The Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) today marked the World Food Day (WFD), celebrated this year under the theme “our actions are our future: a #Zero_Hunger world by 2030 is possible”. Celebrations this year highlight the importance of unified actions to address hunger and malnutrition with a view toward ending hunger by 2030, one of the most important Sustainable Development Goals.
The WFD ceremony was held under the patronage of Minister of Agriculture and Land Reclamation Ezzedin Abu Steit and attended by Abdessalam Ould Ahmed, Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Near East and North Afric; Hussein Gadin, FAO Representative in Egypt; a large number of FAO officials and other UN agency representatives; Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation officials; and representatives of the Agricultural Research Center, Desert Research Center, civil society, and academic and media institutions.
In his speech at the event, Minister Abu Steit noted that Egypt made big strides in comprehensive economic development over the past few years with a view to diversifying the sources of national income. He said the agricultural sector took the lead in creating the right climate, benefiting from the latest technology to improve the available agricultural resources and increase agricultural production while improving quality of products to make them more competitive locally and internationally.
He said the Egyptian government turned special attention to agricultural development, offering financial incentives and constant encouragement so that future development can rely on an agricultural sector capable of meeting the needs of the growing population. As a result, he said, many investors turned to agricultural activity, with around LE 9.21 billion invested in agriculture in 2016/2017, making up 25.4% of the total investments.
He said this resulted in the Egyptian agricultural GDP rising to LE 6,398 billion, representing about 6.11% of the total GDP in 2016/2017. It also helped achieve self-sufficiency in many important agricultural products (rice, vegetables, fruits, fresh milk, and eggs) despite the population growth. He said the country exported LE 56 billion worth of surplus agricultural products, representing more than 22% of the overall exports for 2017. He pointed out that 5.6 million people worked in the agricultural sector in 2017, representing more than one quarter of the Egyptian workforce.
For his part, Abdessalam Ould Ahmed said: “According to the Regional Overview on Food Security and Nutrition, around 40.2 million people in the Near East and North Africa (NENA) region suffered from malnutrition in 2017. This is why FAO is helping the countries of the region formulate strategies and policies to address the challenges that obstruct the eradication of hunger, such as water scarcity and climate change. FAO is also working with the member states to support production chains, nutrition, and consumption patterns that help sustain food security, improve nutrition indicators, and curb stunting, obesity, and wasting.”
He added: “The NENA countries agreed on three regional initiatives in 2014 to improve food security, support small-scale family farming, and achieve water security. These are: The Initiative on Water Scarcity, the Initiative on Building Resilience for Food Security and Nutrition, and the Initiative on Small Scale Family Farming. We all know that 80% of the agricultural production in our region is produced by small holders. But 70% of the poor also live in rural areas. Therefore, poverty and hunger in the region cannot be eradicated without paying attention to small-scale farmers, as these play the biggest role in the comprehensive rural development.”
In a speech he delivered on behalf of FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, Hussein Gadin said: “The WFD comes this year at a critical time for the fight against hunger and malnutrition. This is the third year in which hunger continues to rise, with around 821 million people suffering from under nourishment in 2017, according to the latest report on the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World. Conflict, extreme weather conditions linked to climate change, and economic slowdown are reversing the progress that had been achieved in the fight against hunger.”
He added: “The time has come to redouble efforts to achieve SDG 2 of zero hunger. In its message, this year’s WFD appeals to the international community to work closely together and benefit from the available guides and tools, as it is still possible to achieve zero hunger if we join forces across countries, continents, sectors, and cities during the period that remains until 2030.”
Gadin said the situation and challenges Egypt is facing require movement to more sustainable food systems, more investments in agricultural and food systems, and more spending on research the development of food supply chains to enhance creativity, support sustainable production, and find better ways to adapt to other problems such as water scarcity and climate change. He said FAO can greatly contribute to such efforts.
During the WFD ceremony, held at the premises of the Ministry of Agriculture and Land Reclamation, a FAO-produced documentary on ways to achieve zero hunger was shown. The Minister of Agriculture also honoured a number of people for their efforts on this day. An exhibition of FAO publications was organized on the sidelines of the ceremony.