The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is urging more public and private investment in the massive task of transforming global agrifood systems to feed a growing population, while guarding against adverse environmental impacts.
“We need to accelerate the pace of agricultural growth, while paying attention to issues of environmental sustainability, natural resource degradation and the impacts of the climate crisis in the region, and beyond,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said in opening remarks at the 1st Uzbekistan Agrifood Investment Forum held recently.
The forum is part of the International Conference on Food Security, organized by the government of Uzbekistan with the technical support of FAO.
“We need to create an enabling environment for unlocking both public and private investments,” in order to finance the necessary changes in how our food, fiber and feed are produced and delivered by the deadline of 2030, set for the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, Qu said.
FAO has estimated that this would cost $4 trillion in low- and middle-income countries.
It is also necessary to invest in national agrifood control systems that will help make food safer and which is vital to food security and nutrition. Qu further underlined the need for well-designed public on-farm investments, such as for rural roads, irrigation, electrification and warehousing, among others, to increase overall investments in agriculture.
FAO has long argued that public investment in agriculture often does not reflect its importance in the economy, with farmers frequently forced to finance investments—usually small—out of their own savings or from informal sources of credit.
One way to help small-scale farmers optimize costs and be competitive is through reliable and timely knowledge and data provided by digital tools, such as digital advisory services to rural communities, tailored to local contexts and needs, with easy access to key data, information and statistics.
Qu encouraged Uzbekistan to use the tools and approaches of FAO’s Hand in Hand Initiative, for identifying and optimizing agrifood investments, and to participate in the Hand-in-Hand Investment Forum from October 17 to 20 in Rome as part of the World Food Forum 2023.
The Initiative, launched in 2019, currently supports 63 countries worldwide. Projects carried out under it include: developing value chains for priority commodities, building agro-industries and efficient water management systems, digital services and precision agriculture, reducing food loss and waste, and addressing climate challenges and weather risks. It uses advanced geospatial modeling and analytics, as well as a partnership-building approach.
The Agrifood Investment Forum was co-organized by Uzbekistan’s Ministry of Agriculture and its Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
It was aimed at increasing understanding of how to promote on-farm investment through innovative financing schemes; achieving a better understanding of the size and structure of investments in Uzbekistan’s agriculture; identifying win-win options for farmers and governments to enhance investments for agricultural growth and making policy recommendations centred on the needs of farmers and agribusinesses.
Among the attendees were ministers from Europe, Asia and Central Asia as well as representatives of UN agencies and international financial institutions.