The Belt and Road initiative linking China and the Eurasia region can help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, provided it addresses the needs of millions of farmers and fisher folk in the countries involved, according to FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
“Agriculture is a crucial sector. It accounts for more than 25 percent of GDP, as well as for more than 40 percent of employment in many countries involved in the Initiative,” he said in Beijing on Sunday.
Graziano da Silva made the remarks at the Belt and Road Forum for International Cooperation. The event, he said, provided a unique impetus for an international concerted effort to promote “a more balanced, equitable and inclusive development along the Belt and Road”.
Leaders from 29 countries were participating in the May 14-15 Forum which, under the initiative called “One Belt, One Road”, focuses on expanding development and trade links between Asia, Africa, South America and Europe, as mentioned by the Chinese President Xi Jinping in his opening remarks.
The FAO Director-General underscored that agriculture is not only important for generating and promoting sustainable livelihoods, but it is essential for ensuring food and nutrition security, preserving natural resources and biodiversity, and for promoting rural development.
FAO has been the first international organization to develop a specific framework to reinforce policy coordination in the implementation of the Belt and Road Initiative with relation to the agriculture sector.
The framework seeks to promote four flagship programmes: i) one health approach for sustainable agriculture and trade; ii) sustainable food production and value chain development; iii) science and technology for agri-food innovation to combat climate-change; and iv) smart agriculture and information and communications technology (ICT) application in the food industry.
China – a leading role in South-South Cooperation
The Belt and Road, according to the FAO Director-General, opens a “great opportunity” among all countries involved to engage in South-South Cooperation, a FAO-promoted model of development which has proven effective in creating jobs, building infrastructure and promoting trade among developing countries across the “global South”.
“Let me take this opportunity to thank the Chinese Government for playing a leading role in the support of FAO’s South-South cooperation programme. It has benefitted over 30 countries and produced strong impacts in developing countries,” Graziano da Silva said.
President Xi’s keynote speech indicated that China will provide an additional one billion US dollars to support international organizations to implement a series of projects to benefit countries along the Belt and Road. This will allow linking the Overseas Development Assistance, already provided with policy advice, trade and long-term investments, and what is particularly relevant for developing countries’ deprived rural areas.
The picture shows Chinese Agriculture Minister Han Changfu with FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva.