FAO in North America

Seeking improvement in global forest governance, FAO FLEGT and EFI’s EU FLEGT Facility conduct U.S. mission

Submitted by Lívia Pontes on August 21, 2014

Around the world, illegal logging and related timber trade pose a serious problem. Major timber purchasing countries and blocks such as the European Union (EU), the U.S. and Australia have developed import requirements to promote the trade and use of legally produced timber products.

An FAO mission with the European Forest Institute’s (EFI) EU FLEGT Facility this month aimed to build closer relationships with U.S.-based institutions to

explore how different efforts can help countries address forest governance challenges. Robert Simpson and Daphne Hewitt from the EU FAO Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) Program, and Melissa Othman and Didier Devers from the EU FLEGT Facility met with experts and U.S. government officials. They aimed to understand U.S. priorities and projects, and explored ways to increase collaboration and communication in forest governance arenas worldwide.

Both FAO and EFI FLEGT Programs receive funding from the EU to support forest governance initiatives within the FLEGT Action Plan. This work, among other things, supports country-led initiatives to identify challenges and develop nationally and regionally appropriate responses to forest governance issues. FAO and EFI are collaborating with U.S. institutions to strengthen forest governance in Asia, Africa and Latin America, and are seeking opportunities for more intensive global cooperation.

FAO and EFI anticipate that the mission will spur additional long-term transatlantic collaboration. By understanding priorities and objectives of U.S. actors working on forest governance, including their efforts to tackle illegal logging and associated trade, they can reduce duplication, multiply efforts and increase the potential for real impact. Ultimately, this improves forest governance and trade promotion of legal forest products, as well as other global forest issues. Read more about FLEGT here.

FAO urges sustained support for animal disease monitoring

Submitted by Amy McMillen on August 20, 2014

“Weak link” in public health protection efforts must not be neglected

Photo: Scott Nelson/WPN for FAO

Tissue samples from chickens await testing at a Nigerian laboratory.

20 August 2014, Rome – FAO today told ministers of health and agriculture meeting in Indonesia that animal disease monitoring systems require sustained support and have a critical role to play in preventing human disease threats.

“Animal health remains one the weakest links in terms of how the world deals with disease risks,” FAO Chief Veterinary Officer Juan Lubroth said in remarks delivered at a meeting on the Global Health Security Agenda (GHSA) in Jakarta, Indonesia (20-21 August) being attended by human and animal health authorities and experts from around the globe

According to Lubroth, the current Ebola outbreak in West Africa is a “tragic reminder” not only of the need for increased support for public health systems in the developing world, but also of the importance of ensuring that countries are able to monitor and respond to animal health diseases as well.

While curbing human-to-human transmission remains the most important focus in West Africa, the epidemic there is thought to have started when the virus crossed over from infected wildlife into the human population.

Other recent outbreaks of diseases affecting humans — including avian influenza, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) — are believed to have had their start in animals. Indeed, an FAO report published last year highlighted that 70 percent of new infectious human diseases detected in recent decades are of animal origin.

Preparedness is key

“Zoonootic diseases that can make the jump from animals to humans are a real concern, but there is much that we can do before the jump occurs and outbreaks take place, causing loss of life and disrupting fragile livelihoods,” said Lubroth.

“To be more resilient in the face of such risks, countries need the resources to be able to better understand where disease is coming from and to prevent it from ever reaching people in the first place. By understanding animal health threats, we have the potential to be ahead of the curve and help prevent human tragedies from happening,” he added.

According to FAO, there is a need to rethink how the international community provides global health support, with a new focus on investment in infrastructure, systems and capacities at the national level to help reduce the risks of such emergencies happening in the first place and increase the resilience of communities and health systems to respond when they do.

To support such a transition, FAO and its partners are advocating what is known as the “One Health” approach, which looks at the interplay between environmental factors, animal health, and human health and brings human health professionals, veterinary specialists, sociologists, economists, and ecologists together to work on disease risks in a collaborative way.

At the Jakarta conference some 60 countries as well as international organizations like FAO, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) are discussing how to collaborate under the auspices of the GHSA,  an international effort to strengthen health systems to help prevent, detect and respond to emerging disease threats.

In Jakarta, FAO is also making the point that better prevention of disease has long term-development benefits as well. Both animal and human diseases have broad impacts on societies, including reductions in food production and food availability that impact food security in the short term, as well as disruptions to rural economies and livelihoods that can linger for years.

Working together for a more resilient world

Submitted by Amy McMillen on August 19, 2014

On World Humanitarian Day 2014, a look at a few of the people at FAO who are helping us make a difference

Photo: ©FAO/Issouf Sanogo / FAO

Supplying herders affected by drought with fodder for their animals.

19 August marks the anniversary of the bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad, in which 22 people lost their lives. In 2008, the UN General Assembly designated this day asWorld Humanitarian Day in an effort to raise public awareness of the crucial role that humanitarian assistance plays in improving people’s lives worldwide, and to recognize the contributions of those who risk their lives delivering it.

Today, on World Humanitarian Day, FAO celebrates the spirit of our staff: their humanitarian work in the field and their ongoing efforts to build resilience in communities around the globe.

The challenges involved in that work are great.

Around 2.5 billion people whose livelihoods depend on crops, fish, forests and livestock are continually threatened by hazards and crises.

When disasters strike, FAO immediately helps families regain the means to provide for themselves, ensuring a harvest does not pass by when families critically need that food and income.

But the same time, we work to address the root causes that put communities at risk, and try to reduce their vulnerability and increase their resilience. In many contexts, saving livelihoods saves lives.

Our staff’s commitment to communities is proactive and long-term. They work with communities – and the institutions which support them – to prevent disasters and mitigate their impact while ensuring development gains are sustainable.

They also work tirelessly and in increasingly difficult conditions to assist those most in need.

Their humanitarian efforts are a critical part of FAO’s wider efforts to build the resilience of farming, fishing, herding communities.

Today FAO also pays tribute to the strength and perseverance of the world’s farmers, fishers and herders, who continue to sow their fields, tend their animals and bring food to markets and homes, oftentimes while coping with difficult circumstances or struggling to adapt to changing conditions.

FAO humanitarian heroes

We asked a few of our colleagues: “Why do you do what you do?”

This is what they told us.

“A brighter future for me and for my society.” – Maram Abdo, Finance Assistant, FAO West Bank and Gaza Strip
“It’s an opportunity to make a difference where it is needed most, and a meaningful challenge.” – Azzam Saleh Ayasa, Head of Programme, FAO West Bank and Gaza Strip
“I’m here to help people in need. This is what it’s all about.” – Honorine Brahim, FAO Program Assistant, Democratic Republic of the Congo
“To restore hope to desperate people who end up in situations they’re often not responsible for.” – Guillaume Kahomboshi, Food Security Expert, Democratic Republic of the Congo
“It’s always a joy for me to see crisis-hit families return to work in their fields.” - Tiphaine Bueke, FAO HIV/AIDS Focual Point, Democratic Republic of the Congo
“The work is so gratifying that it is easy to forget all the difficulties, the dark moments, the problems.” – Jacopo Damelio, Operations Officer, FAO Afghanistan
“No two days are ever the same; there are always new activities and challenges. I love the dynamic environment that I work in and the fantastic people who I work with.” – Tahseen Ayyash, Field Monitor, FAO Syria

“I was born in a war torn country, I owe so much to the humanitarians for their help to the Sudanese people during the war, and it is gratifying to extend the same service to other generations who are unfortunately born into a world of conflicts and natural disasters in South Sudan.” – Nyabenyi Tipo, Emergency Livestock Officer, FAO South Sudan
“Coming from South Sudan where we have experienced so many challenges, ranging from wars, floods, diseases and droughts, it has been my desire and ambition that one day all this will come to an end through our efforts as humanitarian actors.” – YolYoal, Farmer Field School and Pastoral Field School Advisor, FAO South Sudan

To see additional profiles of humanitarian workers at FAO and elsewhere in the UN system, visit the World Humanitarian Day 2014 website.

The Livestock Revolution: A Sustainable Solution to Hunger

Submitted by Amy McMillen on August 8, 2014

By Emily Hunker, Communications Intern, FAO-Washington, DC.

A key to a sustainable solution to hunger may come from what many are calling the Livestock Revolution. At a recent event on Capitol Hill, Livestock for Livelihood, panelists discussed the value of incorporating efficient animal husbandry into smallholder farms to build food security. The event, which was co-hosted by the Alliance to End Hunger and Heifer International and sponsored by Sen. John Boozman, attracted a widely diverse audience to discuss how the Livestock Revolution could be one solution to hunger.

Mr. Pierre Ferrari, President and CEO of Heifer International, moderated the event. In his remarks, Ferrari described the Livestock Revolution as the current trend of growth in efficiency and productivity in the livestock sector. Acknowledging the importance of the Green Revolution in the 20th Century, Ferrari remarked that the Livestock Revolution has increased farmers’ incomes three times more than the Green Revolution. Furthermore, he commented that livestock not only can provide financial value to farmers, but also increased levels of nutrition and social status.

Although the Livestock Revolution has created much reason for hope within the fight against hunger, a number of obstacles limit its widespread use. First, and foremost is awareness – more people, both in the private and public sectors, must realize the importance of livestock as a tool in the fight against hunger. This lack of awareness limits funding for important projects and research. Also, inadequate education of farmers on raising livestock is a strain on progress. This progress is vital, as Ambassador Tony Hall, Executive Director Emeritus at the Alliance to End Hunger, declared, “Livestock does and can help build resilient communities.”

Despite these obstacles, the optimistic air in the room was evident as the speakers and panelists talked about current and potential development in livestock research and education. Representing NIFA (National Institute of Food and Agriculture), Dr. Muquarrab Qureshi shared that while the number of livestock in the US is decreasing; the amount of animal product and by-product is increasing. This increase in efficiency makes livestock more sustainable, profitable, and environmentally-friendly. Thus, educating developing countries about sustainable livestock farming practices is vitally important. Dr. Trevor Tomkins, President and founder of Venture Dairy, referenced the fact that each cow in India produces about one tenth of the milk of a cow in the US. Improving farming practices through proper education would be much better for residents, farmers, and cows alike. The best way to make this education a priority is to establish it within primary education, according to David Bunn, Associate Director for International Programs at the University of California – Davis. The next generation can then evolve into more conscious farmers and consumers.

Having worked at a farmers’ market for years, I resonated with what Cody Hopkins, founder of a small livestock farm in Arkansas, had to say about the growing US market of conscious consumers. For nutritional, environmental, and humanitarian reasons alike, consumers in the US increasingly want to know where their meat, eggs, and dairy-products come from. Hopkins is promoting an entrepreneurial and sustainable model for farmers to take on and reinvigorate their local economies, yet another benefit to utilizing the power of livestock.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, out of the 2.5 billion people in poor countries who live directly from the food and agriculture sector, 1.5 billion people live in smallholder households. Supporting smallholder farmers in the livestock sector would be an important step in the fight against poverty. To make this a reality, the consistent theme through the statements of speakers and panelists during the event was that public-private partnerships play a vital role. As Antonio Rota of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), remarked, “We see the role of the private sector is a fundamental one to bring this kind of knowledge and technologies forward to smallholder farmers.”

The MDGs: What’s breastfeeding got to do with it?

Submitted by Lívia Pontes on August 7, 2014

Today marks the end of World Breastfeeding Week. Breastfeeding has a critical impact on a child’s life: it can prolong it by strengthening the immune system and reducing the risk of disease transmission. As a result, breastfeeding is also key to reaching the Millenium Development Goals.

This article is cross-posted with permission by 1,000 days. Click here for their original post.

From August 1st – August 7th we will be celebrating the important role that breastfeeding plays in improving maternal and child health around the world.

Breast milk is the ultimate “first food” for infants, providing the vital nutrients and immunities that aid in a child’s survival as well as physical, cognitive and emotional development. In fact, if infants around the world were breastfed early and exclusively during their first six months of life, an estimated 1 million child deaths could be avoided each year.

Nonetheless, only 39% of infants worldwide benefit from this optimal source of nutrition within the first six months of life. Low breastfeeding rates have an impact not only on child survival and health outcomes, but also educational attainment and economic potential.

This year’s theme for World Breastfeeding Week is “Breastfeeding: A Winning Goal – for life!” to bring attention to the critical role that breastfeeding plays in alleviating global poverty and reaching the Millennium Development Goals. So, what’s breastfeeding have to do with the MDGs? Turns out, everything!

MDG #1: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger

Exclusive and sustained breastfeeding provides many vital nutrients to infants, and can prevent early childhood malnutrition.

MDG #2: Achieve universal primary education

Breastfeeding increases a child’s readiness and ability to learn, and is consistently associated with an increase of IQ by about 3 points.

MDG #3: Promote gender equality and empower women

Breastfeeding is the first equalizer between boys and girls, giving all children a healthy start to life. The ability to breastfeed is also uniquely the right of women, and therefore needs to be protected on the individual, community and government level.

MDG #4: Reduce child mortality

Poor nutrition causes nearly half of all child deaths each year. It is estimated that 1 million of these deaths could be avoided if children were exclusively breastfed during their first six months of life. 

MDG #5: Improve maternal health

Breastfeeding reduces obesity rates among mothers, reduces their risk of ovarian and breast cancer, and helps women return to their pre-pregnancy weight more quickly.

MDG #6: Combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases

Exclusive breastfeeding together with antiretroviral therapy for mothers and babies can reduce the risk of transmission of HIV from mother to child.

MDG #7: Ensure environmental sustainability

Increased rates of breastfeeding results in a reduction of the amount of waste produced by the milk industry, pharmaceutical production, plastic and aluminum use, and the use of fossil fuels.

MDG #8: Develop a global partnership for development

The Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding fosters multi-sectoral collaboration, and can join forces with other partnerships to support sustainable development through improved breastfeeding and nutrition programs.

Breastfeeding is a key strategy in advancing not only the MDG agenda, but all of our current global health and development goals. Breastfeeding must therefore be integrated into the next set of development goals to create a healthier – and sustainable – future for all.

Let’s join together this World Breastfeeding Week and advocate for the health of moms and babies all over the world! Be sure to check out our blog throughout the week for stories and content from our partners, and follow the #WBW2014 conversation on Twitter.

New FAO Infographic: Understanding hunger and malnutrition

Submitted by Amy McMillen on August 7, 2014

FAO Provides Mid-Year Overview of Humanitarian Assistance and Appeals

Submitted by Lívia Pontes on August 4, 2014

The FAO Emergency and Rehabilitation Division (TCE) published its mid-year overview of FAO’s participation in 15 humanitarian appeals. It highlights critical challenges facing agriculture and food security, priority actions to address those challenges and related funding requirements in places like South Sudan, Central African Republic and Somalia.

In 2014, conflicts, natural disasters and extreme weather patterns continue to undermine food and nutrition security around the world, severely affecting those who rely on farming, fishing and herding for their food and income.

The increasingly alarming food security and nutrition crisis in South Sudan, for example, is of particular concern as 30 percent of the population faces crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity, with a serious risk of famine developing in some conflict‐affected areas unless humanitarian assistance is provided. FAO is delivering assistance along a twin‐track approach – boosting production in more stable areas while providing life‐saving livelihood support in areas most affected by the conflict in cooperation with the World Food Programme and the United Nations Children’s Fund. While the resources received since March 2014 have been delivered, more must be done to meet the needs of the 3.5 million people currently suffering from severe food insecurity and prevent the situation from further deteriorating.

FAO is able to offer governments of countries affected by conflict, natural disasters and extreme weather circumstances time‐critical assistance in an emergency phase, without losing sight of the development agenda. Especially in level 3 emergencies, FAO uses its fast track procedures and calls on expertise across the Organization to address the immediate needs of crisis‐affected populations and increase the resilience of livelihoods to future threats and crises.

Read more about these critical challenges here.

The New Face of Hunger – Why are people malnourished in the richest country on Earth?

Submitted by Lívia Pontes on July 30, 2014
Submitted by Sunhye Park, Communications Intern, FAO’s Liaison Office for North America, Washington, DC

One in six Americans don’t have enough to eat. If hunger in America still conjures up a “depression-era image of the unemployed scavenging for food,” check out this eye-opening article from National Geographic’s The Future of Food Series in which three photographers have captured three very intimate faces of hunger in rural, suburban, and urban America.

“This is not your grandmother’s hunger. Today, more working people are hungry because wages have declined,” says Janet Poppendieck, a sociologist at the City University of New York. Today, 48 million Americans are considered “food insecure” and experience hunger in their households. Half of them are white, and two-thirds of those with children have at least one working adult in a full time job. In the suburbs, once the home of the American dream, the number of hungry people has doubled since 2007. The suburban poor do not face actual starvation – some even drive cars, and dress decently with thrift shop items. But their next meal often can’t be counted on.

Many working poor are also stranded in a “food desert,” a low-income region with few or no grocery stores to get fresh food. They are left with the usual pantry staples that are high in salt, sugar, and fat. The abundance of processed foods made with subsidized crops leads to a daily diet of low nutritional value, further driving the paradox of hunger side by side with obesity. Tracie McMillan explains, “for many of the hungry in America, the extra pounds that result from a poor diet are collateral damage – an unintended side effect of hunger itself.”

Read the article by Tracie McMillan for National Geographic at: http://www.nationalgeographic.com/foodfeatures/hunger/

Ahead of ICN2, FAO Nutrition Director Discusses Conference with North American Stakeholders

Submitted by Lívia Pontes on July 28, 2014
by Lívia Pontes, Communications Intern, FAO’s Liaison Office for North America, Washington, DC

FAO’s Nutrition Division Director, Anna Lartey (far right), discusses ICN2 preparations with stakeholders from civil society and U.S. government agencies.

The FAO North America Liaison Office, on July 14, hosted a briefing on the upcoming Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) jointly organized by FAO and WHO. Anna Lartey, Director of FAO’s Nutrition Division, presented an overview on preparations for the conference and its expected outcomes to representatives of civil society organizations and U.S. government agencies.

One of the central purposes of ICN2 is to promote policy coherence on nutrition issues at a national, regional and global level. The event will also contribute to “mainstreaming nutrition in the food and agriculture and health sectors,” Ms. Lartey said. Nutrition challenges have grown far more complex in the past few decades, with various forms of malnutrition ranging from extreme hunger, undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies to obesity.

Today, 842 million people are undernourished, 2 billion people are affected by micronutrient deficiencies and 500 million adults are obese. No country or region is immune: in Africa, obesity rates are rising, Ms. Lartey noted.

In this current landscape, nutrition must be approached “comprehensively,” she said, highlighting that ICN2 is helping national governments think about their health and agriculture policies as complementary in order to solve these problems. Making these policies nutrition-enhancing and promoting coherence will be at the center of discussions in the conference.

ICN2, which takes place in Rome, Italy, on November 19-21, is expected to produce two outcome documents: a political Rome Declaration on Nutrition and an accompanying framework for action to guide its implementation by member-states and other stakeholders.

The conference is already making an impact. Nutrition is now high on the political agenda, both at global and national levels. Dialogue on nutrition is bringing together different parts of government, especially agriculture, health and social protection to better coordinate their actions.  Other actors such as civil society and the private sector have also been engaged in the preparatory process leading up to the conference, and are expected to play a key role to implement ICN2 outcomes.

Why should governments be involved in ICN2? As Ms. Lartey pointed out, the conference will “chart the path for the next ten years” of nutrition policy as it brings together high-level representatives from most countries – including Heads of State and Pope Francis – on the road to improve diets and end all forms of malnutrition.

Texas A&M University System joins forces with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Submitted by Lívia Pontes on July 25, 2014

The Texas A&M University System and  the Food and Agriculture Organization of  the United Nations (FAO) today agreed to  work together to combat world hunger by  building capacity for sustainable  agriculture and natural resource  management in developing countries.

Under the new agreement, the Texas A&M System and FAO will carry out initiatives to strengthen agricultural production innovations, land and water management practices, and plant and animal health in order to improve food security. In addition, they will work on building resilience and improving value chain management to help promote economic stability and improve livelihoods for small-holder farming communities. The cooperation will be at country, regional and global levels as mutually agreed.

“Our history is rooted in a deep connection between farmers and the land on which they farm,” said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp. “Today, farming and ranching have changed considerably and our scope has expanded, but our commitment has not. I applaud our leadership in focusing on value chain management as the key to improving both supply and security of food for communities around the world.”

The partnership is an opportunity to leverage the strengths of both entities, allowing collaboration on matters of common interest.

“Our organizations share a common interest in enhanced global and local actions to achieve food security, enable sustainable livelihoods and sustainably manage natural resources; and we agree that interdisciplinary solutions, innovations and sharing of technological and scientific advances are necessary. Hunger cannot be defeated by any organization or entity on its own. We recognise that through strategic partnerships, we can support Member countries more effectively in eliminating hunger” said FAO Deputy Director-General Maria Helena Semedo.

Semedo signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Craig Nessler, Director of Texas A&M AgriLife Research, on behalf of the Texas A&M System, at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. Tammy Beckham, Director of the Institute for Infectious Animal Diseases (IIAD), a Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Center of Excellence, also attended the signing.

The Texas A&M System, which is headquartered in College Station, Texas, is one of the largest systems of higher education in the U.S., with a statewide network of eleven universities and seven specialized agencies including: the Texas A&M AgriLife Research, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, and the Texas A&M Forest Service. Institutes under these agencies include: IIAD, the Institute for Plant Genomics and Biotechnology, the Institute of Renewable Natural Resources and the Normal Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture. The A&M System educates more than 131,000 students and makes more than 22 million additional educational contacts through service and outreach programs each year.

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