Director-General’s message

FAO Director-General’s message on the World Food Day/TeleFood 2008 theme:
“World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy”

From 3 to 5 June 2008, delegates from 181 countries met in Rome – including 43 Heads of State and Government and over 100 ministers – to participate in the High-Level Conference on World Food Security. Over 5 000 people attended this event, which brought the food crisis to the forefront of the global development agenda. The Conference reaffirmed the need to produce more and therefore to invest more in agriculture. There is indeed a need to address the growing food demand due to increasing populations, economic progress in emerging countries and competition in the bioenergy sector when supply is affected by climate change and declining stocks.

This year’s World Food Day theme which is: “World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy”, provides an opportunity to promote the conclusions of the High-Level Conference in order to implement them as soon as possible.

Climate change affects everyone but the poorest regions are already its first victims. Their situation is likely to worsen in the next decades. The worst hit will be hundreds of millions of people who are already vulnerable and food insecure: small-scale crop and animal producers, fishers and foresters. Climate change will affect availability of land, water and biodiversity. Changes in temperatures and precipitation, as well as more frequent extreme weather patterns, are expected to result in agriculture production shortfalls with negative impacts on access to food.

Therefore, climate change is likely to increase migration towards richer countries while rising sea levels may force many communities in low-lying coastal areas and river deltas to move to higher ground. These risks need to be taken into account. And the analysis of food security needs to be placed in a completely new context.

During the last three years, due to the soaring food and energy prices, the number of hungry people has increased by another 75 million at the end of 2007. This crisis is due to decreasing investments in agriculture in the poorest countries during the last 30 years. The share of agriculture in public development aid declined from 17% in 1980 to 3% in 2006. Financial institutions drastically reduced their funds for agriculture. We need to reverse this trend to come back to the previous level of investment. We also need to create food enabling frameworks for substantial increase of direct foreign investments for agriculture in low-income, food-deficit countries. Equitable partnerships between countries which have land, water and labour supply and countries which have financial resources, management facilities and markets would constitute a solid base for sustainable agriculture. Agriculture has to be able to double global food production by 2050, when the current population of the globe now at 6 billion, will reach 9 billion. This is the only way to mobilise the needed funds for a renewal of agriculture which are estimated at US$ 30 billion per year by the special High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Crisis.

On this World Food Day 2008, I invite you to promote the Declaration of the High-Level Conference on World Food Security, mobilising all stakeholders: national governments, international institutions, agricultural professional organizations, civil society and the private sector for its implementation. More than ever, the future of this planet depends on our capacity to sustain the development of agriculture in the poorest countries.