Statement by    

Ms. Fathimath Nashwa 

Third Secretary  

Permanent Mission of the Republic of Maldives to the United Nations 

at the General Discussion of the Second Committee 

on Agenda Item 24: Agriculture development, food security and nutrition 

11 October 2023 

Thank you, Mr. Chair, 

The Maldives aligns itself with the statements delivered by Cuba on behalf of the G77 and China, and Samoa, on behalf of the Alliance of Small Island States.  

Mr. Chair, 

In 2015, after years of progress, we committed to achieving zero hunger by 2030.  In the eight years since the number of people suffering from hunger has increased significantly. The COVID-19 pandemic, the triple planetary crisis and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine have had a dramatic impact on already fragile food systems. Inflation, fiscal constraints, and supply chain disruptions have resulted in soaring food prices, posing a significant threat to food security. 

Reports from the Secretary-General underscore the inadequate progress towards sustainable agriculture, food security and nutrition.  

Mr. Chair, 

Climate Change presents a relentless threat to food and water security in Small Island Developing States (SIDS) such as the Maldives. Our vulnerable agriculture sector is increasingly susceptible to floods, erosion, saltwater intrusion and high winds. The Sixth Assessment Report of IPCC suggests that climate-related extremes have severely hampered our agricultural productivity, leading to reduced yields and subsequently escalating food prices. 

Additionally, coral bleaching and ocean acidification are destroying the marine ecosystems upon which many of our islands rely for their primary source of protein - fish. In the Maldives, tuna and reef fish are consumed daily, placing us amongst the highest per capita fish consumers in the world. Yet, climate stress, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing as well as competition for marine resources and its overexploitation threaten our fisheries sector. The Maldives remains committed to banning harmful fishing methods and promoting sustainable practices, as enshrined in the Fisheries Act of 2019. Our economic development efforts also include expanding fish storage and processing facilities, along with the planned establishment of ice plants at multiple locations across atolls. 

Mr. Chair, 

The Maldives is acutely vulnerable to supply shocks and disruptions as we import over 90 per cent of our food. The COVID-19 pandemic exposed our dependency on food imports compelling the government to charter flights to major importing countries to mitigate food shortages. In response, the Maldives accelerated plans to revive and diversify the agricultural sector to improve food security. In order to help achieve the government’s target to reduce the import of crops, we identified 17 crops for cultivation across 44 islands dedicated to contract farming. Additionally, the Government of Maldives provided a six-month deferral of lease payments for islands and lands used for agricultural purposes. Empowered by the Decentralisation Act, many island and atoll councils released land and offered concessions to support expanded agricultural production. 

As a geographically dispersed Small Island Developing State, we grapple with transportation limitations that pose a challenge to ensuring food security. To address this, among various other development challenges, the Maldives launched the "Raajje Transport Link" ferry services to connect widely dispersed atolls. This service has eased the transfer of goods from one atoll to another.  

Mr. Chair, 

We are actively working to enhance our institutional and technical capacities to effectively coordinate, monitor, and implement national fisheries and agricultural policies, as outlined in our 10-year National Fisheries and Agriculture Policy. While we appreciate the support from international partners such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the World Bank as well as the private sector in our efforts to invigorate this sector, we must look beyond national endeavours and strive for combined international progress. 

First and foremost, there is an urgent need for significant investments in sustainable, equitable, healthy, and resilient food systems. This includes a substantial scaling up of investments in resilient agriculture, closely aligned with climate action. In this context, we welcome the SDG Stimulus designed to enhance affordable long-term financing for all countries in need. Additionally, we require greater investments in adaptation and resilient food, health, water, sanitation, and agriculture systems capable of withstanding shocks. We commend the Secretary-General's Early Warning for All initiative, which the Maldives has started integrating into our island disaster management plans.  

Second, ensuring the safety of food. The Maldives has established the National Food Safety Policy 2017 – 2026 to strengthen the food control system in the country. It is imperative that a systematic strategy to manage Food Safety is implemented in a country largely reliant on the import of food. We call upon all industrial food producers to adhere to international food safety standards during production and in food value chains.  

Third, harnessing new technologies is imperative to reduce the unsustainable utilization of land, water and other resources in food production and agriculture. We call upon the international community to eliminate barriers to technology access and foster knowledge-sharing on emerging technologies.  

Lastly, access to concessional financing and debt relief is paramount for developing countries struggling to invest in food systems that can provide adequate nutrition to their populations. Unsustainable debt levels hinder the capacity of middle-income countries to establish safety nets and support agri-food transformation. We implore our development partners to support the reshaping of our economies through financial architecture reform and the initiation of sustainable debt mechanisms. 

Mr. Chair, 

Gender equality and women's empowerment are critical in addressing the global food security crisis, and we have taken steps to promote these aspects, including amendments to the Decentralization Act which grants local councils greater fiscal and legal autonomy. Furthermore, opportunities for access to financing and entrepreneurship for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) have expanded, with special priority given to women and youth. The government also launched the "Dhanduveri Nafaa" loan program dedicated to the agriculture sector and established a platform for farmers to market and sell their produce through a newly established state-owned enterprise, Agro National Corporation Pvt Ltd). More than 600 farmers from 61 islands nationwide are at present working with AgroNat. We seek international support to further capitalise our domestic initiatives. 

Mr. Chair, 

The Maldives welcomes the recent achievements of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and the BBNJ agreement. We are optimistic that these developments hold the promise of delivering essential ecological, economic, social, and food security advantages to humanity.   

I thank you.