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Personal visit by Director-General of FAO signals new era in cooperation

The MOU commits both bodies to pool expertise, knowledge, innovation, technology and networks to strengthen food production and community resilience, food and nutrition security, and bring economic benefits to mountain communities. 
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Published: 05 Feb, 2024
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⏲ 4 minutes Read

Dr. QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations oversaw the signing of a new memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the agency and ICIMOD on 12 January 2024 in Kathmandu. 

Dr. Pema Gyamtsho, Director General of ICIMOD, and Mr. Ken Shimizu, FAO-Representative for Bhutan and Nepal signed the MoU, which marks a milestone in the two organisations’ collaboration to advance climate-resilient agri-food system transformation in Bhutan and Nepal. 

The MOU commits both bodies to pool expertise, knowledge, innovation, technology and networks to strengthen food production and community resilience, food and nutrition security, and bring economic benefits to mountain communities. 

The ceremony followed high-level bilateral discussions among key officials from FAO and ICIMOD which highlighted specific areas for collaboration and of alignment. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to promote agricultural development, achieving food and nutrition security, uplifting livelihoods of rural farming communities and promoting sustainable natural resource management through policy support, strengthening institutional capacity and providing technical assistance in the implementation of projects and programmes aligning with government strategy and priorities.  

Its goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. With 195 members - 194 countries and the European Union, the organisation works in over 130 countries worldwide.

“It is a privilege and an honour to welcome the Director-General of FAO to ICIMOD. This is also history in the making,” commented Gyamtsho, the Director General of ICIMOD, “marking the first time we’ve had such a distinguished personality visiting us from the UN system.

“FAO is of course crucially important globally and for our region, and we are excited that this marks the beginning of a new era in cooperation between our two organisations. In the face of the triple planetary crisis – climate, pollution, biodiversity loss — there is a pressing need for this sort of close cooperation.”

Underscoring his commitment to sustainable development of the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, Qu said: “I hail from a region characterized by elevated terrains, and my profound connection with such landscapes has cultivated an enhanced understanding of the indispensable role played by mountains. Despite the regrettable documented losses of genes and species, mountains, alongside island states, endure as crucial sanctuaries for these entities. They represent a globally shared and pivotal resource of considerable ecological significance.” 

UN Resident Coordinator for Nepal Hanaa Singer Hamdy commented: “In view of the existential imperative posed by climate change for Nepal, it is imperative that we fortify our collaborative efforts. I am pleased that FAO is spearheading efforts to address this critical issue.” 

Deputy Director General, ICIMOD, Izabella Koziell said “It has just been confirmed that we have hit 1.48ºC of warming above pre-industrial levels in 2023. We must see this as an opportunity to reform the food and agricultural sector, especially in this valuable and vulnerable mountain region, to build more resilient, more inclusive and sustainable agricultural systems. FAO has a huge wealth of insight. Together we can meld science and delivery, and take solutions and products, like underutilised crops, alternative products from wild biodiversity, to scale.”

Maximo Torero, FAO Chief Economist, said, “I see 100% complementarity in our work. At FAO we have a roadmap of how we can produce more-with-less for today and tomorrow, increasing efficiency and minimising emissions and protecting biodiversity. Mountain areas are central to that. An immediate recommendation for how we might work hand-in-hand is to accelerate investment in ways that are consistent with this roadmap. Your knowledge on resilience and early warning would also help enormously in our modelling.”

“We must focus on natural resource management with special attention on commodities management.” QU commented.

Srabani Roy, Strategic Group Lead for ICIMOD Resilient Landscapes and Economies group, commented: “Nobody is yet looking at the full value chain – of environmental and social costs – of food production in the mountains. We would be very interested in collaborating with you on the true cost of food in the HKH.”

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