‘Smart, Systematic Actions Are Required to Reduce Hunger’

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Participants at the 2020 World Food Day Celebration, held in Liberia.

-FAO Director General’s Address on WFD

On Friday, October 16, 2020, Liberia joined other countries of the world to celebrate World Food Day (WFD), under the theme: Grow, Nourish, Sustain, Together, Our Actions are our Future.  WFD is celebrated every year on the 16th of October to highlight the need to eradicate the problems of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition globally, especially in developing countries.

In Liberia, the program was held at the Ministry of Agriculture central office, located at the Ministerial Complex in Congo Town, Monrovia, and attended by officials of the MOA, development partners, private sector actors, farmers and some members of the Liberian media.

Significantly, this year’s celebration came at the time when the COVID-19 pandemic has had an adverse impact on agriculture and food security. However, the day provided an opportunity for stakeholders to reflect on progress and challenges in the food system of the world including Liberia.

Delivering the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General’s message on behalf of the Country Representative of FAO, Mariatou Njie, Jonathan Roberts, Officer in Charge of FAO, said that there is a need for smart and systematic actions to improve food security due to the unfolding challenges now confronting the world food system.

According to him, FAO over the years has been largely concentrated on expanding the outputs of farms, boosting yields, supporting mechanization and improving irrigation schemes. But as times went by, the vision became more complex enriched with environmental and sustainability concerns.

“The world was making impressive progress in reducing hunger but hunger has since being rising again. This is partly due to conflict and extreme weather patterns. What we need now is a smart and systematic actions to get the food to those who need it and improve it for those who have it,” he said.

Robert added that actions “like preventing crops from rotting in fields as a result of efficient supply chains, the enhancement or use of digital tools to predict threats to harvest and to reduce climate change risk, the need to rescue biodiversity from relentless erosion and for governments to implement policies that will ensure that healthy diets are more accessible among other things are needed steps to drive the food supply chain at this critical time of agriculture development if taken.”

He further stated that with the emergence of the pandemic the world is reminded that food security and nutrition diets matter to all.

According to him, even before COVID-19 hit the world, nearly 700 million people were undernourished, and with the economic disruption as the result of the pandemic, the number may have increased to 130 million.

He said that FAO was working to accelerate initiatives for agricultural transformation and sustainable rural development in countries that have the highest rates of poverty and hunger.

Also speaking, the World Food Program (WFP) Country Director Karla Robin Hershey said that the celebration of WFD stressed the need for a common desire to work harder toward zero hunger.

“This year WFD theme is another clarion call to every nation, districts and towns in Liberia and globally to work together to grow the food we eat, collaborate to nourish the agriculture field by mobilizing more resources,” she told participants at the occasion.

She said that considering the need to achieve zero hunger in Liberia, WFP is proudly working with communities, cooperatives, local and national authorities to ensure food security for every citizen.

For her part, the Agriculture Minister, Jeanine M. Cooper said one of the crucial issues that is now confronting the world, especially developing countries’ food system is how to manage the expectation of the producers and the consumers.

“In many developing countries, particularly in Liberia, there is a tension between consumers in urban areas for whom affordable food is vital and there is tension against the interest of the rural poor who want favorable prices for their products they produced in order to come out of poverty. Such a tension needs to be managed to satisfy both interests if we are to ensure food security,” she said.

Madam Cooper said that the greatest supply of food is not just increasing productivity only but all processes involved in the production processes leading to the market must be prioritized to improve the food system.

“We cannot just focus on the development of value chain along but must support all the actors, including the traders, consumers, transporters as well as the disposing of food remains, if we are going to improve the food system,” she mentioned.

“The enabling environment for all of these actors are very important as key to eliminating poverty,” she added.  

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