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Biodiversity can help fill gap between agricultural production and nutritional needs for a healthy living

By Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) says Africa's struggle against poverty, hunger, malnutrition, land degradation and climate change can only be won with increased collaboration in the conservation, sustainable, and fair use of agricultural biodiversity.

Speaking at a Regional Consultation on the State of Africa's Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture in Addis-Ababa, Ethiopia, Mr. Patrick Kormawa, FAO Sub-regional Coordinator for East Africa and Representative to AU/UNECA said there is an urgent need to change the paradigm of agricultural production in order to integrate the dimension of nutritional quality.

“A large number of the continent's poor rely directly on biodiversity and ecosystem services, and their livelihoods are affected first and foremost by the over-utilization and subsequent loss of biodiversity. At the same time, the potentials of Africa's agricultural biodiversity resources remain largely underutilized, only a very small portion of this biological diversity is used for food, health, or housing by the populations”, Patrick Kormawa emphasized.

“Biodiversity will represent an essential asset for the implementation of the Paris Agreement and for the humanity to adapt to climate change and to build resilience to ensure food security under a changing climate. African countries strongly advocate for a balanced agreement that addresses both mitigation and adaptation in equal measure”, he added.

The three-day meeting, organized by the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture from May 24 to 26, 2016 in the Ethiopian capital and attended by participants from 19 countries and representatives of six regional organizations will assess the state of knowledge as well as the needs and priorities for sustainable use and conservation of biodiversity in Sub-Saharan Africa.

This regional consultation for Africa is part of a global assessment process in view of preparation of the first report on The State of the World's Biodiversity for Food and Agriculture to be launched in 2017. The Report is expected to look at the contribution that biodiversity for food and agriculture as a whole makes to food security, livelihoods and environmental health as well as to the sustainability, resilience and adaptability of production systems to climate change.

This is the first time that the Commission elaborates a report that focuses on the biodiversity that does not end up on our plate but provides essential ecosystem services supporting food and agricultural production, namely the micro-organisms, invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles, birds, plants and mammals found in and around production systems.

“In previous assessments we have looked at the state of plant, animal, forest and aquatic genetic resources, in other words the biodiversity that provides food or other products of direct use to human kind. I am confident that this report will shed light on this hidden treasure”, said Irene Hoffmann, Secretary of the FAO Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture.

FAO contribution to the implementation of biodiversity

As a major partner in the implementation of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and in collaboration with other UN partners, FAO contributes to the implementation of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011—2020, the overarching framework on biodiversity for the entire United Nations system. FAO has developed a number of instruments and tools that contribute to sustainable development while addressing objectives and priorities related to biodiversity.

African Ministers participating in the FAO Regional Conference for Africa-Abidjan, April 2015 signed a joint Declaration stating “a common vision that investment in productive and resilient agricultural development are vital to ensuring that our countries — and particularly our poorest and most food-insecure inhabitants — continue to prosper in spite of climate change”.

The Convention, mainly through national biodiversity strategies and action plans, has led — among other things — to the better conservation of biological diversity, especially in those countries that are implementing active conservation strategies.