Opening remarks by Masatsugu Asakawa, President, Asian Development Bank, at the Asia and the Pacific Food Security Forum, 9 April 2024, Manila, Philippines

Introduction

Your Excellency Minister Pavithra Devi, Minister Steven Victor, Executive Director McCain, distinguished guests, and colleagues: thank you for joining us for the 2024 Asia and the Pacific Food Security Forum.

For the next two days, we will focus on finding effective solutions to the region’s climate and food security crisis.

I. The challenge of food insecurity

Having enough nutritious food to eat is something many of us take for granted. But imagine you are a parent without the means to buy protein or vegetables for your family. You can only feed your children grains or have no other choice but to skip meals for yourself.  Rice prices soared more than 40% in 2023, eroding your purchasing power, and that of so many other poor families in Asia.

Unfortunately, nearly 2 billion people in Asia experience this hardship and lack healthy diets. In fact, over half of the people in the world affected by hunger live in Asia.

Climate change, and the worsening droughts and floods that come with it, is another issue that we may not fully understand sitting in this auditorium. But if you are a farmer who lost another harvest because of yet another drought, it is a real threat to you, your family, and your livelihood. This is a reality for 40% of the workforce in Asia and the Pacific, who are employed in agri-food systems such as farmers, processing workers and retail workers.

Climate change, nature loss, and economic shocks all put enormous pressure on the region’s fragile food systems. This has also pushed the world off track to meet the Sustainable Development Goal of eradicating global hunger.

In short, food insecurity is causing tremendous suffering and undermining the prospects for development.  The world needs to act urgently to address this crisis, which has grown worse because of extreme weather events and geopolitical conflict.

That is why in 2022, I announced a comprehensive plan for the Asian Development Bank to provide at least $14 billion in financing by 2025 to support our developing member countries so that they can transform their agri-food systems and address the underlying causes of food insecurity.

II. Priorities of agri-food systems transformation

I am happy to report that we have already committed $7.7 billion of this $14 billion and are on pace to deliver the rest by the end of 2025. Behind these financial resources is a plan, not only to address the symptoms of food insecurity, like malnutrition, but also to transform the entire agri-food system. 

As you know, agriculture imposes great cost to the environment, such as water exploitation, land degradation, biodiversity damage, and soaring emissions. And so, we need to transform this sector, by reinvesting in the region's ecosystems, supporting farmers and agribusinesses, opening up trade, and cutting emissions.

At COP28 last year, 159 countries, including the majority of our developing member countries, endorsed the Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action. ADB is committed to this transformative effort.

We must create a food system that is healthy, prosperous, and sustainable for the planet and for generations to come.

Closing

Let me end by emphasizing that this transformation requires strong collaboration. We must forge partnerships to achieve food security, while protecting the planet. These two objectives are not mutually exclusive.

This forum is an occasion for us to review our progress on this issue and chart our path forward. I wish you a pleasant stay in Manila and productive discussions ahead.
 

Speaker