FAO and Sri Lanka hold talks ahead of major regional conference

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) hosted the first national level consultation with representatives from the Sri Lankan Government ahead of the 35th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC 35).

The APRC is an official forum where Ministers of Agriculture and other high-ranking officials from all Member States in the region meet to address emerging trends and challenges related to food and agriculture, thus promoting regional coherence.

The national consultative meeting with key stakeholders of the Government held at the UN Compound in Colombo, was focused on proposed regional priorities that will be highlighted at the APRC this year. The priorities range from managing water for agriculture under conditions of water scarcity, building sustainable and resilient food systems and leveraging on digital technology and innovation to improve food security and nutrition.

Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Ajantha de Silva stated that the regional priorities are in-line with the priorities of the Sri Lankan Government while the outcomes of the APRC will inform ongoing programmes in the country. Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Environment and Wildlife Development Dr. Ajith de Silva noted that an integrated approach is required for land degradation, climate change and biodiversity programmes in the country, reiterating that integrating biodiversity in agricultural policies and practices is also essential.

FAO Representative for Sri Lanka and the Maldives, Xuebing Sun assured the Organization’s fullest cooperation to the Government of Sri Lanka, reiterating that FAO is tailoring its country programme to respond to increasing demands for policy and advisory support.

To realise this objective, FAO in Sri Lanka has been in transition to a Thematic Portfolio Management structure, which will enable FAO to apply a programmatic approach in strategic planning, programming, advisory and analytical support for: 1) Sustainable Agriculture – promoting sustainable agriculture through innovation, connectivity and accessibility, including digital agriculture, strengthening agricultural extension system and supporting smallholder farmers transformation; 2) Food Safety and Nutrition – increasing the contribution of food systems to food and nutrition security, and income generation; 3) Climate Change – enhancing the resilience of people, communities and ecosystems to the impacts of climate change, and 4) Natural Resources Management and Environment – nature-based solutions for wise use of natural resources and conserving the ecosystems.

Sun also emphasised that the Hand-in-Hand initiative launched by FAO globally will enhance cooperation for agricultural transformation and sustainable rural development in Sri Lanka. The Hand-in-Hand Initiative was launchedto accelerate the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly eradicating poverty (SDG 1) and ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition (SDG 2). The initiative will contribute to closing the food gap, support economic development, end malnutrition and reduce environmental impact, through a matchmaking mechanism that brings together recipient and donor countries and other key stakeholders.

State Minister Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena and Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture Dr. Ajantha de Silva will participate at the 35th Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific (APRC 35) to be held in Thimphu, Bhutan from 17 to 20 February 2020.

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