Speaking at the FAO’s regional conference for Asia and the Pacific in Malaysia, José Graziano da Silva acknowledged that the region had reduced the number of undernourished by 236m halved hunger over the last 25 years.
"But we still have much work to do," Graziano said.
"This region has more people than any other still suffering from hunger, with 490m who still do not have enough to eat. In fact, the region is home to almost 62% of the world's chronically hungry people.”
Child stunting, with rates higher than 40% in some countries, must also be tackled, he warned, while nations must address childhood obesity which affects some 18m children below the age of five across Asia-Pacific.
The FAO’s goals to eradicate poverty and hunger were “the most important and ambitious commitments ever made in the history of the United Nations," Graziano said.
"In fact, they are two enormous challenges. But the latest results show that the Asia and Pacific region is on the right path in trying to overcome them."
He said that to do so, governments must now empower the region’s hundreds of millions of farmers and fishermen while providing social protection as a safety check. Empowering women in rural areas would also go a considerable way to achieving food security, he added.
"Strengthening the capacities of these target groups—to link to modern, pro-poor and inclusive value chains would offer them the opportunity to increase their agricultural output, improve their incomes and food security and contribute to rural economic growth," Graziano said.
In Asia and the Pacific, the FAO has regional initiatives which will continue to be the focus of its work, centred on achieving zero hunger, increasing rice production and enhancing aquaculture in a region which is responsible for 90% of the world's total catch. It is developing local value chains for food security and nutrition in the Pacific Islands.
"Eradicating hunger is essential for achieving both sustainable development and peace. Freeing the world of hunger and poverty is the fight of everyone,” Graziano said.