The United Nations FAO

The Food and Agriculture Organization was founded in October 1945 with a mandate to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity, and to better the condition of rural populations.




What is FAO?

Today, FAO is the largest autonomous agency within the United Nations system with 180 Member Nations plus the European Community (Member Organization) and more than 3 700 staff members – 1 400 professional and 2 300 general service staff. The Organization’s 2000-2001 biennial budget is set at $650 million and FAO-assisted projects attract more than $300 million per year from donor agencies and governments for investment in agricultural and

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rural development projects.

Since its inception, FAO has worked to alleviate poverty and hunger by promoting agricultural development, improved nutrition and the pursuit of food security – the access of all people at all times to the food they need for an active and healthy life. The Organization offers direct development assistance, collects, analyses and disseminates information, provides policy and planning advice to governments and acts as an international forum for debate on food and agriculture issues.

FAO is active in land and water development, plant and animal production, forestry, fisheries, economic and social policy, investment, nutrition, food standards and commodities and trade. It also plays a major role in dealing with food and agri cultural emergencies.

A specific priority of the Organization is encouraging sustainable agriculture and rural development, a long-term strategy for the conservation and management of natural resources. It aims to meet the needs of both present and future generations through programmes that do not degrade the environment and are technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.



FAO provides support to member countries and development partners in sustainable natural resource management for conservation, sustainable use and equity goals, including agricultural water use efficiency; land and soil productivity; sustainable forest management, aquaculture and inland fisheries; integrated crop and livestock systems; pesticide management and watershed management. FAO also supports implementation of the major environmental conventions, namely, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD).


Natural resource management:

Sustainable use of natural resources, particularly land, water, forestry, fishery, genetic resources and biodiversity, is fundamental to economic and social development. FAO provides technical and policy advice to address the main threats to the natural resource base, which include land degradation, water scarcity, deforestation, overgrazing, over exploitation of marine resources, increased green house gas emissions and loss of genetic

resources and biological diversity. FAO also supports sustainable development efforts in fragile and marginal areas such as drylands, mountain and coastal areas where the majority of the poor are concentrated. The Organization develops improved responses to global environmental challenges affecting food and agriculture, notably climate change, bioenergy and biodiversity.



FAO helps countries manage their forests in a sustainable way. The Organization’s approach balances social, economic and environmental objectives so that present generations can reap the benefits of the Earth’s forest resources while conserving them to meet the needs of future generations. FAO helps countries to strengthen their capacities and to overcome the obstacles to sustainable forest management by providing reliable information, policy advice, and technical assistance. FAO is part of the UN Programme to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD), and supports the development of cost effective methods to monitor emission reductions.



Aquatic ecosystems and fisheries:

Aquatic ecosystems – inland, coastal and marine – provide humans with resources for food and livelihoods. They also perform many other important environmental functions, contributing to general human well-being. Achieving sustainable use of aquatic ecosystems has been the main objective of fisheries management for decades.

The FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, adopted in 1995, is considered to be the basis on which to promote sustainable fisheries and aquaculture development for the future. The code pays due attention to the environmental aspects of the sector.



In the face of increasing water scarcity and the dominance of agricultural water use, FAO is addressing water use efficiency and productivity. FAO focuses on best practices for water use and conservation, including integrated water resources management, water harvesting, modernization of irrigation systems, on-farm water management, drought impact mitigation and institutional capacities.

FAO also contributes to the formulation of national and regional water management strategies. AQUASTAT, FAO’s global information system on water and agriculture, collects, analyses and disseminates information on water resources and agricultural water use in member countries. FAO contributes extensively to the UN World Water Development Report.



Aware of the importance of biodiversity for food and agriculture, FAO established the Commission on Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (CGRFA) in 1983. It aims to ensure the conservation and sustainable utilization of genetic resources for food and agriculture, as well as the fair and equitable sharing of benefits derived from their use for present and future generations. The Commission is a permanent forum for governments to discuss and negotiate matters relating to genetic resources for food and agriculture. The Commission negotiated, inter alia, the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the Global Plan of Action for plant and animal genetic resources.


Soil and land:

Soil and land are the basis for enhanced food security and provide vital ecosystem services such as maintaining the water cycle and biodiversity and absorbing carbon dioxide. FAO assesses land degradation globally, nationally and locally and promotes wide adoption of improved sustainable land management technologies and practices.



The work of FAO on renewable sources of energy has been continuous since the UN Conference on New and Renewable Sources of Energy in 1981. Since 2006, FAO has carried out significant work on the links between food security and bioenergy development. Recent activities include the promotion of small-scale bioenergy aimed at improving access to modern forms of low-carbon energy for rural populations, as a key way to maintain and improve food security in the context of climate change.


Climate change:

Climate change and variability are having a profound impact on croplands, pastures and forests, which occupy 60 percent of the Earth’s surface. This is slowing progress towards the achievement of the MDGs, especially those dealing with hunger and poverty reduction and ensuring environmental sustainability. FAO’s work covers a broad spectrum of activities that range from local to global and from immediate actions to long-term strategies for dealing with climate change. FAO places particular importance on identifying opportunities and practices that have potential to promote synergies between adaptation and mitigation. FAO strengthens member countries’ capacity to integrate climate change concerns into food security and development planning in the agriculture, forestry and fisheries sectors and in sustainable food production.

Tracy Crawford

CEO | Rain8 Group LLC

Source: End Poverty 2015 Millennium Campaign