DENARAU ISLAND, Fiji, April 9 (Xinhua) -- The 34th session of regional conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC) under the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) kicked off here on Monday.
Speaking at the opening of the five-day conference, which is to discuss important issues such as the effects of climate change on food production, safer food and nutrition, Fiji's Minister for Agriculture, Rural and Maritime Development and National Disaster Management and Meteorological Services Inia Seruiratu said that the global challenges are to feed the growing population, and at the same time, to sustain a nation's food security.
Food safety has a direct impact on millions of undernourished people who never get enough food to eat, and fulfil their basic dietary requirements. The majority of this group, estimated at 500 million out of 800 million, live in the Asia Pacific region, Seruitatu added.
"Despite impressive economic growth in recent decades, the Asia and Pacific region is home to 490 million people still suffering from chronic hunger, accounting for 62 percent of undernourished people in the world. Stunting of children is still a challenge, micronutrient deficiencies are still a major problem in many countries, while the trend in childhood obesity is increasing," he said.
The minister stressed that as the challenges of hunger, malnutrition and poverty are intertwined and the poor and hungry are concentrated in the agriculture and rural sectors in most of the Asia Pacific region, an increase in investments in agriculture and rural development is much needed to increase income, employment and food and nutrition security.
Food security is of high importance to any country, he continued, in the face of the impact of climatic change and adverse weather conditions, Fiji and the Pacific face the challenge of not just food security but also nutrition security.
To accelerate action on food security and nutrition in the Pacific Small Islands Developing States (SIDS), he called for a more integrated, multi-stakeholder approach to address the unique food security and nutrition challenges faced by SIDS.
For her part, Kundhavi Kadiresan, assistant director general of FAO's Asia Pacific Region, said that the last few meetings held in Asia did not get to hear as much from the Pacific Island countries.
This was critical because out of the top 10 countries in the Asia Pacific countries faced with the problem of obesity, seven were from the Pacific region, she said, adding that "We hope in this conference we get a lot more attention on these issues closer to the Pacific, bring not only the issues specific to Fiji but also other countries in the region. It is good for Pacific Island countries to not only bring issues but also get the best practice of what is being done and lessons learnt."
This is the first FAO APRC forum hosted by Fiji. This is also the first time in more than two decades that a country in the Pacific has hosted the APRC. The last APRC held in the Pacific was the 23rd APRC, which was hosted by Samoa in 1996.
FAO regional conferences are official forums where agriculture ministers and high-level officials of members from the same geographic region meet to discuss the challenges and priority matters related to food and agriculture, with a view of promoting regional coherence on global policies.
Established in 1945, the Rome-based FAO is the specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Its goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. With over 194 members, FAO works in over 130 countries and regions.
The conference is being held on the Denarau Island near Nadi, Fiji's third largest city on April 9-13.