Posted on Thu, 01 Jul 2021, 17:54
Rome, 1 July 2021. The International Year of Plant Health (IYPH) has officially came to an end with a high level closing ceremony hosted by the FAO Director-General, QU Dongyu and attended by over 600 participants online. During his opening remarks, the Director General highlighted the fundamental role healthy plants play in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and the FAO four betters: better production, better nutrition, better environment, and better life. “Protecting plants is one of the core activities to achieve FAO’s strategic objectives through sustainable prevention and management of devastating plant pests and diseases”, he said.
Plant pest and disease outbreaks have brought many rural communities to the brink of famine and have left millions of people suffering from food insecurity. Up to 40 percent of the global food crops is destroyed by plant pests every year, with devastating consequences on livelihoods, economic development and ecosystems. Invasive pests are also known to be one of the main drivers of global biodiversity loss and their impact on the environment can be fatal. This is why protecting plants is indispensable to sustain life on Earth and to solve many global challenges. As highlighted by Stella Kyriakides, EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety: “Failing to protect plants from pathogens and threats may trigger the collapse of our planet’s lungs – and, with them, the whole ecosphere”.
The benefits of healthy plants are uncountable. “Plants enable us to live and to exist on this planet. They produce the oxygen we need to breath, provide our food, heal us when we are sick, and supply us with materials for shelter and fuel. And yet, interestingly, we have not been very effective in maintaining the life and health of the main resource we rely on”, stressed Jari Leppä, Minister of Agriculture and Forestry of the Republic of Finland, highlighting the need for strengthening the phytosanitary capacity of many countries and work for better prevention and protection in plant health.
All speakers emphasized the need for plant health to resonate behind the official closing of the international year. The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine of the Republic of Ireland, Pippa Hackett stated that Ireland intends to build on the foundations of the IYPH to further plant health and biodiversity not only in the country but around the world. Similarly Songowayo Zyambo, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture of Zambia highlighted that the government of Zambia has proposed the establishment of the observance of an International Day of Plant Health by the United Nations' system as one of the key legacies of the year. Zambia called for countries and stakeholders to strongly support this initiative, which is expected to be endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly later this year.
The IYPH Advocates - Monty Don, Diarmuid Gavin, and Rodrigo Pacheco – urged people to build a renewed and sustainable relationship with nature, while stressing the importance for the international community of continuing to build on the momentum around plant health generated by the year. By highlighting how human, animal, soil and environmental health are inextricably entwined with the health of plants, the IYPH Advocates made unequivocal that keeping plants healthy is beneficial for entire populations and ecosystems.
As stressed by Ralf Lopian, IYPH International Steering Committee Chairperson, and the other speakers of the second panel discussion of the closing ceremony, the International Year of Plant Health not only contributed to raise global awareness of the importance of plants to food systems and agriculture, but also initiated the work on plant health and climate change, and helped promote plant health impacts on biodiversity preservation.
Kyu-Ock Yim, IYPH International Steering Committee Vice-chairperson; Michael Keller, International Seed Federation Secretary-General; Ibrahim Al-Jboory, President of the Arab Society for Plant Protection; and Victoria Valenzi, Youth representative, underlined the key role plant health and its international year played over the past eighteen months for national plant protection organizations, the private sector, academia, and the youth respectively. The IYPH Youth Declaration for plant health, drafted and signed by 26 youth groups and organizations worldwide, was presented at the closing ceremony as one of the key legacies of the year. Organizations and individuals can subscribe the declaration and keep advocating for better plant health from around the world.