How can the UN get its act together on food and agriculture?

On Tuesday incoming FAO boss José Graziano da Silva (right) gave his first press conference, so I did one of those rabbit in the headlights FAO da silvainterviews down the line for Al Jazeera on the role of the FAO (results below). Al Jazeera is rapidly becoming my favourite news channel – not just for its unrivalled coverage of the Arab Spring but for its wider development coverage. Which other major global news outlet would devote 20 minutes to how to sort out the multilateral food system?

Anyway, back to Graziano. He reiterated the five priorities he has set out for his leadership of the FAO: end hunger; move towards more sustainable systems of food production and consumption; achieve greater fairness in the global management of food; complete the FAO’s reform and decentralization; and expand South-South cooperation and other partnerships.

All good stuff (although the FAO also needs to do much more on gender, as I say in the interview), and everyone wants him to succeed – as we grapple with the ‘perfect storm’ of high/volatile food prices, resource constraints and climate change over the next few decades, we really need a fully functioning, effective, non-sclerotic FAO leading the way. One ground for optimism is that Graziano was in charge of implementing Brazil’s hugely impressive ‘zero hunger’ campaign, and at the press conference he stressed the importance of that kind of top level political backing to getting things done. He also emphasized the need for the FAO to get out of its bunker and talk to governments, civil society organizations, farmers and others. Fingers crossed.

More from Lawrence Haddad here. Or read Graziano setting out his stall in the HuffPo (where, to be fair, he tackles the gender issue much better).

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3 Responses to “How can the UN get its act together on food and agriculture?”
  1. I haven’t yet visited the links, not sure if I can find time, but I make 3 comments: 1. FAO was very late/slow to realise the risk to food security from climate change; I think this illustrates a wider complacency. Even now I do not think they take sufficiently seriously rising energy prices and other constraints. (see my paper in SCN News special issue on climate change and food 2010 for more details).
    2. FAO need to call for action to reduce food waste – pre consumer in poor countries, post supermaket and post consumer in rich countries, and 3. FAO need to call for more female education and also for development economists to recognise the advantages of slower population growth for the poor; also if global pop’n can peak at less than 10 billion then feeding everyone will be easier.

    Best wishes

    A/Prof Colin Butler Australian National University, also BODHI

  2. Thanks for focusing on issues of hunger, food and agriculture in this interesting debate. Your readers might be interested in having a look at FAO’s recent report “Women in Agriculture: Closing the Gender Gap for Development,” which is the source of the statistic mentioned by Mr. Green.
    In that report, FAO estimates that just giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources could increase production on women’s farms in developing countries by 20 to 30 percent. This could raise total agricultural production in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, which could in turn reduce the number of hungry people in the world by 100 to 150 million people.
    FAO also argues in the report that gender equality is not just a lofty ideal but is rather crucial for boosting agricultural development and improving food security, and there is a strong business case for investing in female farmers. And the report contains recommendations regarding what governments and the international community can do to close the gender gap in farming, a goal which FAO continues to actively work towards.
    FAO has a long track record of working on gender issues in agricultural and rural development. You can learn more about this on our web site.
    –Eve Crowley, FAO Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division

  3. Interesting Post Duncan. It seems that there a need to look more to our vision and creativity for the answers rather than looking to the objective world to take a stance on the issues. We must align ourselves together in order to achieve peace and thus no one goes hungry.

    Thank you kindly ~ with love,

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