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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is an international organization that leads international efforts to defeat hunger and improve nutrition and food security.
 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Leadership team

QU Dongyu (Director-General)

Laurent Thomas (Deputy Director-General)

Maria Helena M.Q. Semedo (Deputy Director-General)

Beth Bechdol (Deputy Director-General)

Máximo Torero (Chief Economist)

Ismahane Elouafi (Chief Scientist)

Godfrey Magwenzi (Director of Cabinet)

Maurizio Martina (Assistant Director-General)

Headquarters
Rome, Italy
Region served
worldwide
Year stablished
1945
Address
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla 00153 Rome, Italy
Social Media
Summary

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is an international organization dedicated to eliminating hunger and malnutrition, promoting sustainable agriculture, and improving food security around the world. Established in 1945, FAO has 194 member countries and employs over 11,000 staff members globally, operating in over 130 countries.

FAO's mission is to achieve food security for all and ensure that everyone has access to safe, nutritious, and affordable food. It helps governments and development agencies coordinate their activities to improve and develop agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and land and water resources. To achieve its goals, the organization collects and analyzes data on global food and agricultural production, provides technical assistance and advice to member countries on agricultural policies, food safety, and nutrition, and implements programs that promote sustainable agriculture practices.

One of FAO's major initiatives is the Zero Hunger Challenge, which aims to eliminate hunger and malnutrition by 2030. The organization also provides emergency assistance to countries affected by natural disasters or conflict, promotes the sustainable use of natural resources, and supports research and development to improve agricultural productivity.

The FAO is governed by a biennial conference representing each member country and the European Union, which elects a 49-member executive council. The Director-General, currently Qu Dongyu of China, serves as the chief administrative officer. Various committees govern matters such as finance, programs, agriculture, and fisheries.

History

The idea of an international organization for food and agriculture emerged in the late 19th and early 20th century, advanced primarily by Polish-born American agriculturalist and activist David Lubin. In May–June 1905, an international conference was held in Rome, Italy, which led to the creation of the International Institute of Agriculture (IIA) by the King of Italy, Victor Emmanuel III.

The IIA was based in Rome, Italy, and had over 50 member countries at its peak, including many European nations as well as the United States and Japan.

The role of the IIA was to collect and analyze data on global agricultural production and trade, and to provide technical assistance and advice to member countries on agricultural policies and practices. The organization also played a key role in facilitating international cooperation and collaboration in the field of agriculture, and served as a forum for the exchange of ideas and information.

During its existence, the IIA was widely regarded as a successful and influential organization, and played an important role in advancing agricultural development around the world. However, the outbreak of World War II and the subsequent disruption to global agriculture highlighted the need for a more comprehensive and coordinated international effort to address food shortages and promote food security.

During the war, in 1943, United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt called a League of Nations Conference on Food and Agriculture, which brought representatives from forty-four governments to The Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, from 18 May to 3 June. The main impetus for the conference was British-born Australian economist Frank L. McDougall, who since 1935 had advocated for an international forum to address hunger and malnutrition.

The Conference ended with a commitment to establish a permanent organization for food and agriculture, which was achieved on 16 October 1945 in Quebec City, Canada, following the Constitution of the Food and Agriculture Organization.[9] The First Session of the FAO Conference was held immediately afterward in the Château Frontenac in Quebec City from 16 October to 1 November 1945.

As a result, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) was established in 1945, building on the work of the IIA and expanding its mandate to address the broader issues of food security, sustainable agriculture, and rural development. 

In its early years, FAO focused on increasing agricultural productivity and improving food security in developing countries, building on the work of the IIA. The organization provided technical assistance and training to farmers, promoted the use of modern farming techniques, and supported research and development in the field of agriculture. FAO also played a key role in the Green Revolution of the 1950s and 1960s, which saw the introduction of high-yielding crop varieties, fertilizers, and other innovations that helped to boost agricultural production in many developing countries.

During this period, FAO expanded its efforts to address issues related to food safety and nutrition, working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) to promote the adoption of international food standards and guidelines. FAO also established the Codex Alimentarius Commission in 1963, which develops and promotes food standards, guidelines, and codes of practice to protect the health of consumers and ensure fair trade practices.

In 1974, in response to famine in Africa, the FAO convened the first World Food Summit to address widespread hunger, malnutrition, and food insecurity. The meeting resulted in a proclamation that "every man, woman, and child has the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition to develop their physical and mental faculties" and a global commitment to eradicate these issues within a decade. A subsequent summit in 1996 addressed the shortcomings in achieving this goal while establishing a strategic plan for eliminating hunger and malnutrition into the 21st century.

Goals and Purpose

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is a specialized agency of the UN that works towards achieving its main goals, which are to eradicate hunger, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture and rural development.

To achieve these goals, FAO works with governments, international organizations, civil society, and the private sector to address the challenges of food insecurity, malnutrition, and poverty. Some of the specific purposes of FAO include:

Eliminating hunger and malnutrition: FAO aims to ensure that everyone has access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food, and works to address the root causes of hunger and malnutrition, including poverty, inequality, and conflict.

Promoting sustainable agriculture and rural development: FAO works to promote sustainable agricultural practices that protect natural resources, enhance productivity, and support rural livelihoods. This includes efforts to promote agroecology, conservation agriculture, and other sustainable farming practices.

Improving food systems: FAO works to improve food systems by promoting food safety and quality, supporting smallholder farmers and rural entrepreneurs, and strengthening the resilience of food systems to shocks and crises.

Providing technical assistance and knowledge-sharing: FAO provides technical assistance and advice to governments and other stakeholders on a wide range of agricultural and food-related issues, and works to promote knowledge-sharing and capacity-building at the national, regional, and global levels.

Addressing climate change and environmental degradation: FAO works to promote sustainable land use practices, reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture, and enhance the resilience of agricultural systems to the impacts of climate change and environmental degradation.

Impact

Following is the summary of some of the programmes and achievements of FAO:

Food: The Codex Alimentarius Commission, established by the FAO and the WHO in 1961, creates food standards, guidelines, and codes of practice to promote consumer health, fair trade, and harmonization among organizations working on food standards. The FAO has implemented various initiatives to combat hunger, including the World Food Summit in 1996, the TeleFood campaign in 1997, and the Right to Food Guidelines adopted in 2004. FAO's Special Programme for Food Security is its flagship initiative for reaching the goal of halving the number of hungry people in the world by 2015. Additionally, FAO launched an online campaign called EndingHunger in partnership with other UN agencies and non-profit groups to raise awareness and collect signatures for ending hunger.

Agriculture: The International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) was established by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1952 to prevent the spread of pests and plant diseases in cultivated and wild plants. The FAO is also the depositary of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, also known as the Plant Treaty, which entered into force in 2004. The Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition (AAHM) was created in 2002 by the Rome-based food agencies, FAO, UN World Food Programme, International Fund for Agricultural Development, and Bioversity International, with the aim of addressing food security and reducing the number of people suffering from hunger. FAO has also played a leading role in promoting integrated pest management for rice production in Asia and established an Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases in 1994 to control diseases like rinderpest, foot-and-mouth disease, and avian flu.

The Global Partnership Initiative for Plant Breeding Capacity Building (GIPB) is a global partnership aimed at enhancing the capacity of developing countries to improve crops for food security and sustainable development through better plant breeding and delivery systems. The ultimate goal is to ensure that a critical mass of plant breeders, leaders, managers, and technicians, donors, and partners are linked together through an effective global network. Increasing capacity building for plant breeding in developing countries is critical for the achievement of meaningful results in poverty and hunger reduction and to respond to the increasing demands for crop-based sources of energy.

The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) hosts an Investment Centre that promotes greater investment in agriculture and rural development by helping developing countries identify and formulate sustainable agricultural policies, programs, and projects. It mobilizes funding from multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, regional development banks, and international funds, as well as FAO resources. The FAO also focuses on animal genetic resources, assisting countries in implementing the Global Plan of Action for Animal Genetic Resources, and supporting a variety of ex situ and in situ conservation strategies, including cryoconservation of animal genetic resources.

Forestry: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) aims to sustainably manage the world's forests by balancing social and environmental concerns with the economic needs of rural populations. As a global clearinghouse for forest information, FAO provides technical assistance and advice to help countries develop and implement effective national forest programs. FAO publishes periodic assessments of forest resources and reports on current and emerging forestry issues, as well as the FAO Yearbook of Forest Products and the peer-reviewed journal Unasylva. It also sponsors the International Day of Forests and holds the World Forestry Congress every six years. Recently, FAO and the Arbor Day Foundation jointly launched the Tree Cities of the World program to recognize cities and towns that maintain their urban forests.

Fisheries: The vision of the FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Department is to achieve responsible and sustainable use of fisheries and aquaculture resources that contributes to human well-being, food security, and poverty alleviation. Their mission is to strengthen global governance and technical capacities of members, leading towards improved conservation and utilization of aquatic resources. The department's work focuses on sustainable management and use of fisheries and aquaculture resources, encompassing both normative and operational activities, implemented from headquarters or in the field.

Statistics: ESSG stands for Global Statistics Service, a key component of the FAO's Statistics Division that updates and distributes the FAOSTAT report, which provides free access to data on 245 countries and 35 regional areas from 1961 to the most recent year available, along with advanced features such as data browsing and analysis, interactive data download, and enhanced data exchange through web services. Additionally, the Land and Water Division maintains Aquastat, a global water statistics database.

References
 Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
Leadership team

QU Dongyu (Director-General)

Laurent Thomas (Deputy Director-General)

Maria Helena M.Q. Semedo (Deputy Director-General)

Beth Bechdol (Deputy Director-General)

Máximo Torero (Chief Economist)

Ismahane Elouafi (Chief Scientist)

Godfrey Magwenzi (Director of Cabinet)

Maurizio Martina (Assistant Director-General)

Headquarters
Rome, Italy
Region served
worldwide
Year stablished
1945
Address
Viale delle Terme di Caracalla 00153 Rome, Italy
Social Media