Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Dear Students and All the Participants!
Today, I’m extremely pleased to attend the Opening of the 4th National Seminar on Food Security and Nutrition, under the theme of “Improving Child and Maternal Nutrition”. This seminar indeed will make Cambodian people understand and know more about the challenges that are the common concerns of Cambodia, development partners, and relevant Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), and it is our opportunity to work together to figure out appropriate and effective solutions for those challenges. Indeed, any solution that is related to Food Security and Nutrition not only responds to the policy priorities of the Royal Government, but also contributes to reducing poverty incidence among the people, lessening people’s hardship, promoting the living standards and welfare of the people. This reaffirms the important contribution of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development has made to social development, poverty reduction and mankind-value promotion; all these achievement are priceless.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to praise and highly value the Council of Agricultural and Rural Development as well as relevant ministries, national institutions, development partners and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) that have collaborated well in the preparation of this important seminar.
Along with this, on behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to thank development partners and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs), including the United State Agency for International Development (USAID), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Program Organizations (WFP), World Health Organizations (WHO), CARITAS Cambodia Organization (CARITAS) for taking part with the Royal Government in the rehabilitation, construction and development of many areas in Cambodia through providing cooperation credits and all kinds of assistances, including material, financial and technical support.
Through this, I believe that the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development, a leading national institution in food security and nutrition, will continue its role, as the key secretary of the Royal Government, to address challenges to provide advantages for the nation and the people, as well as to promote the value of the mankind and contribute the poverty reduction of our people. In this spirit, I would like once again appeal to the people and the public from all walks of life, local authorities, development partners, and Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) to continue taking part more actively and robustly in the cooperation with the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development in order to make our new theme for this year, “Child and Maternal Nutrition”, materialize and to address other challenges related to food security and nutrition in Cambodia.
Before us, I would like to re-emphasize that food security and nutrition is recognized and regarded as the fundamental right for each individual under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that Cambodia has ratified. Acknowledging the importance of food security and nutrition, the Royal Government has been paying great attention on, especially on the reform of food security and nutrition, and has regarded it as a priority issue by incorporating it into the National Strategic Development Plan. Indeed, under the Cambodia’s Millennium Development Goals, food security and nutrition is the highlighted in the 1st goal: “Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger”, in the 4th goal: “Reduce child mortality, and in the 5th goal: “Improve maternal health”. Besides that, in the National Strategic Development Plan (NSDP) Cambodia has set an objective to improve health, nutrition, and education of the poor in rural areas and the vulnerable, and enhance the living standards and general food security by increasing agricultural development activities and rural development. In addition, we have constantly adhered to and implemented the ideology of “no one die of starvation or ignorance”.
In this regard, the Royal Government has been imposing new systematic and intertwining measures to effectively minimize negative impacts by working hard to ensure food security, nutrition, macroeconomic stability, and robustness of our national social safety nets. In general, we clearly understand that food security does not mean that we should produce sufficient food, but have to ensure sufficient income to buy food, good health and good hygiene and sanitation. Therefore, in order to ensure food security, we should not think of producing food and income generation to purchase food, but food preparation, cooking, health care, hygiene and sanitation as Khmer proverb states “eating with hygiene, drinking clean water, and sleeping in safety nets.” This indicates that improving food security and nutrition, which is cross cutting issues, needs the close and effective cooperation and jointed efforts among related ministries/organizations, private sector, development partners and non-government organizations.
Taking this opportunity, I would like to encourage the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development to continue implementing its tasks and responsibilities through continuously paying highly special attention on its main areas: (1) strengthening coordination and partnership; (2) implementing policies, strategies and programs; (3) improving information and knowledge management; and (3) monitoring, controlling and evaluating activities and progresses.
I have noticed that the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development has closely cooperated with relevant ministries/organizations, development partners and non-government organization to jointly formulate food security and nutrition as we have witnessed. Indeed, this achievement has given countless benefit to society and economy, including good health and well-educated quality labors, which are highly potential for development. Other social benefit includes promoting gender quality, reducing migration from rural to urban or illegal immigration to oversea and improving environmental sustainability and better living standard of youths.
In contrast, if mother and child are facing the risk of malnutrition, social and economic lose will arise from impacting not only child health and mortality, but also the cognitive development of children, their educational outcome and therefore the future productivity and wealth of a country.
Although there is a change of weather condition, causing frequent drought and flood over the last few years, we are able to increase food crop production, in particular rice thanks to improvement of irrigation system and agricultural technique. Through this, we can confidently confirm that Cambodia certainly maintain its food security. Evidently, in term of rice production in 2011, we achieved 8.77 million tons of paddy rice that, as a result, can be translated into a surplus of 2.78 million tons of milled rice, equivalent to 4.34 million tons of paddy rice.
Even so, we have still facing malnutrition issue, although poverty reduction has been significantly made from 47% in 1994 to 25% now. For instance, the rate of wasted children under 5 years increased from 8.4% in 2005 to 8.9% in 2008 and to 10.9% in 2010. However, chronic malnutrition in children under 5 years still declined between 2005 and 2008 from 43.2% to 39.5%. Therefore, we can evaluate that child and material under nutrition do not correlate to poverty status, but relate to other factors such as availability and access to balanced and micronutrient rich food as well as to safe water, good hygiene and sanitation.
Overall, Cambodia clearly understand the significant importance of child and maternal nutrition in developing human resource, increasing labor productivity and ensuring potential growth of child, who is considered as son being replaced his father in the future. At the same time, we recognize that child and maternal nutrition does not only relate to health sector, but also to many institutions that require to joint efforts of all related organization.
Based on this view and the objective of contributing to what we have already implemented in response to my previous recommendations and in order to continuously promote the effective implementation of food safety and nutrition policy to better enhance child and maternal nutrition, I would like to take this opportunity to provide more recommendations as follows:
First. All relevant stakeholders must act together and in parallel in related sectors, including agriculture, health, clean water and sanitation, and must formulate the policy on mixing micronutrients with food and prepare necessary regulations regarding food and social protection. Generally, the mixing of micronutrients such as iodine, ferrous, and vitamin A with the basic food is a low-cost alternative with high efficiency in promoting nutrition. Therefore, in order to increase input, I would like to ask the workshop to discuss and seek solution for expanding the existing intervention as such providing additional micro-substance to children, treating chronic under-nutrition, feeding the babies and children in appropriate way, in particular for the first 1000 days of children life.
Second. All national and sub-national stakeholders must make joint effort to implement nutrition-related programs that are carried out in local community. And, we must consider improving clean water infrastructure, way of life and proper food preparation practice, health care and community sanitation.
Third. Council for Agricultural and Rural Development (CARD) must further effort and work more actively in role as coordinator for food security and nutrition work. These works will help ensure each individual family having enough nourishment-rich food. Moreover, we need to promote community-based and family-based food production such as gardening vegetable, raising animal and farming fish which is necessary to address women and children nutrition issues.
Fourth. Council for Agricultural and Rural Development must continue training planner and decision maker at both national and sub-national level on food security and nutrition in order to build capacity and raise work efficiency.
Fifth. With discussion among all stakeholders, Council for Agricultural and Rural Development must develop strategy for food security and nutrition that is comprehensive in-depth and applicable. At same time, we must expand existing programs and continuously create new programs which are to be implemented directly in community through sub- national administrative mechanism. These vital tasks will contribute to establishing of social safety net, improving poor family capacity and increasing family income.
To implement these spirits, I would like to request all relevant ministries and institutions to strengthen close cooperation, especially cooperation with development partners, private sector and other stakeholders to truly achieve these goals. I strongly believe that the workshop will accept these recommendations as foundation for discussion, for fulfilling their roles and duties in line with the direction set for the social benefit.
Once again, I would like to admire and highly appreciate the management and all officials of Council for Agricultural and Rural Development for making effort actively with high sense of responsibility in promotion of food security and nutrition in Cambodia. Furthermore, I would like to appeal ministries, institutions, sub-national administration, development partners and agencies, national and international organizations, private sector, stakeholders and communities continue to take part in any form to bolster the provision of nutrition to mother and children.
Before ending, I would like to take this opportunity to thank development partners and NGOs who have been providing good cooperation and technical and financial supports to Council for Agricultural and Rural Development to implement its programmes and projects.
At the end, together with the official inauguration of the 4th National Workshop on Food Security and Nutrition under the theme “Nutrition for Mother and Children” now, I would like to wish Your Excellencies Ambassadors, representatives of national and international organizations, Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, and students the four gems of Buddhist blessings: Longevity, Nobility, Health and Strength.