Nations recommit to ending hunger
Written by: George Kalisa
Wednesday, November 1st, 2017, 16:18
Implementing the international seed treaty
About 190 nations 144 of them ratified the international treaty on plant genetic resources for food and agriculture (ITPGRFA) met in Rwanda’s capital Kigali for the seventh session of the governing body, which comprehensively highlighted strategies that will catch up with climate change and diseases as well as making new commitment to fast-track the implementation of this treaty.
The delegations apparently agreed that more resources be directed towards developing crop varieties that are more resilient to diseases and climate change. Experts stressed the need to fast-track the implementation of the treaty as one of the safeguards to ensure food security and zero hunger in the world that will be home to about 10 billion people by 2050, but also issues of benefit-sharing, farmers’ rights and enhancement of funding strategies received focused attention.
The conference themed; “The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Role of Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture”, convened from October 30 – November 3, was opened by Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Dr. Gerardine Mukeshimana and addressed by high level officials in the sector namely; Mr. René Castro-Salazar, Assistant Director General of FAO, Mr. Tim Fischer, Chairperson of the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT), Dr. Kent Nnadozie, Secretary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and several high profile experts.
Dr. Mukeshimana observed that 2.5 billion of the 10 billion people projected by 2050 will be in cities and particularly Africa and Asia will have a bigger proportion of the anticipated increment.
“The global population is projected to grow to almost 10 billion of which 2.5 billion will be urban population by 2050. Most of these increases will be occurring in Africa and Asia and this means that agricultural output will need to more than double by 2050,” noted Rwanda’s agriculture minister.
The minister thus called on world leaders and stakeholders in agriculture to focus more on integration of innovative production systems, adding the changing consumer demands at the backdrop of climate change, weather variability and natural resource constraints called for undivided attention from all players in agriculture sector.
“More productive, diversified agriculture and food systems are required to cope with the growing and changing consumer demands and all of these are taking place within unrelenting climate change, weather variability and natural resource constraints context. Innovative and smarter production systems that protect and enhance the natural resource base, while increasing productivity are to be developed and implemented,” she said.
Dr. Mukeshimana reiterated the need to fast-track the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in efforts to end hunger in the world.
“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set out highly ambitious and transformational goals. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), of ending hunger, extreme poverty and malnutrition entails implementing resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production,” she observed.
She added: “The sustainable management of agricultural biodiversity contributes to the diversification of agricultural systems, and ensures the sustainability of agriculture and food systems while increasing economic growth, environmental protection and improving rural livelihoods”.
The minister highlighted the milestones her ministry has made and attributed them to the visionary leadership of President Paul Kagame and elaborated agricultural policies. Among others she said Rwanda’s agriculture sector contributes a third of the GDP and employs 70 per cent of Rwandans alongside meeting 90 per cent of the national food needs and generates more than 50 per cent of the country’s export revenues.
“In Rwanda, agriculture accounts for a third of the GDP and employs nearly 70 per cent of the population. The sector meets 90 per cent of the national food needs and generates more than 50 per cent of the country’s export revenues. Facing post genocide reconstruction challenges, Rwanda has realized significant achievements in improving agricultural productivity and poverty reduction,” said Dr. Mukeshimana.
In a press conference held shortly after the opening, Dr. Mukeshimana said Rwanda was already exporting several genetically modified crops that are diseases resilient. She also attributed Rwanda’s progress to the articulated country policy guidelines and strategies which strive to exit the nation out of poverty and graduate to middle income status by 2020.
She observed that Rwanda like other countries wish to have as many new varieties as possible, stressing that the capacity of the nation’s research was very critical in controlling the speed of spread of the diseases - “And, all diseases are attributed to climate change”.
Dr. Castro-Salazar said that the world will have enough food for 10 billion people if the current population of 7.2 billion leverages the innovation FAO has put in place to ensure the availability of food for every person, including avoiding food wastes which are about one third of all the food produced in the world today.
Dr. Castro-Salazar called on world leaders to fast-track the treaties they committed themselves to – stressing that the treaties bridge humans’ and nature’s time saying nature was waiting for them to act.
“We’re the stewards and custodians of earth. We’re the ones to know how we shall feed the 10 billion. There’s a difference between nature’s time and the diplomats’ and politicians’ time; nature is still waiting for the diplomats and politicians to agree on the conventions and how to implement them; is already showing the signals, is already following the nature’s time. The treaty can help to bridge the humans’ and nature’s time.
He said that they need to do more about benefit sharing and share lessons learned as well as applying science and work harder to meet sustainable development goals on feeding the hungry.
“But above all we’re here because the world committed that by 2030, even with 10 billion people there should be zero hunger – Very importantly, it’s a basic human right, let’s work together and let’s work now,” underlined Dr. Castro-Salazar while addressing participants at ITPGRFA sessions.
At a parallel press conference, Dr. Castro-Salazar called on world leaders especially in Africa and Asia to transform their land tenure systems that deny woman access to land yet they are the main producers of food. He said when women’s access to land increases food will dramatically increase since they will be able to access credit.
“In summary agriculture needs to be intensified, modernized and use the best technologies. And also the modernization is more of some traditions for example if women have secured land tenure in many countries especially in Africa and Asia that will help them access to credit and will immediately produce more food in the same land; this is policy transformation,” Castro-Salazar observed.
He called on the world population to stop wasting food and water saying; “There will be no room for any kind of waste about one third of the food is today wasted.”
The FAO’s assistant DG for Climate, Biodiversity, Land and Water Department advised people to recycle about 70 per cent of the fresh water used in Agriculture and lamented that it was not recycled at the moment.
He was grateful to the governments and religions that were reacting positively to the Pope’s recent call to feed the hungry and said there was no profitability about it but a human right and a moral obligation.
“Making use of the water – We’re water wasteful, around 70 per cent of the fresh water is used in Agriculture but we don’t recycle it,” Dr. Castro-Salazar wondered, calling on the governments to raise awareness on the value of food and understand it that it’s eatable and usable.
The Governing Body is convened under the provisions of Article 19 of the Treaty, and is open to all Contracting parties to the international Treaty and to observers.
Experts lauded countries like Rwanda and Zimbabwe that are ahead of others in as far as 2030 Agenda is concerned.