The Director-General of Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, Mr QU Dongyu, has warned that the prevention of food crises cannot wait until the health crisis is over, nor can the world afford to return to the unacceptable levels of hunger and food insecurity witnessed before the pandemic.
Saying FAO is placing its convening power, real-time data, early warning systems and technical expertise at the world’s disposal.
Dongyu in a write-up sent to journalists in Abuja on Thursday said the world must collaborate to transform the food systems for a more resilient and equitable future.
“Due to the pandemic and related containment measures, we have already experienced disruptions in global food supply chains, labor shortages and lost harvests. Now we are seeing a delayed planting season. Around 4.5 billion people depend on food systems for their jobs and livelihoods, working to produce, collect, store, process, transport and distribute food to consumers, as well as to feed themselves and their families. The pandemic has put 35% of food system employment at risk, impacting women at an even higher rate.
“From the very beginning of the pandemic, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has actively supported countries and farmers to work on scalable and sustainable solutions to help ensure nutritious food for all. This forms the basis of the comprehensive FAO COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme, which identifies seven priority areas for action. However, to catalyze and build upon these solutions, a business as usual approach will not suffice. The following three strategic shifts must guide our collective response.
“FAO is rapidly adapting and enhancing data collection methods at the country, regional and global levels, as data collection processes have been disrupted by physical distancing measures to contain the pandemic. For instance, FAO has recently released the FAO Data Lab to bring real time data on food prices and sentiment analysis. We have also developed the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform which brings more than 1 million geospatial layers to help prioritize interventions within countries. These make visual datasets available to provide global early-warnings on possible hotspots that may be affected by adverse weather conditions, and how they evolve over time,” he said.
He said pooling all available data, efforts and resources for synergistic action will be paramount for a holistic response and recovery, as will collaboration on promoting economic inclusion, agricultural trade, sustainable and resilient food systems, preventing future animal-to-human disease outbreaks and ensuring coordinated humanitarian action.
According to him, the prevention of future animal-to-human disease outbreaks requires coordination between stakeholders from all relevant sectors. He added that an effective food and agricultural response to the pandemic also calls for joint humanitarian action, particularly to improve the livelihoods of vulnerable smallholder and family farmers.