Countries across Asia and the Pacific have called on the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to help them collect better data and build their analytical capacity to compile food security and nutrition indicators.
More than 80 delegates from 20 countries in the region, along with experts from international organizations, met in Vientiane 18-21 February 2014 to deliberate on strategies for meeting data demands for the post-2015 development agenda. Participants in the 25th Session of Asia Pacific Commission on Agricultural Statistics (APCAS), a 50 year old statutory body of FAO, gathered to critically review the information gaps, methodological issues and to recommend measures for building country capacity to produce timely and reliable agricultural and rural statistics.
The FAO is mandated to continue the fight to tackle extreme hunger, malnutrition and poverty and is working to assist its member countries meet the Millennium Development Goal of reducing extreme hunger by half by 2015. According to the latest FAO reports, the Asia-Pacific region as a whole is on its way to achieving the MDG hunger target.
“It is heartening to note that the Asia region as a whole is nearly on track to achieve the MDG hunger target,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative in a written statement to delegates. “In 2012, seven countries, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Fiji, Maldives, Thailand and Viet Nam achieved the MDG target. In 2013, China also achieved MDG target and the situation has improved still further in Thailand and Viet Nam in that same year.”
However, Konuma noted that progress in Southern Asia has been slower, especially in terms of the number of people undernourished. Indeed, most of the world’s undernourished people are still to be found in Southern Asia.
In the keynote address, H.E. Mr Vilayvanh Phomkhe, Minister of Agriculture & Forestry, Lao PDR, said APCAS and its delegates could provide strategic direction to countries in Asia-Pacific to improve upon their statistical systems and data collection techniques. Those results would help the countries better monitor responses to the twin challenges of food security and climate change.
The Commission has recommended designating national focal points, improving coordination with national statistical strategy and organizing training workshops to improve response rate on the data needed by FAO from the countries themselves while encouraging further gender disaggregation in surveys and censuses. The issues and recommendations will guide the preparation of the new FAO World Programme for Census of Agriculture 2020 which will refer to period 2016-2025, and will be released by FAO in 2015.
The Commission also encouraged FAO to work to promote statistic collection and monitoring improvements through South-South Cooperation and triangular cooperation mechanisms. FAO is expected to play a lead role in identifying human, technical and technological resources available in the region and developing modalities for sharing of such resources between countries to improve agricultural and rural statistics. The Regional Action Plan for the Global Strategy to Improve Agriculture and Rural Statistics, which has been prepared by Asian Development Bank, Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific and the FAO to help counties to improve their statistical systems, is under-funded. The South-South cooperation strategy is foreseen as a means to partially bridge the funding gap.
These and other recommendations are expected to help member countries streamline their statistical activities to meet the increasing demand for better agricultural and rural statistics by the national and international systems, particularly those relating to ensuring food security, monitoring sustainable agricultural development and mandatory reporting under United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).