Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)  of the United Nations stated that Sri Lanka had been capable of reducing poverty from 22.7 percent in 2002 to 6.7 percent in 2013. This revelation was made by UN – FAO Country Representative Beth Crawford. She was speaking at the program held to mark World Food Day in Anuradhapura on Friday (October 16).

However, she also highlighted that a survery conducted just after the civil war had revealed that 21.6 percent of children below five years in Sri Lanka were underweight. She made that point to stress that authorities needed to address issues concerning poverty, equality and the proportion of underweight children.

The FAO, along with World Food Program (WFP) held the World Food Day program at the Institute of Post-Harvest Technology, Anuradhapura on Friday. Attending the event were Agriculture Minister Duminda Dissanayake, FAO Representative for Sri Lanka Beth Crawford, WFP Country Representative and Director Ismail Omer, former minister Tissa Karalliyadda, authorities and organizations from the agricultural sector, farmers and agricultural workers and school students.

During the keynote address, Beth Crawford also spoke about issues regarding food and agriculture by presenting some important statistics. Of Sri Lanka’s population, 70 percent live in rural areas and one in third is involved in agriculture. Further, 73 percent of the world’s population has no access to adequate social security and most of them are from rural areas of developing countries. Looking at the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), Crawford said Sri Lanka reduced poverty from 22.7 percent in 2002 to 6.7 percent in 2013.

Emphasizing the need for social protection, Minister Duminda Dissanayake said, “All agricultural countries face these issues. This is why we need to look for a solution that is suitable for our country.” He added that the Ministry of Agriculture has many plans to improve agriculture in the country, Dissanayake said, “As an agricultural country, it’s a problem if we can’t produce enough wheat to feed our people.”

The theme for this year’s World Food Day was ‘Social Protection and Agriculture: Breaking the Cycle of Rural Poverty.’ Importance of social protection, meeting the sustainable goals on eliminating hunger and addressing problems faced by the agricultural sector were highlighted at the event and the program consisted of a number of skits by organizations such as Help-O and Mihithala Mithuro.

At the program, plants were also distributed to farmers and workers of the agricultural sector and street dramas were also performed.