Ministers, delegates, civil society groups and other participants called on FAO to work with them on growing food for expanding populations and international markets while using more sustainable practices, on the sidelines of the 30th FAO Regional Conference held in Turkey's Mediterranean province of Antalya, between May 4-6.
The 17 Sustainable Development Goals were desired to be adopted by all nations last year, for the next two years, in Europe and Central Asia.
Improved nutrition, and the promotion of pulses as food crops and as a dietary choice were underscored during the regional conference. Meanwhile, policies and other forms of support for family-run farms, strengthening of agri-food trade, combating illegal fishing, and support to women and youth were also emphasized within the event.
FAO members discussed the “Save and Grow” or ecosystem-based agriculture, which is a new paradigm being advanced by the Organization. The impact of climate change on agriculture emerged as a serious concern during the conference, which directly affects almost all countries in the region.
FAO has promoting an approach called “climate-smart agriculture” emphasizing productivity, adaptation, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
Da Silva: Agriculture sector has a main role in coping climate change
FAO Director General Jose' Graziano da Silva made a closing speech, where he thanked the support and hospitality of Turkey, as well as the high participation to the conference.
“The conference was very successful; the numbers show it. We have attendance of 42 countries plus the EU delegates, out of the 53 countries in the region” he said.
Some 108 delegates and a total of 131 participants, including 23 observers from the UN, NGOs, CSOs, private sectors and academia have attended the regional conference, according to official numbers.
“From the FAO perspective, we find very important that this region is completely aligned with the priorities of agenda 2030” da Silva said, adding their efforts to find best ways for fitting 17 sustainable development goals set by the United Nations in September.
Da Silva reiterated concerns over the sustainability of the agriculture sector, underlining that the sector has a “main role” in coping and adapting the climate change that the world faces.
Concerns about the impacts of climate change including floods and droughts were central in the agenda of the conference, he said.
FAO Chief: One in two faces obesity or over-weight
“Nutrition and food security issues are of priority”, da Silva stated, underlining that despite the “successful approach” to food security, the FAO still sees a “growing number of overweight and obese people”, while one in two are thought to be in these categories.
He noted the importance of reducing food waste, while referring to Turkey's “initiatives” to tackle the problem, which were “very welcomed”.
According to FAO Director-General, pulses are among the most available nutrition, which also highlights the importance of local production and consumption. He also praised Turkey and the region's efforts to implement combat against illegal fishing.
Civil society urges more effort for wageworkers, women and young people
The dialogue with civil society is encouraging, da Silva said, while listing contributions of the civil society organizations (CSOs) to the conference.
These organizations have brought up to the agenda some issues including agroecology, access to natural sources, use of new technologies to cope with climate change, participation of family farms and fisher communities, along with local and regional markets, and decent working conditions for labourers.
The message of CSOs was that “FAO should do more effort for wage workers, and contribution about the role of women” he said, noting that young people and women should be encouraged to have direct access to land.
Minister Çelik: Farmers should not pay the bill of non-related problems
Meanwhile, Turkish Minister of Food, Agriculture and Livestock who also co-chaired the conference stated that the participation was very high to the event. Key topics were described as protection of biodiversity, research and development work for agriculture, and decreasing waste in food and agriculture, he said.
Some other important discussions were made on the sustainability of small businesses, the crucial role of the private sector and education, Çelik said.
After a suggestion of Slovenia, May 20 was decided to be s, to be declared as “The day of Bees and Beekeeping”, suggested in front of the UN, Çelik added.
“As countries in the region, our problems are common and they resemble”, Çelik told reporters, calling for cooperation and dialogue for global and regional solution making.
Farmers are the most disadvantaged groups in the context of share distribution of domestic income, and I believe it is wrong that the bill is issued to them for topics that are not related to agriculture, Minister Çelik said.
Related events draw attention to food losses, governance tenure
A two-day consultation of civil society organizations in the region took place immediately before the Conference, which led to a position statement making FAO suggestions. A regional dialogue on responsible governance of tenure of land and other natural resources was also hosted by the Committee on World Food Security one day before the opening of the Conference.
A between-sessions side event drew attention to food losses and waste as “a global problem of enormous economic, environmental and societal significance.” FAO estimates show that as much as one-third of all food produced is either lost or wasted, and never consumed.
A third side event illustrated how FAO is “promoting new forms of cooperation and partnership to promote agricultural and rural development – cooperation between and among countries, and with research institutions”.
The Regional Conference is FAO's highest governing body for Europe and Central Asia, attended by Ministers of Agriculture and other delegates from 53 member countries and one member organization (the European Union), as well as observers from civil society and the private sector.
The Conference discusses the region's food and agriculture challenges and sets priorities for FAO's work in the region. The Regional Conference is held once every two years, in years when the global FAO Conference does not meet in regular session.