Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Qu Dongyu, has said that agriculture has a crucial role in providing sustainable solutions to many of today’s most urgent environmental issues.
The FAO big boss said that will only be possible ‘’provided we change the way we farm, fish and herd livestock’’.
He also pointed out that tackling the challenges in the Sahel will require a “common, coordinated and coherent response” to provide people living in the desert region with viable livelihoods and establish resilient agric food systems.
He noted how since 2005, the Sahel region has been hit by repeated crises, each leaving the most vulnerable more exposed. As a result, almost four million people were at risk of acute food insecurity in the Sahel this year, while youth unemployment remains persistently high in the region, too.
The climate crisis also increases local conflicts between pastoralists and farmers over land and water.
“It is clear that the challenges of the Sahel need a coordinated and coherent response”, Qu said, speaking at a G5 Heads of State Climate Event ahead of the United Nations General Assembly.
He stressed that FAO is committed to the implementation of the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel and is contributing to many efforts in the region. FAO is also supporting the G5 Sahel, leading the pastoralism efforts under the resilience pillar of its investment plan.
Qu underscored how in 2018, FAO reached 1.7 million food insecure people across the region by supporting pastoralism, small-scale crop and vegetable production and providing cash-based transfers.
“I would like to add that the Rome-based agencies FAO, IFAD and WFP are combining their strengths to implement a Plan of Action for the Sahel, together with national authorities and regional bodies like the G5.
The FAO boss pointed to Niger as a case study for the Rome-based U.N. agencies’ approach, noting the close support offered for the Government’s 3N initiative – ‘”Nigeriens Nourish Nigeriens” – to achieve zero hunger and eradicate poverty.
“These joint efforts are providing alternative job opportunities, restoring livelihoods and building resilience for some of the region’s most vulnerable communities”, Qu said.
He also cited the example of FAO and the European Union working together to strengthen the resilience of transboundary agropastoral communities to food crises in the Sahel.
“We have a real opportunity to address the effects of climate change and build more resilient agri-food systems across the Sahel if we commit to working in partnership and aligning our efforts. FAO will continue to support the governments and people of the Sahel in these actions”, he said.
According to him, transforming the agricultural sectors requires “changing the way we think and changing the way we live … and this must be based on consensus,” not just between political leaders, but across society, Qu said at a high-level event on building momentum for Nature-Based Solutions to climate change.
The event was co-led by China and New Zealand, with wide participation from member states, the private sector and civil society.
Adapting the agricultural sectors to the impacts of climate change requires “action based on science,” the Director-General said. He identified three important components of change: innovation, investment – including technology – and inclusiveness, across borders and sectors.
Because agriculture is directly engaged with climate change, biodiversity, soil fertility and land degradation, it holds the key to bringing together often fragmented stakeholders – resource managers, producers, value-chain operators, advocates and policy makers.
He pointed to the crucial role that youth must play in transforming the agricultural sectors, recalling his participation the day before in an event on the sidelines of the Youth Climate Summit where he launched a new FAO publication: Youth in motion for climate action! A compilation of youth initiatives in agriculture to address the impacts of climate change.