Efforts to end hunger and fight the effects of climate change in the Pacific Islands will hinge on the success of sustainable development, including wise use of oceans and fisheries, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva told ministers from the region today.
“There can be no truly ‘green economy’ without a ‘blue economy’, one that makes the sustainable development of oceans and fishery resources a priority,” Graziano da Silva said.
“The importance of capture fisheries and aquaculture cannot be neglected. They provide over 3 billion people with about 15 percent of their average per capita intake of animal protein. And these two activities contribute over 200 million jobs globally,”
“At the same time, these vital services must not jeopardize the key role oceans play in regulating the earth’s climate. They absorb more than 25 percent of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere from human activities.”
Speaking at the 10th Meeting of FAO South West Pacific Ministers for Agriculture in the Samoan capital, Graziano da Silva also said addressing climate change had become “a question of survival – just like hunger.”
The South West Pacific area accounts for roughly 15 percent of the globe, and includes about two thousand islands and atolls, which are particularly vulnerable to storms and flooding, water scarcity, and stresses on fishery and forestry systems.
The Director-General said one of FAO’s priorities was to work on the especially urgent climate change issues faced by Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and low-lying coastal areas in the Pacific and all regions.
FAO supports Pacific island countries in many ways, in part, by working to broaden and deepen implementation of internationally agreed norms, like the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and related instruments.
The organization works with governments and partners at the national, regional and international levels on issues like illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; the management of tuna fishing; and the management of marine areas beyond national jurisdictions.
Graziano da Silva pointed out that the world had gained ground in the fight against hunger, but there was still much work to be done to improve both food security and the quality of nutrition, and to achieve the Millennium Development Goal to halve by 2015 the proportion of people who suffer from hunger, as measured against 1990 benchmarks.
Graziano da Silva also noted that three-quarters of all adult deaths in the Pacific are linked to nutrition and lifestyle-related diseases. He highlighted the importance of addressing nutritional issues by implementing integrated nutrition strategies, diversifying diets and recovering the use of traditional, local crops produced by smallholders.
“Every region has a variety of non-commodity crops that were used in the past as food,” said the FAO Director-General, citing pandanus plants as an example from the Pacific. “Research shows that pandanus contains high levels of carotenoids, which protected many generations from Vitamin A deficiency.”
Regional and global cooperation
The main task before participants of the meeting was to review and adopt an overall plan for FAO’s work in 14 countries in the region from 2013 to 2017.
“The support FAO offers you must respond to your development needs and priorities, as laid out in your sustainable development plans,” said the FAO Director-General, who also stressed the importance of aligning them with FAO’s revised strategic framework.
During his three-day visit, Graziano da Silva was bestowed with an honorary chiefly title during the Samoan Ava ceremony. He was scheduled to meet with Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Aiono Sailele Malielegaoi, ministers from other countries in the region, and local representatives of civil society and the private sector.
The Director-General was on his first visit to the Pacific islands since taking the helm of the hunger-fighting agency. Earlier in the week, he met with government authorities in Australia. After Samoa, he will travel to Vanuatu and New Zealand.
Samoa Country Profile
The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012
Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries
FAO Director-General's web page