By Ronald Joshua
ROME (IDN) - King Letsie III of Lesotho has been appointed as Special Ambassador of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations for Nutrition. The Organization’s Director-General, José Graziano da Silva, made the announcement at the high-level International Symposium on Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets and Improved Nutrition December 1-2, 21016.
The Symposium was held to explore country-level challenges and successes in the nutritional reshaping of food production, processing, marketing and retail systems. Malnutrition – including obesity and micronutrient deficiencies – blights the lives of billions of individuals and can trap generations in a vicious cycle of poverty.
King Letsie pledged to take up his new role with energy and passion, and welcomed the fact that nutrition is now firmly on the global agenda. Noting that in Africa just a few years ago, “nutrition was not a priority for discussion, let alone investment”, the King said that now “the tide has turned for the better”.
He encouraged symposium participants to keep up the momentum, adding: “Let us all remember the positive correlation between nutrition and the socio-economic development of nations. It is well fed and well-nourished individuals that can drive the economic development agendas of their countries.”
Nutrition has been a neglected subject of great importance both for individuals and countries. But King Letsie has been playing an active role promoting better diets as the African Union’s “Champion for Nutrition”.
He recognised the great efforts and progress made by African countries and regional organisations such as the African Union, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the African Development Bank and the Alliance for a Green revolution in Africa (AGRA) with whom he will continue working very closely with.
“To me it is a great honor to be appointed as FAO Special Ambassador for Nutrition because it is a subject matter which I feel has been neglected for many years but it is of great importance not only to us as individuals but to countries in the world as a whole, so I am hoping that through my ambassadorship I can contribute to the promotion of better nutrition and food security through the world,” he said in remarks after the meeting.
Referring to the value of traditional knowledge abut food and healthy diets, King Letsie said: “I think we need to go back to basics and do appropriate research on the traditional foods and promote them more and better within our countries. We need to expose and elevate the importance of traditional foods and their nutritional value so that we can grow locally and eat more of them for the benefit of our health and society in general.”
King Letsie III added: “I will be guided by the FAO Director-General but my hope is to address and make contact with many people, particularly policy makers, not only in the health and agriculture sectors because nutrition is a multisectoral issue which needs a multisectoral approach.”
Lesotho's leader said: “Experts here at FAO and at the African Union will support my work to see how I can use my office and the context that I have in the continent and elsewhere to make the message clear and see how all of us and different stakeholders can coordinate our efforts in the issue of nutrition.”
He added: “While other problems that afflict us as a continent and the world are declining, malnutrition is rising, so I’m hoping by the end of the decade we will see malnutrition in all its forms declining in both the developing world and the developed world. I hope we can follow up on the commitments that we make and we have made with tangible actions and with appropriate policies in our different countries to make sure that happens.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 03 December 2016]
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
Photo: FAO DG José Graziano da Silva presenting Lesotho King designation as Special Ambassador. ©FAO/Giuseppe Carotenuto.