Speech: There is an urgent need to promote fresh, nutritious, safe and healthy food


#Speech World Food Day 2021 Speech by Xiangjun Yao, FAO Coordinator of the Subregional Office for the Pacific Islands.

Reverend Fa’atafa Nefu

Prime Minister Fiame Naomi Mataafa 

Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, La’auli Leuatea Schmidt

Cabinet Ministers, Members of Parliament

Members of the diplomatic corps

Heads of Government bodies 

Members of the private sector and civil societies 

Ladies and gentlemen,

Talofa lava. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the national celebration of World Food Day 2021 and the International Year of Fruits and Vegetables (IYFV) in this beautiful town of Apia. I consider it a great privilege to be able to stand before you, knowing that many people in other countries across the globe are not able to enjoy the simple pleasure of this interaction, due to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

As we come together to mark this important occasion, it must be acknowledged that these are very challenging times the world over. The worsening impact of COVID-19 comes on top of pre-existing challenges such as climate change, natural disasters, NCDS and others. These have had a major negative impact on agri-food systems and efforts to provide for the world’s growing food needs, which is a challenge for which FAO will continue to work harder than ever before, in collaboration with the Government of Samoa, international and national development partners, the private sector, farmers, fishermen and various community groups, to overcome.

Despite the circumstances, the theme of this year’s celebration:  “Our Actions, our Future: Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life” inspires hope. A hope that should be deeply rooted in collaboration and the spirit of working together to build a world free from hunger and malnutrition.

I must commend the Samoan government’s role in working with FAO to co-organise WFD2021. I am impressed to see the Government coming together with the Samoa Women’s Association of Growers (SWAG), Samoa Hotels Association (SHA), British High Commission, and other key stakeholders in the food and agriculture sector, united on the call for a healthier and more prosperous Samoa. 

Samoa, and most Pacific countries covered by the FAO Subregional Office, have sufficient food in quantity. Still there are enormous challenges before us. Non Communicable diseases and obesity for example is one of the biggest problems we face. There is an urgent need to promote fresh, nutritious, safe and healthy food which are often easily accessible and cheaper options for local communities. We must encourage people to stop thinking of shopping for highly processed food because of the high sugar, salt and fat contents. We must promote the idea of thinking fresh, and eating fresh from the garden. It is better for them. 

Today’s collaboration between the government, private sector and civil societies in promoting healthy living is a great example but we must continue with this message even after we leave this gathering. We need lifestyle changes, at home, where charity begins. In this part of the world, and from what I have witnessed since I arrived in Samoa, it really does take a village to ensure food for all. The celebration today feels like Samoa is one big village coming together for the benefit of all. It is something you should all be proud of.

Climate change is another major challenge as countries are confronted by changing weather patterns that have a real impact on farming and food systems. Healthy lands and oceans ensure enough food for everyone. In the Pacific, the land and oceans represent food and nutritious living. Sadly, these natural resources are under enormous threat from climate change and sea level rise. These are just some of the challenges of our time but we must not stop trying to overcome them. The celebration of WFD in Samoa and all over the world is part of our efforts to address these challenges. 

I want to note that our office at Tuana’imato has been providing support to all our Pacific countries with WFD celebrations but because of Samoa’s generosity in hosting the FAO’s Subregional Office for the Pacific Islands, and the fact we are here in Apia, we are able to do a bit more today. This of course comes on the back of a very successful SIDS Solutions Forum we hosted recently, in which Samoa played a critical role, for which we are grateful.

I am also excited to note that the Honorable Prime Minister will today launch some of the concrete results of our ongoing partnerships with the Government of Samoa. 

Globally, FAO, as the leading agency working on food and agriculture, has developed a toolbox which we are confident can help make an impact on many of these complex systemic problems. The theme of today focusing on “Better Production, Better Nutrition, a Better Environment and a Better Life” speaks of FAO’s commitment to support Samoa, and all our member countries, work towards the new Strategic Framework 2022-2031 which identifies actions and inputs needed to make the Four Betters a reality, and leave no one behind.

On that note, I want to thank you all once again for being here and I wish you all a wonderful World Food Day celebration. Fa’afetai.