Ladies and Gentlemen.
Magandang hapon po sa inyong lahat (Good afternoon to all of you).
I would like to thank the Department of Agriculture for inviting me to this very important event.
FAO, World Food Programme, and International Fund for Agriculture Development – the three food and agriculture- related organizations. Our headquarters are based in Rome, Italy and we work together in all key aspects of food security.
It is my sincere pleasure and honour to be here and celebrate the World Food Day with all of you today. I understand that this is the first time this event is being held again after two years because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
I would also like to congratulate the Department of Agriculture for its theme they have developed for this year’s celebration: “LEAVE NO ONE BEHIND,” which includes our small-holder farmers, “BETTER PRODUCTION, BETTER NUTRITION, A BETTER ENVIRONMENT AND A BETTER LIFE FOR ALL.” There cannot be any better caption apart from this one.
The global food security I must tell you, is facing serious threats from multiple directions with soaring food, energy, and fertilizer prices. Adding to all other drivers like climate crisis and long-standing conflict, are really adding additional dimensions of vulnerability to the most food- insecure people in the world.
Meanwhile, COVID-19, the pandemic continues to have its knocked-on effect. This clearly shows how interconnected our economies and lives are. Anything that happens in any part of the world can impact us. We must also remind everyone that on top of 970,000 people who are at risk of famine in countries like Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen, we have another 822 million people based on FAO’s statistics of 2021, who are facing hunger worldwide.
And then, that’s not all. You have another 3.1 billion people who still cannot afford a healthy, diversified diet. It is the most vulnerable who are hit by all these things the hardest.
And who are these most vulnerable? Of course, children. But apart from that, women, youth, indigenous people, and small-holder farmers.
WFP in the Philippines and in more than 100 countries around the globe has been working alongside the respective governments. Here, we partner strongly with the Government of the Philippines, and other partners to achieve better food security, improving food production, introducing new post-harvest loss reduction practices, strengthening food value chain, market-inclusion of small- holder farmers by promoting better nutrition through food production, and improving value-chain. Innovative agriculture practices, promoting climate-sensitive and climate-smart agriculture. Protecting and promoting biodiversity through adaption of nature-based solutions.
WFP believes that food is the pathway to peace.
And because of our tireless efforts, in 2020, the World Food Programme received the Nobel Peace Prize.
This belief has led us to support various initiatives in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) geared towards promoting sustainable agriculture for food security and nutrition. In collaboration with our sister agency the FAO, WFP supported the development of the Food Security and Nutrition Roadmap which sets the foundation for a self-reliant, food-secure, and resilient BARMM.
Additionally, WFP projects have been helping to transform the unproductive lands to productive lands.
We have also successfully established women-managed plant nurseries, rehabilitated irrigation canals, build farm- to-market roads, constructed fishponds- several other agriculture and basic social infrastructure. Reforested several hectares of land. Rehabilitated mangroves.
And these works will continue.
We have just recently received a significant contribution from the government of Japan. And we will undertake all the activities I have mentioned, and we would really love to have partnership not just at the BARMM level, but also with the Department of Agriculture.
Despite overall economic growth, there are still a number of nutrition-related challenges that the Philippines still face.
The country is facing the challenge of “triple burden” of malnutrition. What are the “triple burden?” The most important thing is the undernutrition. Still there are large number of, particularly children and women, who suffer from stunting and wasting.
The country is also facing an increasing number of overnutrition: overweight and obesity numbers in the Philippines are on the rise. And then, there’s a third form of hunger. What we call “hidden hunger.” We don’t see it, but it impacts all our bodies. Which is vitamin and mineral deficiencies, what we call micronutrient deficiency. And this deficiency is also pretty high.
Based on a recent study, what we see is that the Philippine economy, as a result of child undernutrition, is costing USD 4.5 billion or 1.5 percent of the country’s GDP.
What we believe is that, if you have to improve nutrition at a massive scale, we need to also ensure that the behaviour of all the individuals and families should change. So behaviour-change communication is extremely important, that would target pregnant and lactating women, children, their caregivers, so that we can positively influence their nutrition-related behaviour.
Then I would briefly talk about climate shocks and stressors that are killing crops, livestock, degrading soil, depleting fisheries, damaging infrastructure and agriculture assets, cut-off transport links to the markets.
All these things reduce food supplies. These are causing prices to rise and endanger livelihoods.
The Philippines is considered the world’s most disaster- prone country based on a very recent publication of World Risk Report. We have witnessed the disastrous impacts of extreme weather conditions, even the recent Super Typhoon Karding also impacted a large track of land and people.
In November last year, WFP released a publication which analyses, as a result of climate change, what are the various agricultural livelihood that would be significantly impacted in the next 20-30 years. And I would suggest all of you to take a look at that publication. I would share that information with the Department of Agriculture.
Going forward, WFP will work closely with the Philippine Government and partners to identify and co-develop the most appropriate policies and programmes to implement in order to prepare for climate risks, respond to climate- related shocks and adapting to longer-term climate change initiatives.
Just some last few words, as a result of Typhoon Odette, we definitely responded through relief-assistance, but also we provided a number of agriculture livelihood recovery support of PHP 580 million. And this support is really helping the vulnerable small-holder women and farmers to get back to their agriculture production so that they would also be better linked to the market.
We would be looking forward to our continued partnership with the Government of the Philippines to support the most vulnerable.