The Thirty-first Session of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe which took place for the first time in the Russian Federation concluded its work today after three days of intense discussions. It was the fifth in a series, following on the heels of spring regional conferences for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific, and the Near East and North Africa.

Forty-three countries out of 53 plus the European Union, observers and representatives from civil society organizations, private sector, research and academia participated in the debates related to the main challenges for food security in the regions.

Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), highlighted the importance of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the role of the Regional Conference to reflect on how Europe and Central Asia can make the transition to sustainable agriculture and food systems in a changing climate.

While hunger in the world rose in 2017, the region as a whole has made substantial progress in reducing food insecurity. Nevertheless, marked differences remain between countries, some 14.3 million people in the region still experience severe food insecurity in access to food, and many countries in Europe and Central Asia are faced with the so-called “triple burden” of malnutrition: undernutrition, micronutrient deficiencies, and overweight and obesity.

The Conference addressed the need to strengthen sustainable agriculture and highlighted the potential of agroecology and other directions. It also underscored the importance of adopting a “food system approach” in order to cope with the different challenges affecting agriculture and food security, and noted the vulnerability of the region to climate change due to fragile ecosystems and limited risk management capacities.

Conference participants underlined the importance of developing e-agriculture as a tool for implementing the 2030 Agenda and encouraged members to share good practices and lessons learned from e-agriculture initiatives and applications. FAO was requested to assist the countries in the region to further benefit from e-agriculture – for example through knowledge sharing, capacity building, data collection, and analysis of good practices.

The Conference also endorsed the strategic direction of the Organization, through implementation of its Strategic Framework, and three regional initiatives: 1) empowering smallholders and family farms for improved rural livelihoods and poverty reduction, 2) improving agrifood trade and market integration, and the new 3) regional initiative on natural resources and climate change.

Finally, a side event on “Zero Hunger” underlined the urgent need to reduce food waste and loss, as one-third of food produced for human consumption is lost or wasted globally, which amounts to about 1.3 billion tonnes per year. The Director-General stressed that food losses represent a waste of resources used in production – such as land, water, energy and inputs, increasing greenhouse gas emissions.