2018 World Food Day celebration, Opening Address by Hon Benny Allan, Minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Sir John Guise Stadium, Port Moresby, October 16:
Today the global community celebrates the 2018 World Food Day to give prominence to something that is very close to the stomach – food. More so the annual event is observed to reflect on and share key messages on food and nutrition security, poverty and hunger and issues that affect them.
The theme for the 2018 World Food Day is “Our Actions are our Future. A #ZeroHunger World by 2030 is possible.”
The fight against hunger is a global call. The adversities against humanity need greater attention in this changing era. Poverty and conflict form the main causes of global hunger. Climate change, economic slowdown, natural disasters and pest and disease are others. Adding to the list is unhealthy lifestyle including overeating and irresponsible consumption of unhealthy junk foods. There are over 800 million people who risk starving as they struggle to get any food at all in a day, according to FAO.
In Papua New Guinea (PNG), the key challenges to food security are poor quality dietary, poverty, obesity, climate change and disasters. Dietary deficiencies are caused by limited access to protein foods, leading to high rate of malnutrition as shown by stunting of about 48% children under the age of five. Rural poverty is primarily caused by low level of incomes and poor access to socio-economic services like schools, hospitals and markets. Climate change effects such as the El Nino-induced drought are a common climate change related threat to PNG that reduces food supply, impacting on food security. In the last El Nino drought (2015/2016), up to three million people, especially in the Highlands, were affected. The 2018 natural disasters – highlands earthquake and Momase volcanic activities – have exerted further pressure on household food security.
However the country is also presented with opportunities – the rising food prices, food crisis, niche markets of organic foods and food-derived biofuel. The comparative and absolute advantages that PNG has over its foods and natural resources, including the underutilised and indigenous species need to be further exploited.
Our government, the current O’Neill-Abel Government, has given the agriculture sector the Number One priority to grow and drive our economy despite the challenges. Agriculture, with a near 30% GDP contribution, is the foundation and heart of the rural PNG economy with over 85% of the eight million people depending on the sector for their livelihoods.
The Government’s focus is timely as the sector, over the last five years, has organised itself and embarked on a reform agenda that places agriculture in a strong position to take on the challenges to grow and drive our economy. This includes policy interventions, such as the development of the National Food Security Policy (2016-2026) and the National E-Agriculture Strategy (2018-2023), led by the National Department of Agriculture and Livestock (DAL) with technical support from FAO. The implementation of E-Agriculture priorities has already commenced this year, which includes the development of the DAL/Agriculture Sector Website, which will be launched at the 2ndNational Agriculture Summit in Lae next month. The collaboration with FAO will continue with the formulation of the National Agriculture Strategic Plan (2018-2028) and Coffee Industry Corporation Strategic and Business plans (2019-2023) and hosting of the agriculture summit.
The sector is greatly honoured and we stand ready and willing to serve and deliver. As the employer of some 85% people, making agriculture the primary sector for economic development is indeed giving a golden opportunity to our people to own the economy and be masters of their own destiny.
Our people will become the centre of attention in our efforts towards a modern and internationally competitive agriculture sector. Food producers and actors along the value chain development need improved capacity, skills and knowledge best suited to the changing environment. Innovations in science and technology, extension and socio-economics are crucial, supported by appropriate policy framework and investment, backed by good governance.
Our actions as a population and country will not only determine how much we endure to save our families and communities in the face of rising hunger and malnutrition but also to contribute to the call of seeing a hunger free world by 2030. The National Food Security Policy 2016-2026 will provide a framework for critical actions.Our preparedness for natural phenomenon such as natural disasters, including climate change, will be crucial. Such prevailing events pose greater risks to PNG’s agricultural and natural resources, affecting food support for our people. We need sustainable food systems that promote responsible and sustainable practices, focusing on efficient resource use and management, protection and conservation of the environment and the application of climate smart farming techniques. Such food systems must also be inclusive to promote participation of women in the food value chains to enhance women’s economic empowerment. All these will require a collective effort involving all stakeholders including the private sector to create opportunities for greater investment.
New experiences and exposure with market linkages and trade will be paramount. The 2018 APEC event in Port Moresby has provided us another opportunity to raise our voice again on food security and discuss common issues at an all new level. The related Food Security Week in August created an avenue for PNG to promote productive, sustainable and inclusive food systems; trade and marketing of food products; enhance nutrition and food safety; reduce food loss and wastage; promote climate-smart resilience food systems; and facilitate investment, infrastructure, connectivity and financing of food systems.
Some of PNG’s best food value chain actors, Micro Small Medium Enterprises, institutions and farmer groups were given the opportunity to engage at this level. APEC 2018 has also helped us promote development and responsible use of agriculture biotechnology as a tool to enhance food security, improve protection against pest and diseases, and improve resilience.
Building a sound nutritional status will be critical for our growing population, especially the younger age group. We need a physically and mentally well-developed workforce that can participate effectively in the food system.
PNG has been part of the global community in observing the annual World Food Day over the years to share the message of food security and healthy livelihood. Today we join hands with others in over 130 countries with our main World Food Day celebration at the Sir John Guise Stadium in Port Moresby.
Our fight to reduce hunger, poverty and malnutrition should be a never ending one. DAL is open to work with all stakeholders, including our farmers, to transform the sector to provide healthy, nutritious and sufficient food; bring in income and improve livelihoods.
I would like to take this opportunity to invite all government agencies, the private sector, international development partners, Non-Government Organizations, communities and family units to join hands in celebrating this important event. Everyone is welcome.
To conclude, I also would like to call on all of us as individuals, to make a pledge. We, the people, have the power; we are the best ingredient, to achieve Zero Hunger. Our pledge is; through our decisions and actions, we stand committed to contribute towards the call for a Zero Hunger World by 2030.
Happy 2018 World Food Day Celebrations!
Hon Benny Allan, MP
Minister for Agriculture and Livestock