The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) - Promoting rural development



Agrarian Reform and Rural Development

The World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (WCARRD), sponsored by FAO in cooperation with other agencies of the UN system, was held at FAO headquarters in Rome in 1979. It was attended by more than 100 ministers and deputy ministers and some 1,400 other delegates from 145 countries. The conference approved a Declaration of Principles and a Program of Action to provide a framework for the reorientation of development policy and strategy toward greater participation and equity for rural people in the development process. FAO is the UN's lead agency for the implementation of the WCARRD program of action. Much of the work involves field projects to promote agrarian reform, land tenure improvement, and land settlement.

FAO helped to establish three regional centers to assist countries in the implementation of the program of action, and more generally, to coordinate activities in the area of integrated rural development at national level. The Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) is located in Dakha, Bangladesh; the Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Africa (CIRDAFRICA) is located in Arusha, Tanzania; and the Centre for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development for the Near East (CARDNE) is located in Amman, Jordan.

Activities related to rural development form an integral and permanent part of FAO's mainstream program. Every four years, the secretariat assists governments in the preparation of progress reports on implementation of the WCARRD program of action. FAO has organized intergovernmental consultations on WCARRD follow-up in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean. Interagency and Expert Consultations have been convened by FAO regional offices. Finally, at the request of member countries, FAO has fielded high-level WCARRD follow-up missions to assist governments in reviewing national rural development and agrarian reform strategies.

This support is especially crucial in the context of the transition from central planning and control to market orientation being undergone by numerous countries.

Aid to Small Farmers

Close to half of the world's population lives in the rural areas of the developing countries. The majority of these people can be considered poor, they have very small agricultural holdings from which to derive their existence. It is often difficult for small farmers to make their voices heard in the social, economic, and political power structures.

FAO has numerous programs devoted to helping small farmers, taking into consideration the smallholders' needs, motivations, capabilities, risks, and resources, and how these factors affect the production and marketing of produce or its use by the farm family. Governments are encouraged to consider the rural poor in their policies and planning, providing the necessary inputs at the right time, in reasonable quantities, and at acceptable prices. Emphasis is also placed on building collective strength among farmers for identifying and finding solutions to their problems and preparing production plans on the basis of their particular needs and priorities. Farmer self-help organizations are assisted in planning and managing their credit requirements, and improved access to credit is stressed.

The Role of Women

Women play a crucial role in agricultural development, yet they are perhaps the least integrated of the players in the development process. FAO recognizes the vital importance of the full integration of women, and has developed a Plan of Action for the Integration of Rural Women into the Development Process. The plan outlines four principal areas of activity, focusing on the civil status, economic, social, and decision-making spheres of rural women. The plan of action outlines activities in each of these spheres to remove existing barriers to women and foster their potential. FAO's approach involves implementation of projects directed exclusively at women, as well as support for the concerns of women in all FAO's projects and activities.

Nutrition

FAO plays a key role in helping countries improve nutrition, promote healthy diets, and ensure access to safe food. Prime areas of interest include food quality control; handling, processing, and storage; household food security; forestry, fisheries, crop production, and local foods; and nutrition monitoring, assessment, planning, education, and information.

In 1992, the organization cosponsored with WHO the International Conference on Nutrition (see Food Security). The conference adopted a Declaration and Plan of Action for Nutrition. The countries at the conference composed a World Declaration on Nutrition and pledged their adherence to a plan of action for the coming decades. The World Declaration reaffirmed that "poverty and lack of education, which are often the effects of underdevelopment, are the primary causes of hunger and undernutrition."

Members of FAO
(as of March 2003)

Afghanistan
Albania
Algeria
Angola
Antigua and Barbuda
Argentina
Armenia
Australia
Austria
Azerbaijan
Bahamas
Bahrain
Bangladesh
Barbados
Belgium
Belize
Benin
Bhutan
Bolivia
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Botswana
Brazil
Bulgaria
Burkina Faso
Burundi
Cambodia
Cameroon
Canada
Cape Verde
Central African Republic
Chad
Chile
China
Colombia
Comoros
Congo
Congo, Democratic Republic of the
Cook Islands
Costa Rica
Côte d'Ivoire
Croatia
Cuba
Cyprus
Czech Republic
Denmark
Djibouti
Dominica
Dominican Republic
Ecuador
Egypt
El Salvador
Equatorial Guinea
Eritrea
Estonia
Ethiopia
European Economic Community (Member Organization)
Fiji
Finland
France
Gabon
Gambia
Georgia
Germany
Ghana
Greece
Grenada
Guatemala
Guinea
Guinea-Bissau
Guyana
Haiti
Honduras
Hungary
Iceland
India
Indonesia
Iran, Islamic Republic of
Iraq
Ireland
Israel
Italy
Jamaica
Japan
Jordan
Kazakhstan
Kenya
Kiribati
Korea, Democratic People's Republic of
Korea, Republic of
Kuwait
Kyrgyz Republic
Laos
Latvia
Lebanon
Lesotho
Liberia
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya
Lithuania
Luxembourg
Madagascar
Malawi
Malaysia
Maldives
Mali
Malta
Marshall Islands
Mauritania
Mauritius
Mexico
Moldova
Monaco
Mongolia
Morocco
Mozambique
Myanmar
Namibia
Nauru
Nepal
Netherlands
New Zealand
Nicaragua
Niger
Nigeria
Niue
Norway
Oman
Pakistan
Palau
Panama
Papua New Guinea
Paraguay
Peru
Philippines
Poland
Portugal
Puerto Rico (Associate Member)
Qatar
Romania
Rwanda
St. Kitts and Nevis
St. Lucia
St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Samoa
San Marino
São Tomé and Príncipe
Saudi Arabia
Senegal
Seychelles
Sierra Leone
Slovakia
Slovenia
Solomon Islands
Somalia
South Africa
Spain
Sri Lanka
Sudan
Suriname
Swaziland
Sweden
Switzerland
Syria
Tajikistan
Tanzania
Thailand
The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Togo
Tonga
Trinidad and Tobago
Tunisia
Turkey
Turkmenistan
Uganda
United Arab Emirates
United Kingdom
United States of America
Uruguay
Uzbekistan
Vanuatu
Venezuela
Vietnam
Yemen

It emphasized the need to identify the groups most in need, targeting nutritional resources first and foremost to alleviating their lot. It also stressed that food should not be used as a tool for political pressure. The importance of building knowledge among vulnerable groups through nutrition education was highlighted, as was the need for better preparedness for food emergencies resulting from civil strife and natural disasters.

The plan of action provides guidelines for governments, acting in partnership with NGOs, the private sector, local communities, families and households, and the international community. It contains recommendations on policies, programs, and activities identified through the intensive ICN consultative process and brings together a wide range of expert opinion from around the world. The 159 nations that participated in the ICN committed themselves to developing national nutrition plans with attainable goals and measurable targets. In the continuing follow-up to the ICN, FAO is assisting many governments in preparing national plans of action for nutrition. To support the process, the document "Guidelines for Developing National Plans of Action for Nutrition" was distributed to member governments.

Many FAO nutrition projects work towards improving knowledge of nutrition within households, and particularly among women. Awareness of the need to improve the frequency and quality of meals is built up through participatory, pilot-family programs concentrating on nutrition education and home gardening. Households are encouraged either to grow the foods they need to fill their dietary gaps or to use income from home gardens to purchase vitamin-and-mineral-rich fruits and vegetables they cannot easily cultivate.

FAO has produced country nutrition profiles for 100 developing countries to provide a concise view of their food and nutrition status, agricultural production, and economic and demographic situation. Country profiles are used by governments and institutions for planning and training. FAO advocates incorporating nutritional information in early warning networks to supplement agricultural production data.

The Codex Alimentarius (see Advice to Governments) contributes to raising nutritional status by developing international standards, codes of practice, and other recommendations for food quality to protect consumer health and encourage fair trading practices in the food trade. As of 2002, 167 countries were members of the Codex Alimentarius Commission.

FAO's World Food Survey, published about once a decade, provides as complete a picture as possible of the world food and nutrition situation. It includes food balance sheets for almost all countries and, increasingly, household food-consumption surveys for developing countries.

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