FAO in North America

Scaling Up Solutions: Fighting Poverty through South-South and Triangular Cooperation

Submitted by Lívia Pontes on November 25, 2014

By Livia Pontes, Communications Consultant, FAO-Washington, DC

Last week, delegates from around the world gathered in Washington, DC to attend the annual Global South-South Development Expo (GSSD) and share experiences on “Scaling up South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Sustainable Development.” The GSSD Expo was hosted by the Organization of American States (OAS), and was co-organized by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation.

What is South-South Cooperation? In the past 30 years, countries’ approach to development has changed significantly. Major UN agencies often in charge of coordinating projects around the world have adapted and changed the way they work, focusing on the most effective and sustainable ways to improve livelihoods.

South-South Cooperation (SSC) is part of this new approach: it fosters collaboration among countries in similar development stages facing similar challenges in areas ranging from nutrition to infrastructure. It is about sharing and exchanging development solutions – knowledge, experiences and good practices, policies, technology, and resources – between and among countries in the global South.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) brought together 11 panellists at a special session on “Accelerating the Impact of South-South and Triangular Cooperation on Food Security Post-2015.” FAO staff from Brazil, Rome, China and representatives from governments and NGOs in Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, and Uganda, among others, presented food security and nutrition programs based on the South-South approach.

Initiatives included:

  • Scaling-up conservation agriculture (CA) in Southern Africa, where information tours promoted awareness and best practices for CA among farmers and policy makers;
  • The Purchase from Africans for Africa program where family farmers are able to supply nutritious meals for school children, while at the same time promoting local agricultural production and development, based on the Brazilian experiment;
  • The promotion of rice-fish systems, tapping ancient Chinese know-how to address production gap and enhance adaptability of Africa’s agricultural landscapes;
  • And a school feeding program inspired by Brazil’s successful experiment, which is currently being implemented throughout a dozen countries in Latin America.

SSC enables developing countries to jump-start and benefit from innovations, lessons and good practices, tried and tested elsewhere in the South without having to re-invent the wheel. This development approach has never been more in demand, and major donors such as Brazil, China and Mexico are supporting FAO’s efforts to increase it and foster collaboration among developing countries. Each year, GSSD is hosted in a different country. To learn more about this year’s event and follow-up on progress, visit: http://www.southsouthexpo.org/.

To learn more about FAO’s work in the area of South-South cooperation and the above projects, visit: http://www.fao.org/partnerships/south-south-cooperation/en/

Click here to hear Festus Akinnifesi, Chief of South-South Cooperation talk about South-South Cooperation on CCTV America.

The “Third Way” of Women’s Empowerment

Submitted by Gabriel Laizer on November 24, 2014

Today, Bread for the World Institute launched its 2015 Hunger Report at the National Press Club in Washington DC.  “When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger” identifies the empowerment of women and girls as essential in ending hunger, extreme poverty, and malnutrition around the world and in the United States.  The report makes several references to the publication by the Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations (FAO) entitled “Women in Agriculture: Closing the Gender Gap for Development” and also draws data from the FAO’s  2009 State of Food Insecurity in the World which showed that “economic crisis are far more deadly for infant girls than boys.”

The FAO Liaison Office in Washington, DC has been a strong partner of the Bread for the World Institute and participated in the consultation for the 2015 Hunger Report preparation. Over the last several years, FAO-Washington, DC has financially assisted Bread for the World Institute to print and disseminate the Hunger Report.  FAO-Washington, DC values our partnership with the Bread for the World Institute and believes that the Hunger Report is a great tool in promoting the fight against hunger and extreme poverty.

This blog has been crossposted in full with permission from Bread for the World Institute.

By Todd Post, Senior Editor of the Hunger Report, Bread for the World Institute

Policy discussions of U.S. development assistance that promote women’s empowerment tend to head in two directions: improving women’s ability to participate in the economy and increasing girls’ enrollment in school.

There’s no question that policymakers should indeed be talking about these dimensions of empowerment. But I wish they’d also talk about what I’ll describe as a “third way”: increasing the share of women leaders in government. Here we scarcely hear a word.

The eight Millennium Development Goals include a goal to promote gender equality and empower women. One of the targets is to increase the percentage of women in national parliaments to 33 percent. Globally, women currently hold about 25 percent of seats in national parliaments. Given that women are half the population, I think it’s fair to say that they are still grossly underrepresented in government leadership. In addition to the obvious injustice here, there are implications for efforts to end hunger and poverty. Experience worldwide shows that when women gain a larger share of political power, governments enact more policies that reduce gender inequalities and promote women’s empowerment.

Earlier this year I was in Rwanda, the only country in the world where women hold a majority of the seats in the national parliament. Sixty-three percent of Rwandan parliamentarians are women. One way countries have increased the share of women in parliament is by reserving a fixed percentage of seats for women. These countries include Rwanda, which reserves 30 percent of seats for women. But in the last three election cycles, women’s share of parliamentary seats has increased from 49 percent to 56 percent to 63 percent. Clearly, it’s more than the reservation policy that has brought a majority female parliament to Rwanda.

I went to Rwanda because I wanted to see the effects on policy development of having a majority of women in parliament, and I guess I wanted also to test my own assumptions about women’s leadership. I tend to think that the fastest way to reduce gender inequality and promote women’s empowerment is to elect more women to office. I’m all for improving women’s ability to participate in the economy and increasing enrollment rates of girls in school, but those are part of the longer-term strategy. A reservation policy allows a society to put gender equity on the fast track by giving a jolt to the status quo.

Having a female parliamentary majority has made Rwanda a more equitable society. For example, all proposed legislation is reviewed to determine whether it perpetuates or reduces gender bias. No piece of legislation that moves through parliament escapes this scrutiny. That’s the kind of jolt I’m talking about.

In the 2015 Bread for the World Institute Hunger Report, When Women Flourish…We Can End Hunger, we recommend that all U.S. development assistance include similar gender analysis – aimed at ensuring that policies and programs do not perpetuate gender inequalities or discriminate against women and girls. In practice, this would mean, for instance, that agricultural development assistance must serve female and male farmers equitably.

A major change like this might even produce a great enough seismic effect to affect how the U.S. government conducts domestic policy. Here in the United States, women hold less than 20 percent of seats in Congress. In the 1970s, when Congress was debating the Equal Rights Amendment, policymakers considered congressional reservations as a way of giving women more political voice. This was not the sole reason the ERA failed to gain ratification, but an association with the ERA may be one reason we scarcely ever hear members of Congress — including women — talk about political reservations as a strategy to increase the share of women in Congress.

It is difficult to imagine what the impact on legislation of a female majority in Congress would be. Perhaps there would be no difference at all, although I doubt it. There is too much room for improvement. Just one example: the United States remains the only developed country in the world that does not offer paid maternity leave. I suspect that would change if there were a majority of women in Congress.

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.

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