FAO in North America

Event Alert: Second International Conference on Nutrition

Submitted by Gabriel Laizer on November 20, 2014

WHAT: Follow the Second International Conference on Nutrition| Better Nutrition, Better Lives currently taking place in Rome, Italy.

WHO: 170 Ministers and senior officials responsible for health, food or agriculture and other aspects of nutrition adopted the Rome Declaration on Nutrition, and a Framework for Action, which set out recommendations for policies and programmes to address nutrition across multiple sectors.

WHEN: 19-21 November, 2014

WHERE: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy

The Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), an inclusive inter-governmental meeting on nutrition jointly organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO), in cooperation with the High Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis (HLTF), IFAD, IFPRI, UNESCO, UNICEF, World Bank, WFP and the WTO, is taking place at FAO Headquarters, in Rome.

The conference is reviewing progress made towards improving nutrition since 1992, reflecting on nutrition problems that remain, as well as, on the new challenges and opportunities for improving nutrition presented by changes in the global economy, in food systems, by advances in science and technology, and identifying policy options for improving nutrition.

Today, Pope Francis addressed political leaders attending the conference. The Pope told delegates from the 170 nations attending the conference to make sure their pledges to assure food security to all citizens are put into concrete practice, saying that the right to a healthy diet was about dignity, not charitable handouts.

Don’t miss any of the important statements and addresses which can be viewed online.

Changing the Economic Landscape for Women

Submitted by admin on November 19, 2014

By Gabriel Laizer, Partnerships and Outreach Coordinator, FAO-Washington, DC

The FAO’ s 2010 State of Food and Agriculture (SOFA) report concluded that if women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men, agricultural production could be increased and the number of hungry people reduced by 100-150 million. The report added that by just giving women the same access as men to agricultural resources, women farms will increase production in developing countries by 20 to 30 percent. With such evidence, why are women still facing hurdles in accessing economic resources as men?

Women Thrive Worldwide, an organization that amplifies the voices of women around the world who live on less than $2 a day, hosted a half-day Summit on November 13, 2014 in Washington, DC to address this question and to specifically look at ways to create an environment where  women in the developing countries can achieve economic success.

The Summit entitled, “Out of Extreme Poverty: Women Leading the Way”, brought together advocates, policy makers, and experts from the Global North and the Global South to exchange ideas on how to economically empower women. Featured speakers were Ms. Lydia Sasu, Executive Director of Development, Action Association, Ghana; Ms. Sylvia Torres, Gender Expert, Nicaragua; and Ms. Abbigail Muleya, Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, Zubo Trust, Zimbabwe. Each spoke passionately about the challenges facing rural women in their respective countries and offered some of the most innovative solutions that their organizations have devised to empower rural women.

They each highlighted the importance of engaging men in finding solutions to local problems. They noted that women’s empowerment doesn’t have to come at the cost of the disempowerment of men. The speakers also commented about the importance of engaging locally elected officials. Ms. Sasu in particular underlined the advocacy training that members of her association received from Women Thrive Worldwide. Such training helped her group advocate for better regulations in the fishing industry which were passed by the Ghanaian Parliament. Ms. Torres underscored how women in Nicaragua have been able to engage the government to pass better trade legislation that have made it possible for rural women to successfully export products to the United States.

The take home point of the Summit was the importance for both policy makers and advocates to listen to the voices of rural women. Rural women have solutions to their economic challenges. They are seeking partners to share with them their experiences in building skills and capacity and scaling up their small businesses. They are also looking to learn ways to effectively engage their elected officials. These are some of the solutions that a partnership between the Global North and Global South could offer rural women as they strive to change their economic landscape.

Youth Forum in Washington, DC to focus on Africa

Submitted by BarbaraEkwall on November 14, 2014

By Barbara Ekwall, Senior Liaison Officer, FAO-Washington, DC

The Africa Society of the National Summit on Africa and the World Affairs Council – Washington, DC is holding a forum entitled “Africa: A Continent for the 21st Century” on November 17, 2014 in Washington, DC.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has been invited to speak at this event to present FAO’s work in fighting hunger and malnutrition, to discuss why the world has an interest in ensuring food security for all, and explore how technology can improve countries’ capacities to meet global food security challenges. The role of young people in ensuring food security and nutrition for the world’s most disadvantaged populations will also be at the center of FAO’s short intervention.

This is a great occasion to draw attention to the Presidents United to Solve Hunger (PUSH) movement, where students are already now making a difference by encouraging their university’s leadership to sign the Presidents’ Commitment to Food and Nutrition Security.

Blog readers who are interested to learn more about FAO’s work in Africa are encouraged to visit the website of the FAO Regional Office in Accra, and read this document from the FAO Regional Conference for Africa that outlines the Organization’s priority in this important region.

EVENT ALERT: Accelerating the Impact of South-South and Triangular Cooperation on Food Security in Post-2015

Submitted by Lívia Pontes on November 13, 2014

WHAT: Global South-South Development Expo 2014, FAO Scaling-Up Session on “Accelerating the Impact of South-South and Triangular Cooperation on Food Security in Post-2015”

WHO: Festus Akinnifesi, FAO Chief of South-South Cooperation; Liu Zhongwei,  FAO Coordinator for the FAO/China SSC Programme at South-South Cooperation; Najla Veloso, FAO Brazil; Israel Klug, Purchase from Africans for Africa Initiative FAO programme coordinator, among others

WHEN: Tuesday, November 18, 11 am – 12:30 pm

WHERE: Organization of American States (OAS)

17th Street & Constitution Avenue, NW

Washington, DC, 20006

Register Here

The United Nations is hosting the Global South-South Development Expo 2014 in Washington, DC, between November 17-21, to promote evidence-based solutions to fight poverty. The Expo is part of a new inclusive global partnership for sustainable development. The “south-south” approach is focused on solutions that were invented and scaled up in developing countries, and seeks to facilitate their replication and expansion in nations in similar development stages.

FAO will host a session on “Accelerating the Impact of South-South and Triangular Cooperation on Food Security Post-2015.” We will showcase compelling, innovative and concrete South-South and Triangular Cooperation initiatives that have been tested and disseminated in the global South.

For more information and to register, click here.

Can Smallholder Farming Be Profitable and Sustainable?

Submitted by Gabriel Laizer on November 12, 2014

By Gabriel Laizer, Partnerships and Outreach Coordinator, FAO-Washington, DC

To celebrate 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming, the FAO office in Washington, DC in collaboration with the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa and the One Acre Fund hosted an informative and engaging side event at the World Food Prize Symposium in Des Moines, Iowa on October 15, 2014. Over 1,500 participants attended the Symposium which included speakers and experts from diverse perspectives such as governmental leaders, policymakers, CEOs and executives from agribusiness and NGOs, scientific and academic experts, development leaders and young leaders from around the world. The side event was part of our World Food Day activities on the theme of family farming.

The title of the event, organized by FAO’s office in Washington,DC, was “Making Family Farming Profitable and Sustainable: Linking Resource Access, Technological Progress and Effective Policies.” The goal of the side event was to raise awareness about the opportunities and challenges facing family farms in the 21st century, and share experiences and knowledge on interventions that are needed to make them profitable and sustainable. The side event featured two panel discussions, the first one focused on what smallholder farmers need to improve and to sustain their farming business and the second one on practical interventions, including technologies, policies and institutions needed to support such family farms.

The keynote speaker was Dr. Shenggen Fan, Director-General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) who highlighted specific issues that smallholder farmers need to improve in order to sustain their farming as businesses. Genuine smallholder farmers from the U.S and Ethiopia participated in the first panel. Hearing first-hand from smallholder farmers about the challenges they face as they try to feed their families and their communities was very valuable. The recognition that smallholder farmers in developing countries face similar challenges to their counterparts in developed countries was a point of agreement by all speakers. Additionally, both panelists highlighted the need for international institutions to do a better job at listening to and supporting solutions offered by smallholder farmers.

The overarching question at this year’s World Food Prize Symposium was, “can we sustainably feed the nine billion people on our planet by the year 2050?” The answer was a resounding yes. The panelists and attendees of the side event agreed that, as long as, smallholder farmers are given the right support in terms of inputs, access to financial resources and supportive policy environment, sufficient food will be produced to feed the additional two billion people by 2050.

Event Alert: FAO and National Geographic Host World Food Day Discussion Tomorrow

Submitted by Lívia Pontes on October 21, 2014

WHO: FAO and National Geographic

WHAT: World Food Day Discussion focusing on family farming. Speakers include the 2014 World Food Prize laureate Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram.

WHEN: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 from 12:00 PM to 3:00 PM


National Geographic Headquarters
Grosvenor Auditorium
1600 M Street NW
Washington, DC

Click here for more information. RSVP here.

Today’s Featured Perspectives Essay: Family Farmers Do More Than Feed the World

Submitted by admin on October 16, 2014

By United States Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack for the Perspectives Essay Series

The headlines today can often seem bleak: worries of terrorism, global health, climate change, drought and hunger dominate the news cycle. These are extraordinarily complex and challenging issues that will impact and forever transform the lives of future generations.

Solving them is not simply about military or economic might. While they are not always fully appreciated and recognized for their capacity to address these challenges, I believe the role that agriculture and family farmers can play is significant.
At its simplest: addressing the core challenges of feeding the world and coping with climate change has implications that reach far beyond the borders of the United States. For many countries, a thriving agricultural economy is an important stepping stone out of conflict and into greater security.

We have a global responsibility to work together, share information and lift each other up as we resolve these issues challenges. Contrary to what you may hear from some in Washington, climate change is a problem and we must take action. We have already begun an earnest global discussion about what agriculture can do to lessen its impact. Last month, the United States, along with several of its country partners at the United Nations, signed on to a Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture—a coordinated, focused, and global effort on climate. The Alliance will help us to better integrate and coordinate research, so that we as a world community can do a better job of understanding and appreciating what it will take to improve agricultural resiliency and productivity.
It will also take substantial increases in agricultural innovation and the productivity of family farmers—but they can’t do it alone. We must agree to band as a global, united front, to be able to adequately feed the world in the future. Today, 825 million people are already food insecure. We can and we must do more to build a better future for those people and for future generations.

Some have estimated it will take as much innovation in agriculture in the next 40 years as in the preceding 10,000 years to be able to feed a growing population. For that, we’ll need expanded agricultural research, which has implications on human health as well. Access to higher quality foods, more nutritious foods, foods that will grow in drought or flood conditions is critically important to meeting nutrition needs—in terms of having both the right foods and enough of them, in the right places—and, as a consequence, improving global health outcomes.

To address these challenges, we have U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers at work in locations across the country to develop new ideas and test innovations. Equally critical is that we aren’t keeping these revelations to ourselves—we’re making the data and information available to scientists all over the world in the hopes that they’ll be able to use the information to expand our understanding and increase our efficiency.

Creating a more food secure world, a healthier world, with greater security for all is not a panacea. While it may not solve every problem that dominates the headlines today, what it will do is create hope, security and new opportunity for many people around the world.

Curated by the FAO Liaison Office for North America with the World Food Day Network, Perspectives is an essay series that digs deeper into the annual World Food Day theme. This year, read different points of view on the value and future of family farming from farmers, ranchers, and leaders in agriculture, research and economics. Two essays will be featured daily starting September 15 through October 16, World Food Day.

Today’s Featured Perspectives Essay: The Wealth of the Land and the Power of the People

Submitted by admin on October 16, 2014

By Willie Nelson, Founder and President of Farm Aid for the Perspectives Essay Series

Last month at Farm Aid 2014, I was lucky to meet Phillip Barker, a Black farmer who, like many minority farmers, lost much of his farmland as a result of discriminatory lending practices by banks and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Today, Phillip and his wife Dorathy farm the 20 acres they were able to hold on to in Oxford, North Carolina. Their farm is one of two Black dairy farming operations in the state of North Carolina. They also operate a non-profit organization, Operation Spring Plant, which provides resources and training to minority and limited resource farmers, including a program that introduces young people to farming and provides youth leadership training. Phillip said one of his goals is to provide tools for the next generation and to help young people “come back to the farm to understand the wealth of the land.”

“Wealth of the land.” That’s a powerful phrase.

Phillip believes the next generation must see a sustainable livelihood from the land, but the wealth he refers to can’t be measured only in dollars. It is measured in the experience of working on the land, tending the soil, and caring for the animals and crops that grow from it. It’s measured in the ability to be independent, to feed himself and his family. It’s measured in the way he and Dorathy sustain and strengthen their community. It’s measured in being rooted to a place, and passing something valuable to the next generation.

It seems to me that understanding the real wealth in the land is key to a sustainable future for all of us.

Our greatest challenge is in re-visioning how the majority see “wealth.” The wealth of the land cannot be boiled down to the investors’ return on investment. It cannot be gauged by the commodities it returns to us—in gallons of oil and bushels of corn.

The drive to extract as much value from the land as possible—to maximize production without regard to whether we’re exhausting the soil, to give over our farmland to Wall Street investors, to seize land held by families for generations for corporate profit—bankrupts the land, our food, our nation and our future.

We need to redefine wealth as the ability to make a decent living from the land as well as to sustain it for the next generation. To grow crops for food and fuel while simultaneously enriching the soil upon which future crops depend. To support a family and a community. To work in partnership with nature to protect our health and the health of our planet. As caretakers of our soil and water, this has been and always should be the essential role of the family farmer.

Today, fewer than 2% of us live on farms. Clearly, we can’t all be family farmers, but we can all shift our priorities to ensure we’re doing our best to support them and encourage new farmers to get started on the land. Playing music to bring awareness is how I started Farm Aid in 1985, and it’s how I continue to support the people who best know how to care for the land: our family farmers. Each and every one of us has the power to do what we can to support and sustain family farmers. Our common wealth depends on it.

Curated by the FAO Liaison Office for North America with the World Food Day Network, Perspectives is an essay series that digs deeper into the annual World Food Day theme. This year, read different points of view on the value and future of family farming from farmers, ranchers, and leaders in agriculture, research and economics. Two essays will be featured daily starting September 15 through October 16, World Food Day.

Today’s Featured Perspectives Essay: Farmers-First for Food Security

Submitted by admin on October 16, 2014

By the Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, Canada for the Perspectives Essay Series

There is no doubt that family farms are the cornerstone  to our agricultural production, making a vital contribution to economic prosperity and food security the world over. In Canada, some 98% of farms are family owned and operated. In order to put farmers first, Governments must give farmers access to the tools they need to pursue new practices, new technologies, and capture new markets.  This in turn will enable farmers to improve their incomes, support their families, and feed the world.

Canadian farmers are doing their part. As the world’s fifth largest agricultural exporter, Canada is helping to feed the world. Equally important, we are helping our trading partners strengthen their own production through leading-edge technology, from animal genetics to agronomics, to food storage and logistics.

The other key to strengthening the farm gate and food security is trade. Trade that is based on clear rules and sound science reduces price volatility, increases access to food, and helps farmers earn better incomes. To ensure that all countries have equal access to food at stable prices, we need to continue to improve market access by adopting science-based standards.

The future holds challenges and opportunities for the world’s farmers. Over the next three decades, we will need to significantly increase our agricultural productivity, while ensuring a sustainable footprint, just to meet anticipated demand. World Food Day reminds us of the need to meet this challenge and open the door to new opportunities for the world’s farmers by ensuring they have the best innovative, scientifically-proven tools in their toolbox and open access to growing global markets.

Curated by the FAO Liaison Office for North America with the World Food Day Network, Perspectives is an essay series that digs deeper into the annual World Food Day theme. This year, read different points of view on the value and future of family farming from farmers, ranchers, and leaders in agriculture, research and economics. Two essays will be featured daily starting September 15 through October 16, World Food Day.

Today’s Featured Perspectives Essays: Once hungry but now with food all year round

Submitted by admin on October 15, 2014

By Rodgers Mwandira, Family Farmer, Mzimba, Malawi, care of FAO-Malawi for the Perspectives Essay Series

I’m 42 years old and married to Harriet who is 41 years. I have seven children – four girls and three boys, the first born being a 23-year-old daughter and last born is a son, aged four. I’m from Mswamphira village, in Traditional Authority Mabilabo, south of Mzimba district in Malawi.

I’m a proud smallholder irrigation farmer, and belong to Mswamphira Irrigation Scheme as a member. I started serious farming in 2001 when hunger struck Malawi. By that time, I was very poor and living in grass-thatched house with nothing to show for wealth, except for my children.

Malnutrition among our children in the village and the surrounding areas was frighteningly high and rampant. As a result, we lost some children to hunger-related illness.

For such children under five, the situation was dire because most of them spent a good time at the nearby hospital’s Rehabilitation Unit. We were all affected and development, at a household level, plummeted significantly because we spent most our time with these children in hospital.

So, I asked myself whether I couldn’t do something to ensure that I have abundant nutritious foods for my children and avert malnutrition and deaths. This was the genesis and motivation for me to go into serious small-scale farming. Since then, I have no regrets at all and, as a family, we haven’t been affected by hunger since then and are living happily.

So how did I start, you may wish to know: I got a small fertilizer loan (two bags each of basal and top-dressing) from Catholic Development Commission (CADECOM), a church development arm of the Catholic Church in Malawi. I applied it to maize and lucky enough we had a good harvest that year.

I paid the loan with ease after selling the surplus maize. From the same profit, I managed to buy a cow, which has multiplied to four now. Of course, I started small by growing maize, Irish potatoes, tomatoes and vegetables like cabbage and continue to grow these crops up to now. I also raise cattle, goats, pigs and chickens. Since that time, I have been selling the surplus at Jenda Market – which is not so near from here because we spend close to K14, 000 ($35) per return trip to take our produce there for sale.

As I speak, I have enough maize to take me throughout the year, for food. I can also count four cattle, five goats, two pigs, eight chickens and an ox-cart – all these are the fruits of farming.

Honestly, we are now making profits from farming. I have even managed to build a house roofed with iron sheets and hope more good things are yet to come. Furthermore, out of my farming business, I have managed to send two children to Secondary School and I hope that the remaining five children will also face no financial hurdles to go for secondary education.

More importantly, I am food secure and eat six food groups all the time, after learning about the advantages of preparing nutritious foods for our children and us adults, thanks to FAO’s “Improving Food Security and Nutrition Policies and Programme Outreach (IFSN)” project with funding from the Flanders International Development Agency (FICA) .

My wife and I, together with our children, are very happy because we don’t buy food these days. That said, I also face a number of challenges in farming. Chief among them is the accessibility to markets. Where I go at Jenda Market to sell produce is far because I spend a lot of money and time on transport and I wish there was a market near-by.

The second challenge is that the price of fertilizers is expensive as it keeps on rising and, this alone, is deterrent enough to most of us small-holder farmers. Related to fertilizers, good quality certified seeds is a challenge and if we find them, they are exorbitantly too expensive to most of us smallholders. And I can’t not talk more enough about the challenge of pesticides and equipment like spraying machines, wheelbarrow and watering canes. In short, infrastructure is a big challenge for me to upscale agriculture production as I wished.

Talking about this year’s World Food Day theme – “Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth”, I think this is a very relevant and appropriate theme for me because it tallies well with what I am doing in irrigated agriculture and the modern technologies we are adopting in our small farms.

It makes a lot of sense that while we want to increase production of our maize and other cereals, as well as livestock, as farmers we should also be thinking of the fields or gardens as well as environment on which our livelihoods depends.

The only problem I have is that much as some of us find sense in conserving the environment, there is a whole lot of irresponsible subsistence farming practices, contrary to what some of us are practicing to ensure healthy environments. There is too much cutting of trees around this area, burning of bushes and burning of bricks for building houses – all of which contribute to destruction of the environment which has a negative impact on agricultural production.

So, in view of that, I think some of us who know the devastating effects of these unfriendly and unhealthy ecological practices have a huge role to enlighten our fellow farmers on proper farming practices to ensure that our children should also find the same environment in good shape. We have a role to spread the message ever more, far and deep enough.

Of course, talk of farming appear cheap and easy to most people, especially those who are not familiar with farming. On the contrary, family farming is big business and requires focus and good planning. You need good understanding and communication between a husband and a wife if you are to succeed as a farmer. You need to plan together and walk through the implementation of the plan together.

Failing to plan is also planning to fail. In my view – which is shared by wife – these are some of salient issues most people don’t know about small-scale farming.

Based on what I have said above, I don’t see the future of farming being that bright unless certain things are addressed. I think the government holds the key to the future of farming for most of us smallholders. The government needs to regulate the agriculture sector by working on reducing the price of inputs especially fertilizers which are too expensive to most of smallholders.

Accessibility in terms of good road network, distance and time-spent to markets is another area government needs to work on. There is no point walking long and expensive distances only to sell produce whose net value roughly equals the cost of transportation.

As for my children, yes, I involve them in farming most of the times. But I encourage them to go to school first because I don’t want them to take farming the way I do as an uneducated man. The future of my children is in education and not farming. There are already too many people in farming and I will not like to see education playing second fiddle to farming, as far as my children are concerned. Not in this age!

Look, much as some of us are privileged enough to get assistance from FAO projects, but if I were to ask for more supplementary help in my farming, I would ask people, donors or the government to address the challenges I have mentioned already – I think these are key. Access to markets, price of inputs and pesticides, equipment like wheelbarrows and canes etc.

And here is an advice to those who are willing to venture into farming: hard work is the mother of farming. Be willing to learn new farming technologies in view of the threat of climate change, these days. Above all, ask where you don’t understand because there are crops for every season and soil. If available, make use of government extension workers or lead farmers near you to become a successful smallholder farmer.

Curated by the FAO Liaison Office for North America with the World Food Day Network, Perspectives is an essay series that digs deeper into the annual World Food Day theme. This year, read different points of view on the value and future of family farming from farmers, ranchers, and leaders in agriculture, research and economics. Two essays will be featured daily starting September 15 through October 16, World Food Day.

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