Excellencies Ambassadors, Distinguished National and International Guests, Representatives of Development Partners
Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today it is my great pleasure to attend the launch of the National Strategy for Food Security and Nutrition 2014-2018 which is organized by the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development in collaboration with relevant ministries-institutions and development partners.
On behalf of the Royal Government of Cambodia, I would like to highly commend and value relevant ministries-institutions, development partners, national and international organizations which are members of technical Working Group on Social Protection, Food Security and Nutrition for providing inputs to the formulation of the National Strategy For Food Security and Nutrition 2014-2018 and making it comprehensive and appropriate for the current situation of Cambodia. Taking this opportunity, I would like to thank development partners that include the World Food Program (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) for coordinating with other development partners to provide inputs and enhance the substance of this strategy. I would also like to thank the United State Agency for International Development (USAID) for financing the drafting of this strategy through the Reproductive and Child Alliance (RACHA) in 2013; and Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation (FAO) for financing the latest stage of the drafting in 2014. All these are valuable contribution to the socio-economic development effort of the Royal Government of Cambodia.
In this spirit, the Royal Government of Cambodia firmly believes that the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development, which is the leading coordinator of activities related to social protection, food security and nutrition as well as “the movement of one village, one product” will continue its role as the Royal Government’s agency to collaborate with relevant ministries-institutions and development partners to address issues in the food security and nutrition sector.
At the same time, I would like to appeal to relevant ministries-institutions, local authorities, development partners, national and international organizations and all Cambodian people to step up collaboration to make this strategy into actual implementation to help address food security and nutrition issues in Cambodia.
In fact, the history of Cambodian people has reflected their brave struggle for life and the protection of national sovereignty, national unity, independence, territorial integrity and their dignity. Indeed, after the liberation on 7 January 1979, we have made a determined effort to overcome barriers to ensure fast national reconstruction from scratch to achieve what we witness today and to transform Cambodian into a Kingdom of Wonder filled with hope and honor because it can now stand on equal footing with equal rights as other nations. Moreover, the Royal Government’s clear and long-term vision is to step up implementation of reform programs, adapt itself to any emerging circumstance together with gradual improvement and promote socio-economic development to achieve the defined goals, i.e. the aspiration to become an upper-middle-income country by 2030 and a high-income country by 2050.
In short, in spite of impact of the global financial crisis, climate change, floods and droughts, Cambodia still remains on a strong foundation and manages to achieve success and development progress on all fronts, ranging from politics and economy to social affairs, culture and foreign affairs. Indeed, Cambodia managed to achieve average growth rate of 6.8% per annum during 2008-2012. In 2013, the economic growth reached 7.4% while GDP per capita increased from USD760 in 2008 to USD1,043 in 2013 with the projection of USD1,130 in 2014. In particular, the poverty rate also declined to 19% in 2013. All of these make Cambodia ranked 5th amongst developing countries that will achieve the 2015 Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule and ranked 1st in Asia Pacific in improving social indicators.
In spite of Cambodia’s robust economic growth, significant poverty reduction and enhanced household access to food over the recent years, the people still face challenges of household food security due to limited agricultural productivity and diversification, limited access to water resources, inadequate job creation and opportunities for earning income especially in rural areas and inadequate access to food for the poor and those who live slightly above the poverty line who are vulnerable to their own problems and external factors such as social and economic factors and natural disasters. Therefore, it is essential for us to enhance the capacities of the vulnerable group to overcome issues, expand social safety net and improve mechanisms for the management of natural disasters, including the adaptation to climate change which still remains a challenge for the present and the future.
This requires us to further improve productivity, efficiency and equity. In short, the support to the poor and vulnerable people cannot be overlooked along with the enhancement of human capital in order to transform them into a strong production force and human resource that can contribute to national development in the long run.
In this spirit, the National Strategy for Food Security and Nutrition 2014-2018 launched today is in line with the long-term vision of the Royal Government of Cambodia and ASEAN as stated in the ASEAN Integrated Food Security Framework. Therefore, this strategy has been developed not only for us at the present, but also for our children and future generations.
In fact, the Royal Government of Cambodia has always placed importance on food security and nutrition through: (1) the intensification and diversification of agriculture targeted at smallholdings, improvement of market linkage, distribution of social land concession to the poor and household facing food insecurity, better benefit from natural and forest resources (2) improvement of nutrition 2014-2020 launched in May 2014 by the Ministry of Health aimed to reduce and prevent malnutrition, in particular maternal and child nutrition during the first 1000 days after births, and (3) participation in the Scaling Up Nutrition movement which is coordinated by the UN’s Food Security and Nutrition to become the 53rd member of this movement in August 2014.
Despite the achievement to date, the Royal Government acknowledges that we still have a long way to go and must overcome countless barriers in the pursuit of progress and prosperity for the nation. To this end, further effort to reduce poverty must be carried out in parallel with attention on food security and nutrition which still remain a top priority of the Royal Government.
In this regard, the Royal Government clearly understands the need to improve food security and nutrition by considering it a prerequisite for the development of human resources, economic development, national prosperity and equity for the people. Therefore, we must strive to materialize the vision of this national strategy for food security and nutrition by continuing the joint effort and intervention of all stakeholders, at both national and sub-national levels, to ensure effectiveness, transparency and accountability of the implementation of this strategy.
Overall, we are aware that food security and nutrition is not a separate issue for only the health and agriculture sectors, but it is indeed a cross-cutting issue that requires joint effort of all stakeholders. To contribute to the more active, effective and successful implementation of the national strategy for food security and nutrition, I would like to provide some recommendations to the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development and relevant ministries-institutions as follows:
First, the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development has to effectively coordinate the implementation of projects and programs related to food security and nutrition based on priorities laid out in the national strategy for food security and nutrition and to ensure the strategy’s harmony with other programs as well as maximum contribution from development partners.
Second, ministries-organizations related to food security and nutrition sector have to develop a clear action plan to implement priorities stated in the strategy.
Third, it is necessary to develop a monitoring and evaluation program and a reporting mechanism to ensure the effective implementation of this strategy and further improve programs/policies for more effective intervention.
Fourth, related ministries-institutions, development partners, civil society organizations and private sector must continue the joint effort to change the attitude and habit of the people by educating the public that breastfeeding is the best choice and more healthy than infant formula and creating baby care communities and hospitals across the country.
Fifth, the Council of Agricultural and Rural Development shall collaborate with relevant ministries-institutions to organize the national nutrition day which will be annually held on 6 November to raise public awareness on nutrition in conjunction with the World Nutrition Day.
Sixth, all competent ministries-institutions in charge of food safety must step up collaboration to ensure that imported and domestically-produced food is safe and of high quality standard to protect the health of the public, especially infants from diseases and malnutrition. In this regard, relevant ministries-institutions must take measures to control food safety from the first stage of input supply, production and processing to storage and consumption stages. To this end, I have raised again and again that Cambodia is not a rubbish bin and we will not allow Cambodia to become a rubbish bin. Therefore, tough measures must be taken against importers and producers of unsafe food without any exception to ensure food safety and values of our nation.
Seventh, we must further promote rural water supply, the construction and use of toilet in schools, health centers, markets, and parks as well as hygienic living through cleaning hands with soap to reduce diseases caused by the use of unclean water and unhygienic living-condition which is also an important contribution to maternal and child nutrition.
Eighth, we must prepare national policies, technical guidelines and necessary regulations to widely and effectively enhance food quality. In this regard, there must be attention on the addition of nutritional substances to targeted food such as the addition of vitamin A to cooking oil, addition of mixed substance to rice, addition of iodine to salt, addition of iron to fish and soy sauces by following the required standards and widely promoting the dissemination on the importance of adding nutritional substances to food. In addition, we must keep monitoring the quality of nutrition-added food and take immediate measures if the health of the public is at risk.
Once again, I would like highly commend and value the leadership and officials of the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development, relevant ministries-institutions, development partners for the active contribution with strong sense of responsibility to the enhancement of food security and nutrition in Cambodia, especially the formulation of the National Strategy on Food Safety and Nutrition 2014 – 2018 which is launched today. Meanwhile, I wish to appeal to relevant ministries-institutions, sub-national administration, development partners, national and international organizations, private sector, communities and all Cambodian people to contribute under any form to the enhancement of maternal and child nutrition and prevent food insecurity which has been the focus of attention of the Royal Government, i.e. “nobody will die of hunger without our knowledge”.
Before ending, I would like to thank development partners and both national and international non-government organizations for providing cooperation as well as technical and financial support to the Council for Agricultural and Rural Development in coordinating and monitoring projects and programs of the social protection, food security and nutrition sector and in promoting “one village, one product movement” in Cambodia.
Finally, along with the opening of the launching seminar for the “National Strategy for Food Security and Nutrition 2014-2018” now, I would like to wish Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the four gems of Buddhist blessing: Longevity, Nobility, Healthiness, and Strength./.