Doha – Least Developed Countries (LDCs) stand to benefit from strong partnerships with their Global South counterparts when it comes to making their agrifood systems more efficient, more inclusive, more sustainable and more resilient, the Chief Economist of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Maximo Torero, said today in Doha.
“Strong global partnerships, including South-South and Triangular Cooperation, provide key support for agrifood systems transformation, and an open exchange of knowledge and expertise around this important topic,” Torero said in an FAO address to a ministerial meeting on South-South Cooperation in the Qatari capital.
The meeting was part of the 5th UN Conference on Least Developed Countries (LDCs), which is guided by the Doha Programme of Action for the 2022-2031 period.
The overarching goals of the Doha Programme include achieving a rapid, sustainable and inclusive recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, which has impacted the economies of LDCs particularly hard, and building resilience against future shocks.
“LDCs represent a vast potential for sustainable economic growth, improved food security, nutrition and overall welfare,” Torero said. “Nevertheless, we note with concern that the LDCs have seen their economies substantially shrivel due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other economic shocks in the past few years.”
The pandemic has not only caused extreme poverty figures to rise. It has also reversed the progress made during the implementation of the previous Istanbul Programme of Action for LDCs.
“The Doha Programme of Action for the LDCs reminds us that the economic, environmental and social agenda for transitioning to more efficient, inclusive, resilient and sustainable agrifood systems remains essential for development,” Torero said.
This also means that COVID-19 recovery programmes and effective responses to the current global crises require focused attention on the transformation of agrifood systems – to ‘build back better’ through higher productivity, diversification, greater resilience, nutrition-smart interventions and supporting a vibrant public-private partnership, including Small to Medium Enterprises, to create quality jobs and enable recovery.
FAO has built an expansive portfolio of South-South and Triangular Cooperation initiatives by partnering with Southern and Northern member nations during the past 40 years.
Through one of its flagship Programmes, the FAO-China South-South Cooperation Programme, FAO helps LDCs acquire the knowhow, solutions and technologies they need to sustainably transform their agrifood systems.
With a total contribution of $130 million from China since 2009, national projects under the Programme have supported the transfer and exchange of agricultural technologies and solutions between China and several LDCs.
In Madagascar, for example, the introduction of a Chinese hybrid rice technology in the country resulted in 10 tonnes per hectare increase in rice yield compared to 2.8 tons per hectare with local varieties.
Uganda also witnessed an increase in rice production, from 2.5 tonnes to 10 tonnes per hectare, and a threefold increase in milk production, thanks to the high yield crop and animal varieties introduced through two phases of the FAO-China South-South Cooperation project in the country.
Such examples show how the introduction of simple agricultural practices and technologies could generate dramatic results, transforming the lives of hundreds of thousands of farmers in LDCs.
Other upcoming South-South Cooperation projects, including in Cabo Verde, Sudan, Malawi and Namibia, will support the transfer of similar technologies focused on crop production, animal husbandry and agro-processing.
In addition to innovation and technologies, sustained finance and investment in rural development is also indispensable for sustainable agrifood system transformation in LDCs, Torero told the meeting.
While in Doha, FAO’s Chief Economist also stressed that building resilience in agrifood systems is especially crucial for LDCs, since they are the most vulnerable nations to agrifood systems’ risk and uncertainty as a result of climate change, water stresses, pests and diseases, trade and macroeconomic policies and unexpected events.
Building such resilience involves minimizing risks or vulnerabilities, coping with risks when they occur, and having the capacity to recover and build back better, Torero said during a panel discussion on Monday.