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Creativity in Agriculture Needed to Meet Hunger Goals

23 March 2016

GLOBAL - The international community needs to find new and innovative ways of working together if it is to meet the goals laid out in the UN's new Sustainable Development Agenda, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said at the Forum for the Future of Agriculture in Brussels.

Speaking at the annual event focused on food and environmental security, the FAO Director-General called on government ministries and international agencies to break through traditional silos and embrace more creative approaches to tackling today's development challenges, embodied by the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

"The SDGs are interlinked and call for new combinations in the way policies, programmes, partnerships and investments should pull together to achieve common goals and produce the most needed public goods," Mr Graziano da Silva said.

Along the way, it is fundamental for countries to embrace modes of governance that look beyond sector-specific ministries, such as agriculture, health and education, to find innovative solutions for complex development problems, he said.

"We must count on a broad portfolio of tools and approaches to eradicate hunger, fight every form of malnutrition and achieve sustainable agriculture," according to the FAO Director-General.

These tools - which include both agroecology and biotechnology - ought to serve the needs of family farmers, whose empowerment should be a central part of sustainable development interventions, he stressed.

"Today, nearly 80 per cent of the extreme poor and undernourished people live in rural areas - most of them are family farmers who grow food, but not enough to avoid hunger or escape extreme poverty," he said.

He noted that, at the same time, these very family farmers produce the largest proportion of the food consumed worldwide, and underlined their role as "key actors in achieving food security for all".

"In this sense, it is essential to invest and create new products, technologies, processes and friendlier business models to support them, improve their resilience and enable them to produce more in a sustainable way," he said.

Focus on nutrition, climate change

Along the way, the FAO Director-General stressed the need to strengthen food value chains to ensure a nutrition-sensitive approach to food production and diets, "from the farm to consumers' tables."

This includes empowering consumers to make better dietary choices, for example through improved labelling, by ensuring accurate advertising, and undertaking effective nutritional education campaigns.

The wide-reaching effects of climate change are another key factor that calls for responses across ministries and sectors in order to address the full range of impacts on people's lives and livelihoods.

"Poor family farmers are driven off their land by prolonged drought, coastal fishing communities are losing their homes because of rising sea levels, and Pastoralists are forced to migrate in search of land on which their cattle can graze," Mr Graziano da Silva said speaking about the realities of farmers in particular.

"The rural poor are the most exposed to these threats, and they are the least equipped to deal with them," he added.

Reminding the audience that FAO's mandate is directly linked to at least 14 of the 17 SDGs, Mr Graziano da Silva stressed the agency's commitment to helping governments implement new governance mechanisms and data tools to achieve their priorities under the SDGs, closing with the plea that "No one must be left behind."

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