Global Agriculture

World Food Forum side-event discusses ways to unleash the potential of the Amazon bioeconomy

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18 October 2023, Rome: A sustainable bioeconomy holds the key to many challenges we face today including eradication of poverty, inequality, hunger, malnutrition, addressing the impacts of the climate crisis, biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation but we need strong leadership and effective policies to seize these opportunities, the FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said today at a special event organized by the Government of Brazil on the sidelines on the World Food Forum (16-20 October) at FAO headquarters in Rome.

The unique ecosystems of Amazonia play a critical role in ensuring access to water, energy, food security and healthy diets for its inhabitants and the planet – alongside many other benefits for climate and nature, the Director-General said while expressing concern about numerous threats affecting these precious resources. Right now, the Amazon is being hit by El Nino phenomenon and human-induced climate change. The unprecedented drought has caused rivers to dry up, taking a heavy toll on ecosystems and the lives and livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people.

Moreover, rapid expansion of agriculture and extractive industries, infrastructure development, land use change, and urbanization have also depleted the natural resources of Amazonia.

The potential for forest loss in the Amazon between 2015 and 2030 is the highest in the world. The Inter-American Development Bank predicts possible cumulative economic losses to Amazonian countries of $230 billion if this potential becomes reality.

At the same time, Qu pointed to some positive trends for example decrease in deforestation rates by almost half in the first 8 months of this year over the same period in 2022. According to the Director-General, these trends can be amplified and loss can be avoided by harnessing the immense potential of sustainable bioeconomy and greater cross-continent collaboration in this field.

The Director-General stressed that FAO was the first UN agency to elevate the bioeconomy to the level of a strategic priority. FAO Members endorsed “Bioeconomy for Sustainable Food and Agriculture” as a Priority Programme Area in the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31.

“FAO did this because the bioeconomy offers many opportunities to make agrifood systems more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable,” he said adding that bioeconomy also offers opportunities to create economic value, jobs and social welfare through technological, organizational and social innovations as well as to deliver responsible consumption and production, improved natural resource management and less waste.

For example, using bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides and bio-remediation, and promoting value chains that produce more with less and turn waste into valuable byproducts can significantly reduce pressure on ecosystems.

Speaking about the early signs of the bioeconomy in action in the Amazon, he cited as an example the sustainable harvesting and processing of non-wood forest products, such as Açai or nuts, which offers employment and income opportunities.

“To take the bioeconomy to scale, we must bring together a diverse range of voices and actors,” Qu underscored. Approximately 45 percent of intact Amazon forests are within indigenous territories, he said, therefore, we must place Indigenous Peoples at the forefront of efforts to ensure no one is left behind.

Other participants included Helder Barbalho, Governor of the State of Para of Brazil; Carina Pimenta, Secretary of Bioeconomy, Ministry of Environment and Climate Change of Brazil; Aura Maria Duarte Rojas, Vice-minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Colombia; Senator Nelsinho Trad, President of Amazon Parliament (Parlamaz); Silvia Massruha, President of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA); Alberto Oppata, President of the Rural Cooperative of Tome-Acu of Brazil; Rodrigo Pacheco, Ecuadorian Chef and FAO Goodwill Ambassador.

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