The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), together with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), marked World Food Day at an event held under the auspices of the Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena today (14).
The event theme called for collective action towards “better production, better nutrition, better environment and a better life”.
Through a video message shared at the event, President Ranil Wickremesinghe congratulated FAO, IFAD and WFP for commemorating World Food Day and reaffirmed Sri Lanka’s commitment to strengthening food and nutrition security for all.
“Sri Lanka is at a crucial and critical juncture with high levels of food insecurity. We are thankful to the United Nations system, multilateral and bilateral partners, and the donor community for joining hands and building this strong partnership to address the current crisis," the President said.
Delivering the keynote address at the event Prime Minister Dinesh Gunawardena pointed out that with nearly 30 to 35 per cent of the population directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture for their livelihood, Sri Lanka needed to invest deeply in modernizing and developing the agriculture sector, adding that the “government is fully committed to achieving this gigantic task. Agriculture and food security remain a national priority.”
Also speaking at the event, Minister of Agriculture Mahinda Amaraweera announced the introduction of a new Agriculture Policy to Parliament focusing on modernizing and building resilience to enable the agriculture sector to withstand future crises.
“I thank the FAO for the technical support extended to build a modern, resilient agriculture sector in Sri Lanka,” he concluded.
FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Vimlendra Sharan emphasized the organization’s commitment to helping Sri Lanka build back better during this time.
“FAO is committed to working with the government to ensure that the most vulnerable fishers and farmers, crucial to ensuring food security in Sri Lanka, are protected from the worst impacts of the crisis while providing essential agriculture inputs, such as seeds and fertilizer, through the support of our partners to boost production and help Sri Lanka move towards becoming a food secure nation,” Sharan said.
Sherina Tabassum, IFAD’s Country Director for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, underlined the fundamental role of smallholder farmers in guaranteeing food security for a community and for a country.
“Our goal is to ensure that the backbone of our food system – smallholder farmers – are prepared for, and can overcome, the devastating effects of the pandemic, climate change and other external shocks. We are committed to continue our work with the government to sustainably transform Sri Lanka’s food systems so everyone can benefit.” she added.
Gerard Rebello, Officer in Charge at WFP, Sri Lanka highlighted that urgent action was needed to safeguard the most vulnerable and marginalized communities from the impacts of the crisis.
“WFP has commenced its emergency operation to provide food and nutrition assistance to 3.4 million people. We are also continuing to work with smallholder farmers to make food systems more robust and resilient to climate-induced shocks so that food travels uninterrupted from farm to table, even during times of crises,” he said.
FAO, IFAD and WFP together with the United Nations system in Sri Lanka are on the ground delivering emergency cash assistance, essential fertilizer and livelihood support to the most vulnerable communities in affected districts.