Tackling the causes of hunger
China's premier is expected to reaffirm the country's willingness to share its experience and provide help in the global battle against poverty
Premier Li Keqiang is expected to express his country's resolve in helping end global hunger and poverty by working closely with the poorest countries and forging a closer partnership with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, says the d agency's director-general, Jose Graziano da Silva.
A farm worker in Anyang, Henan province, dries corn. Jose Graziano da Silva, director-general of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, says the organization has provided technical support to more than 400 field projects in China. Provided to China Daily
Li is scheduled to visit the headquarters of the organization in Rome before flying to Milan to attend the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting Summit on Oct 16-17. Before the organization visit, he will visit Germany, Russia and Italy.
"We have entered into partnership with China through South-to-South Cooperation for years and many countries have shown interest in this innovative model," Graziano da Silva says during an interview with China Daily before Li's visit.
The organization's South-South Cooperation is a mechanism for mutual sharing and exchange of development solutions.
Graziano da Silva says the organization has provided technical support to more than 400 field projects in China, especially in the areas prioritized as agriculture development areas, to the benefit of tens of millions of people.
And since 1981 the organization has assisted China in the preparation and review of agriculture or rural sector operations, of which 47 projects have been approved, representing investment totaling more than $8.3 billion (6.6 billion euros).
Since 1996, he says, China has started to help poorer countries through his organization or other mechanisms.
Considered a pioneer model of South-South Cooperation, the China-FAO partnership has transformed lives in about 25 countries in Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the South Pacific, where more than 1,000 Chinese experts and technicians have been deployed, Graziano da Silva says.
He says China has donated $30 million since 2008 in South-South Cooperation initiatives.
He hopes his organization and China can continue working together to increase efforts in areas including food security, nutrition and quality-assured production, veterinary vaccines in Africa, agricultural research and training centers, development of aquaculture, renewable energy development and agricultural ecosystems protection.
He says during his talks with Li, he hopes to confirm China's further commitment and investment to expand and replicate best practices in poor countries.
"The growth of China's agricultural sector by 450 percent between 1980 and last year alone is nothing short of dramatic. The result has been a much improved food security situation."
The organization estimates that 138 million people in China have been lifted out of chronic undernourishment since 1990-92. In the same period, food availability per person doubled and protein supply per person was rose by more than one-third, according to the FAO's State of Food Insecurity in the World 2014.
"China, however, still faces considerable challenges in further reducing hunger," Graziano da Silva says.
These include increasingly limited arable land, shrinking water resources, diminishing numbers of young and educated farmers, and increasing income gaps. Undernourishment in China is now concentrated among the poorest in rural areas, including small-scale farm households.
Graziano da Silva says addressing the challenges facing rural China requires mitigating and adapting to climate change, safeguarding biodiversity and managing natural resources.
"The government needs to urgently introduce technological innovations and sustainable agricultural practices, as well as enforcing laws on ownership and use of land, water and forests."
In particular, policies should benefit smallholder farmers who account for the largest share of the agriculture sector in China, he says.
"Challenges they face include labor costs, transport and logistics and agreements with processing industries."
Globally, Graziano da Silva says, about 805 million people are chronically undernourished, about 209 million fewer than at the beginning of the 1990s.
"This is an important achievement," he says, adding that the Millennium Development Goals target to halve the proportion of the hungry by the end of next year is within reach. The goals were established by the United Nations in 2000.
"But we need to move faster and show stronger political commitment. Still, the number of hungry, one in 9 in the world, is unacceptably high," Graziano da Silva says. To improve incomes and lives, economic growth must reach the poor and the vulnerable."
Graziano da Silva says the overall trend in reducing hunger is encouraging. Sixty-three developing countries have reached the Millennium Development Goals target, and six more are on track to reach it by next year.
"This proves we can win the war against hunger and should inspire countries to move forward."
Graziano da Silva says the world is also seeing increased commitment and solidarity among nations. For example, African countries have established the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund for Food Security, through which richer African countries invest in food security in other countries in the region.
On the negative side, conflicts and crises, including natural disasters, continue to hamper efforts. "I would like to emphasize that we need to recognize the link between hunger and conflict, and food security and peace."
Improvements are also needed to diminish the current loss and waste of over a third of food produced globally, he says.
"A renewed global partnership for the post-2015 development agenda is being defined and FAO is part of this effort," he says.
"This must engage with governments, international organizations, civil society and the private sector."
(China Daily European Weekly 10/10/2014 page11)