Ladies and Gentlemen:
Today it is my distinct honor and pleasure to join all of you in the Opening of the National Seminar on Food Security and Nutrition in Cambodia, organized by the Council for Agricultural and Rural Rehabilitation and Development (CARD) in cooperation with the World Food Program (WFP). On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia and my own self, may I express our deep appreciation to the CARD and WFP as well as to all concerned national and international institutions for organizing this national seminar.
To take this opportunity, please allow me also to express our deep gratitude to Ms. Rebecca Hansen, the Director of WFP, and all the Representatives of the national and international organizations for their close cooperation with the CARD, – by organizing monthly public forum for collecting information and inputs preceding this Second National Seminar. The first such seminar of April 1999 and the Conference on the Role of Food Aid in Cambodia of 8 February 2001 have set good recommendations for consideration at family, community and national levels, which were incorporated by the Royal Government of Cambodia into its Political Platform of Poverty Reduction and the national socio-economic development of Cambodia. Currently, all concerned ministries and institutions are also working according to those recommendations and have achieved encouraging and prideful results.
In the perception of our people, foods generally mean rice as it is typical for their everyday meal. In fact, food security however means a guarantee for all citizens of nutritious and safe foods, for their active living in harmony. In this sense, it proves that it is not only the government’s responsibility to ensure food security for improving the living standard of its people, but also it testifies the government’s strong determination in realizing the millennium development goal, endorsed by the heads of states and governments from 188 countries at the World Summit in September 2000.
In this second term in office, the Royal Government has pursued a resolved mission of national rehabilitation and development by building up a socially connected, healthy, highly educated and culturally vibrant Cambodian society with peace and stability. This objective can be realized only through collective efforts to promote economic growth and social development, – especially in education and health care, strengthened governance and institutional capacity as well as in human resource of Cambodia. All these efforts must go forward on the basis of democracy, respect of human rights and the adherence to the open and competitive market principles with close linkages to the regional and world economy.
We are all indeed aware of the many achievements, resulting from our hard efforts in the last four years. We have achieved averaged economic growth of 6-7% annually while many other countries in the region and the world continue to suffer the setbacks. In implementing the first five year plan, we have brought down the poverty incidence rate from 39% to only 36% of the total population. We are moving forward our reform program in all sectors with resolved and strong commitment. The ultimate goal is to reduce the current rate of poverty incidence by half in the coming 15-20 years.
Cambodia is an agrarian economy with more than 2 million hectares of cultivated land, while the agriculture accounts for approximately 40% of GDP and more than 80% of the work force. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries plays an important role in food production and closely cooperates with other two leading ministries, – the Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology and the Ministry of Land management, Urbanization and Construction, and with the financial and technical support from the Asian Development Bank, World Bank and many other national and international organizations.
Although the weather conditions have changed considerably, causing draughts and floods over the past few years, the Royal Government has on time intervened through the Ministry of Water Resource and Meteorology, the National Committee for Disaster Management, the Cambodian Red Cross and other national and international organizations, – who have actively provided humanitarian assistance. In 2002, though Cambodia has experienced natural calamities, we have considerably promoted the production of “drive-season” rice, and the food balance shows that we still have 113,653 ton of rice in stock at the national level. However, this figure does not apply that we can ensure food security all across the country. There are 13 provinces/municipalities having produced surplus of total rice production, whilst in those provinces there are 32 districts faced food shortages. There are 11 provinces/municipalities with 58 districts could not produce adequate rice as demanded.
Indeed, food production requires lands, water and seeds with appropriate support in term of technology. In this context, the Royal Government has put priority on formulation and implementation of land policy, focusing on land distribution and land management and administration by effectively implementing the Land Law. To support the cultivation of farmers, we have given top priority to public investment in the water policy by exerting utmost efforts in strengthening the use of both surface and underground water, including the rehabilitation, construction and managing comprehensive irrigation systems. Projects involving the construction and rehabilitation of water basins and big and small ditches have been actively implemented as planned. However, this work is time consuming and requires adequate resources. We have encouraged the CARDI to study on the seed options of high quality and productivity that will be provided to farmers and for extension purpose.
The rice production comes out of our hard efforts could meet only a portion of demand for food security and nutrition. Cambodia is still on a long journey toward a secured food security and nutrition and a comprehensive public health system.
Indeed, successful solution of food security and malnutrition requires us to formulate a clear action plan, as well as time and appropriate funding. According to the review of the 1996 socio-economic survey and the results of the 2000 survey of the UNICEF, the malnutrition has been seen in the lack of Vitamin A, irons, proteins and other energetic foods among Cambodian children aged below 5 years. As for reproductive and pregnant women, the malnutrition rate is still high that requires us to place greater attention.
In response to this urgent case, we have taken the Cambodia Nutrition Investment Plan as part of the Public Investment Program, and it has been now modified from a 10 year plan into a 5 year plan that is from 2003-2007, which requires funds of USD 41.1 million with the inclusion of other “Intervention Expenditures” into the national budget and the SEDPII (2001-2005). We all are aware of the types of foods, which provide proteins, energy, micro-biological substances, such as salts, rice, vegetables, fruits and so on and so forth. Thus, the concepts of food security and nutrition involve three aspects or dimensions: the production of big variety of foods, access to foods and the appropriate consumption of foods for nurturing our body to be healthy.
I fully support the initiative of organizing this Second National Seminar on Food Security and Nutrition in Cambodia. This would allow us to learn about the results attained from implementing the various recommendations set out by the First National Seminar of April 1999 and to identify key mechanisms for formulating new recommendations that will help facilitate better solutions for food security and nutrition.
To share some inputs with the seminar, I would like to indicate some of the key points for the seminar consideration and for compiling specific strategies for implementation. Those include:
First, enhance good governance of production and distribution of foods, focusing on provinces, districts and communes who have surpluses of rice production, so that we can appropriately and timely manage linkages of distribution and supply with those in shortage.
Second, study and understand those areas with constant draughts, thus arranging field mechanisms to sustainably and appropriately solve the problems, focusing on the delivery and distribution of seeds, strengthening irrigations, water pumps and other provision of agricultural equipments to our farmers.
Third, establishing mechanisms for promoting the cultivation of vegetables and many other crops, household animal raising for both helping with plugging and for commercial purposes to earn additional incomes.
Fourth, use the Investment Plan for Nutrition and break it down to smaller projects that can easily find national and international partners to implement.
Fifth, strengthen education system and raising awareness among people in the rural areas about the importance of food security and nutrition in the livelihoods and well-being of people at the grassroots level, using the commune and sangkat networks.
Sixth, with the rehabilitation and construction of big-scale irrigation systems, focus should be on smaller and all kind systems that can serve more families and communities, by requesting support from the WFP and other national and international organizations.
In closing, I would like once again congratulate and highly appreciate the CARD and the WFP for their cooperation in organizing this seminar that will provide an ample opportunity for dialogues and for identifying solutions to key challenges involving the food security, nutrition, poverty, social safety net, decentralization and partnership. I believe this seminar will highlight the important role of food security in Cambodia, – that are the main factors ensuring progress and posterity for Cambodian people from all walks of life.
Finally, I wish all of you, – Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, the participants of the National Seminar, successes in your discussion of policies and specific recommendations that help contribute to improving the living of millions of people across the Kingdom of Cambodia. I wish you all the five gems of Buddhist blessings. May I now declare the official opening of the National Seminar on Food Security and Nutrition.