The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Republic of Korea (South Korea) have joined forces to bolster Zero Hunger efforts in the Asia-Pacific region, and strengthen their collaboration in South Korea where the UN agency opened today its first office.
“I am delighted by the prospect of this partnership arrangement leading to even deeper cooperation in a wide range of areas where the Republic of Korea is already providing a significant and much appreciated contribution, including in agriculture, fisheries, forestry, animal health, and food safety,” said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva at the inauguration of the FAO Partnerships and Liaison Office in Seoul.
The FAO Director-General lauded South Korea’s remarkable progress in recent decades – in both nutritional and economic development – as well as its leading role in scientific and technological advancements, including in the use of innovative ICT solutions in agriculture.
“We have been doing many things already with you but we have great potential to do more,” Graziano da Silva said.
The FAO-South Korea collaboration aims to make the country’s technical know-how in agriculture, forestry and fishery available for vulnerable rural populations in the region, and help accelerate Zero Hunger efforts across the Asia-Pacific region and beyond.
It will promote partnerships with the private sector, academia and civil society to facilitate exchanges on food security governance, technology transfer, training and research, and improve access to scientific and technical information to boost agricultural production.
These renewed efforts are especially fitting as the Asia-Pacific region accounts for over half of the world’s hungry people – nearly half a billion people – and progress in reducing hunger has slowed tremendously in recent years.
On the other hand, the region has seen an increase in obesity – both in children and adults – and has the fastest growing prevalence of childhood obesity in the world.
Some 14.5 million children under five are overweight and virtually all children in the region are increasingly exposed to cheap, unhealthy processed foods high in salt, sugar and fat but poor in essential nutrients.
The FAO-South Korea collaboration aims to fight hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by enabling the production and consumption of healthier and more nutritious foods, and by protecting our environment and biodiversity.
South Korea’s contribution to global Zero Hunger efforts
South Korea has been supporting FAO’s work by funding development work abroad and offering highly skilled human resources to help create and secure environmentally sustainable food systems, improved value chains, and innovation in agriculture.
For example, in Afghanistan, South Korea has been working with FAO to bring relief to drought-stricken farmers. In West Africa, it is providing training in rice production to vulnerable farming communities.
The country has a long history of applying traditional agricultural know-how – evident in its terraced rice paddies on Cheongsan Island and farming within the volcanic rock walls on Jeju Island. Both of them are recognised abroad, and are listed as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS) by FAO.
In fishery, South Korea has been supporting FAO’s efforts to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), and get more countries on board to sign the Agreement on Port State Measures (PSMA).
There are 17 SDGs – but achieving two are critical to realizing them all
Speaking the same day to a global forum on sustainable agricultural development assistance, Graziano da Silva acknowledged the good examples South Korea has set, but he also warned that globally the news is bad.
“The SDGs that are lagging behind, are exactly SDG 1 and SDG 2 on poverty and hunger. If we don’t make progress on SDG 1 and 2, it will be much more difficult to make progress on the others,” Graziano da Silva, told delegates at the 3rd Global ODA Forum on Sustainable Agricultural Development.
Conflicts, combined with the effects of climate change, have worsened the fight against poverty and hunger but other threats to reaching zero hunger also exist, he said, particularly the rise of obesity worldwide and the disconnect between the healthy, safe foods we need to consume to survive and thrive and what the world’s food systems are providing. He stressed that promoting healthier diets requires a re-connection with locally produced fruits and vegetables.
“This is very important for local communities to develop their local production and agriculture, he said. This would also improve the livelihoods of the world’s smallholder, family farmers.”