- Excellency President of the Republic of Fiji,
- Technical Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services
- Distinguished Guests
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am pleased and excited to provide remarks on behalf of Dr Qu Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), at this very first joint FAO and SPC meeting of Pacific Heads of Agriculture and Forestry.
As emphasized and called upon in your last meeting, in 2019 in Apia, you the ‘Heads of Agriculture and Forestry’ stressed the importance of strategic partnerships and the need for us to strive to streamline our regional planning process, by bringing together our combined knowledge and resources for the betterment of the Agriculture and Forestry sectors in our region. I know SPC will echo FAO’s sentiments in noting how pleased and honored we are to co-support this very important strategic meeting for the region.
This first ever joint FAO and SPC supported meeting of the ‘Heads’ would not have been possible without the dedication of the support of the Government of Fiji. I believe our being here today, albeit virtually due to the pandemic, is a sign of the Pacific regions resilience and call for us to continue to find solutions and a way forward for our region.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
While COVID-19 has impacted lives and livelihoods in many countries, Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific have been hit especially hard. Many that relied on tourism were forced to close their borders, losing badly needed revenue while individuals and families lost incomes.
Though having the pandemic wandering around in the Pacific, the region has faced the challenge head on, and national and regional agendas have been reshaped and reprogrammed to ensure our work continues.
FAO takes note that agricultural production, fisheries, and forestry typically remain the backbone of the Pacific economies and the major contributors to livelihoods. Overall, roughly 50-70 percent of Pacific peoples depend on agriculture, fisheries or associated activities for their livelihoods. Forestry is critical to the economy of some of our Pacific nations such as Solomon Islands and Fiji. Therefore, it is crucial for us to foster our Agriculture and Forestry sectors to ensure prosperity of our Pacific nations.
Even before the pandemic, Pacific SIDS were dealing with other challenges such as frequent natural disasters, the effects of climate change, limited arable land, dependence on small-scale agriculture, high-priced imports, and a high prevalence of non-communicable diseases, such as heart disease and Type 2 Diabetes. All of these issues have hampered their countries’ progress toward achieving the 2030 SDG targets.
Despite this the region has persevered, and we must not lose sight of the many achievements we have made to date and we must forge on in our efforts, noting that efforts need to be at a multi-sectoral level.
FAO will continue to provide technical support to all our member countries to ensure that our programmes in Food Security and Nutrition are relevant and responsive to our current situation.
We, in FAO, are excited to see the interest and shift in thinking by countries to address Food Security and Nutrition using a holistic Food Systems approach. In the recent months, countries have held national dialogues to identify key challenges faced by their respective food systems and are in the process of fine tuning Food systems pathways that will zone in on selected and targeted game changing solutions. FAO stands ready to provide ongoing assistance in realizing their Food systems Pathways.
Once again, FAO welcomes the leadership by the Pacific countries represented to insist on a streamlined and coordinated approach to addressing the food security challenges in our region. This is indeed an important crossroad and I am extremely happy that we are able to strengthen our partnership with SPC to mainstream our agriculture and forestry programmes with synergies.
It is our hope that our meeting today and the next few days, will be full of exchanges on lessons learnt, ideas and knowledge sharing, on how our Agriculture and Forestry sectors can provide game changing solutions in strengthening and enhancing our food systems. We also look forward to discussions on how we can more strategically position ourselves as a region with a focus on issues that are important to the Pacific.
I wish you all a fruitful meeting.
Thank you and Vinaka Vaka Levu