheaper food staples that lacked the necessary nutrients for growth and development, she continued.  Meanwhile, desertification, land degradation and drought undermined the livelihoods, food security and nutrition of millions.  She called for investment in social-protection programmes for the most vulnerable, and for nutrition safety nets, such as school feeding.  Through the Scaling Up Nutrition, or “SUN”, movement, 12 countries were prioritizing national food and nutrition security programmes through nutrition- and gender-sensitive development of direct interventions such as the promotion of antenatal nutrition and breastfeeding.  That could be complemented by emergency food reserve systems for vulnerable countries or regions, she said.


LILA RATSIFANDRIHAMANANA, Director, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Liaison Office with the United Nations, said the agency’s report State of Food Insecurity in the World showed that food insecurity continued to challenge efforts to realize the Millennium Development Goals.  High prices and volatility were likely to continue and climate change would have a negative impact on land quality and crop yields, she said.  The agriculture sector would need affordable and sustainable ways to nourish 9 billion people by 2050, she continued.  That meant that a global production increase of 70 per cent and additional investments amounting to $83 billion would be required to deal with growing food demand.


Calling for a new governance paradigm of more sustainable governance land- and water-management, she said the FAO had developed the concept of “greening the economy with agriculture”, and expressed hope that such an approach would contribute to policy debate at the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development.  She underlined the need to address all dimensions of food security, integrating cross-cutting issues, such as gender equality.  The 2011 World Food Day theme, “food prices:  from crisis to stability”, aimed to call attention to trends hurting poor consumers, small producers and agriculture in general she said.


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