Saturday, December 20, 2014

Debate on Agriculture Development and Food Security

Statement  of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to the United Nations
Delivered by
Mr. Enayet Madani

Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Afghanistan to the United Nations

on Agenda Item (25)

Debate on Agriculture Development and Food Security:

Mr. Chairman,

To begin, let me thank you for convening this extremely pertinent and important debate. With the ongoing famine in the horn of Africa, and a looming food crisis in my own country, the issue of agriculture development and food security should be high on our agendas.

Afghanistan aligns itself with the statements delivered by the distinguished representatives of Argentina on behalf of G77 and China and Nepal on behalf of LDCs. My delegation also expresses its appreciation to the Secretary-General for his Report on Agriculture Development and Food Security, which will guide our deliberations?

Mr. Chairman,

As we discuss agriculture and food security, we must recognise the inextricable interconnections between agricultural development and poverty. The world’s poorest countries depend heavily on their rural and agricultural economies. Agriculture development is therefore a crucial means of combating both hunger and poverty.

In Afghanistan, 80% of our population is dependent on agriculture and related sectors for their livelihoods. Afghanistan is known for producing some of the finest fruits, especially pomegranates, apricots, grapes, melons, and mulberries. Several provinces in the north of the country are also known for pistachio cultivation. However, proper marketing and processing services are lacking, and agricultural production is also constrained by an almost total dependence on erratic winter snows and spring rains for water. We have therefore made agriculture development the number one priority in our current Afghanistan National Development Strategy.

Mr. Chairman,

As result of more than three decades of conflict, infrastructure in Afghanistan, including in the agricultural sector, has been severely damaged. In response, the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock of Afghanistan, with the support of international partners and the UN system, has launched a number of innovative programmes aimed at supporting the agriculture sector. For instance, one such initiative is the establishment of an Agriculture Development Fund with a US$ 100 million grant provided by the United States Agency for International Development to the Government of Afghanistan. The ADF supplies agricultural credit, providing much-needed access to credit to small commercial farmers, agribusinesses, producers of high-value crops, and processors and exporters of agricultural products. Other policies as part of the ANDS include establishing land tenure security, improving rural transportation and irrigation infrastructure, and providing access to drought-resistant crop varieties.

We call on the international community to provide greater support for such agriculture development efforts, particularly in the poorest countries, by increasing investment in agriculture and the transfer of agricultural technology and expertise, and also by addressing unjust economic policies such as subsidies which disadvantage poor, small-scale farmers.

Mr. Chairman,

Turning now to the more pressing issue of food security, one major underlying driver of the problem, in Afghanistan and elsewhere, is climate change. Climate change can alter weather patterns, leading to increased desertification, destructive flooding and devastating drought, like the one we are currently experiencing. These changes adversely affect food production and the entire rural economy. Furthermore, increasing temperatures from climate change and decreasing water availability can directly reduce crop yields, further reducing food production.

To address this challenge, we call on all states to take effective and immediate action to mitigate climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, based realistically on the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities.

Mr. Chairman,

Food insecurity is not just a matter of food production. The distribution and economic availability of food are also crucial factors that we must address. As our Minister of Agriculture recently commented, “Global food supplies are sufficient, but 24 percent more costly than last year”. Last month, the FAO Food Price Index stood at 225, slightly lower than its February all-time high but still above even the levels of the 2008 food crisis. With our national production greatly reduced this year due to the current drought, domestic prices are significantly higher

Besides natural hazards, food prices are being artificially distorted by high energy prices, the diversion of food crops for biofuels, and in particular irresponsible financial practices such as import dumping and reckless commodity speculation. We call for an immediate end to all such practices which could undermine food security. The right to sufficient food for an adequate standard of living is a fundamental human right, and must be protected as such. We cannot alleviate poverty and improve the situation of developing countries until basic food security can be guaranteed.

We further stress that agriculture development and food security must be integrated with the broader goal of sustainable development. In this connection, we sincerely hope that food and agriculture will be given due attention at next year’s Rio + 20 Conference. Sustainable agriculture is a cornerstone of any ‘green economy’, and explicitly addressing agriculture development and food security will give the conference’s green economy theme a heightened relevance for poorer developing countries.

Mr. Chairman,

As we speak, nearly 12 million people in my country are facing food shortages due to drought conditions earlier this year. This drought is our worst since 2001, and is even worse than that last devastating disaster; we will need to assist 61 percent of the population in some of the 14 provinces currently affected.  While we are not suffering conditions as severe as the ongoing famine in the horn of Africa, millions of Afghans are nonetheless going hungry, and facing malnutrition and under-nourishment.

We have appealed for an additional $142 million in disaster aid through the World Food Programme earlier this month, to help tide affected farmers through the coming difficult months of winter. We sincerely and humbly urge all of you to stand in solidarity with the people of Afghanistan in this hour of need.

Mr. Chairman,

Before closing, let me take this opportunity to thank the UN; in particular, the World Food Programme and the Food and Agriculture Organization and all other partners for their continued support to the people of Afghanistan. I reiterate Afghanistan’s firm commitment to working in cooperation with all of you to advance the cause of sustainable development and food security for all.

I thank you.