Inclusive Rural Transformation for Agri-Food Systems Discussed at High Level Talks for Asia and Pacific Region

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A High Level (Virtual) Regional Event on “1,000 Digital Village Initiative Knowledge Sharing
and Policy Dialogue – Enabling inclusive rural and agri-food system transformation through
digitalization”, organized by FAO Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific, was held on Monday 27 June 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised the urgency to recommit to agri-food system transformation and put us back on track towards agenda 2030 and the SDG achievements, and the UN Food Systems Summit in 2021 enabled a unique global opportunity for countries to undertake a deep rethink about their agri-food systems and propose national action plans and priorities towards agri-food system and rural transformations.

Furthermore, inclusive rural transformation fueled by digitalization is also elevated to high policy priority as it plays a crucial role in the drive to accelerate the achievement of SDGs especially 1, 2 and 10. Within this context, FAO initiated the “1000 Digital Village Initiative” to support inclusive rural transformation, disseminate and share best practices on the development of Digital Villages among countries, and assist member countries design, develop, deploy and scale up innovative digital solutions to rural and farming communities across the developing world, especially for small scale producers, rural women and
marginal, vulnerable and remote communities.

A Ministerial Roundtable segment on the theme “From ambition to implementation – initiatives and strategies to scale up digitalization for inclusive rural transformation”, was held as part of the dialogue, and the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries of Samoa, Hon La’aulialemalietoa Leuatea Polataivao Fosi Schmidt, gave brief remarks on behalf of Samoa and the Pacific SIDS.

His remarks follow. Your Excellences, Honourable Ministers, Distinguished Delegates, Ladies
and Gentlemen. Warm greetings from the Government and people of Samoa, and I am honoured to join you at this very important event. Please allow me to thank the FAO Director General, Dr. QU Dongyu, for his excellent leadership in identifying and upscaling various context specific digital solutions that will both stabilize and improve nutrition and food security for the world’s population.

This strive to find solutions that leave no one behind is particularly important during these uncertain times triggered by the still ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the growing prices for food, energy, fertilizers associated with the ongoing conflict in Ukraine.

The Digital Village Initiative that is being launched today is very relevant not only to Samoa, but also to many other Small Islands Developing States (SIDS) in the Pacific and beyond. Digital innovation solutions are on the rise all over the world. In the Pacific, we don’t have to look further than our next door neighbours in Asia to see what positive results and transformation such solutions can bring when it comes to improving nutrition and food security. In SIDS, our overall livelihood and development context is uniquely challenging and we predict it to stay challenging in the future. Digitalization of agri-food systems is one of the solution clusters that we would like to explore in detail and with urgency.

Our governments, communities, business persons, and producers, in Samoa and across the Pacific have already begun innovating successfully. For example, in Samoa, we are working with FAO to develop a national E- Agriculture plan and several locally developed digital initiatives were identified and showcased during the SIDS Solutions Forum that took place in August last year. But while expanding these local ideas, we are also eager to learn, share knowledge and experiences with other countries, and FAO’s new Digital Village Initiative Platform is a perfect opportunity to do just that.