THE WORLD FOOD DAY AND TELEFOOD CELEBRATION 2001 FAO Representative to Yemen Times: “Celebrating the World Food Day aims at raising public awareness and making the process of participation a gateway to agricultural development” [Archives:2001/43/Interview]

October 22 2001

On the occasion of celebrating the World Food Day and TeleFood which took place on the 16th of October, people of the world should be aware of the critical problem of food security.
This year’s world’s food day theme is: “Fight Hunger to Reduce Poverty.” But, in reality, we find lots of people starving on a daily basis. Our question should be,will we be able to realize the dream of a world without hunger? On this occasion, Ismail Al-Ghabri of Yemen Times met with Abdullatef Tabet, FAO Representative in Yemen, and conducted the following interview:
Q: What is FAO?
A: The Food and Agriculture Organization was founded in 1945 with a mandate to increase nutrition levels and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity, and to enhance living conditions of rural populations.
Today, FAO is the largest specialized agency within the United Nations system and the lead agency for agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and rural development. As an intergovernmental organization, FAO has 175 member-nations as well as a member organization, the European Community.
Since its inception, FAO has worked hard to alleviate poverty and hunger by promoting agricultural development, improved nutrition and the pursuit of food security – i.e. the access of all to the food they need for an active and healthy life.
A specific priority of the organization is to encourage sustainable agriculture and rural development as a long-term strategy for increasing food production and food security while preserving and managing natural resources. The goal is to meet the needs of both present and future generations by promoting development which does not harm the environment and which is technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.
Q: Why does the FAO celebrate this occasion?
A: The world celebrates the World Food Day and TeleFood every year on the same day of the foundation of the FAO 56 years ago in 1945.
It is an occasion to assess the results achieved by the international community to alleviate food shortages and its effects, particularly hunger, on weakened populations. At the same time, it is an opportunity to plan future activities and readjust policies and programs aimed at combating poverty and hunger. It is also a day of information and creation of awareness about food scarcity.
In 1996, FAO prepared and hosted the World Food Summit which was attended by heads of state of more than 185 countries. It was the largest and most important event on food security that the world has ever known. During this summit, the international community made a firm commitment to reduce by half the number of hungry people by the year 2015. At that time, it was estimated that some 800 million people go to bed without having enough to eat. The goal set by the World Food Summit was therefore very ambitious.
Q: What are the main objectives of TeleFood? Kindly shed some light on the theme of this year’s World Food Day Celebration.
A: This year’s World Food Day theme is ” Fight Hunger to Reduce Poverty,” which underscores the necessity of refocusing attention on hunger. FAO asserts that fighting hunger must be the first step to reduce poverty. People are the engine of a nation’s growth and food is their fuel.
“We cannot assume that hunger will disappear as a by-product of poverty elimination,” says FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf. “A sharper focus is needed on hunger and agricultural development within the broader objective of poverty reduction.”
TeleFood aims to increase awareness of world public opinion about hunger. Donations to TeleFood can fund small, self-contained agriculture, livestock and fisheries projects that help poor families produce more food. The projects, which cost between US$5,000 and US$10,000, pay for inputs such as seeds and simple farming tools. It has to be mentioned that not a penny is spent on administrative costs.
Q: Can you discuss the World Food Summit five years later?
A: It is a global forum that will find solutions to end hunger and identify ways to accelerate the process.
* Review advances made since the 1996 World Food Summit
* Outline the measures leaders envisage to reach the goals
* Mobilize political will and resources to move forward at an accelerated pace. Attendees including the heads of states and government and high officials from 185 countries pledged their commitment to eradicate hunger and resolved the halve by the year 2015 the number of the hungry people which today is at 800 million.
Q: What is the state of food insecurity in the world?
A: Latest estimates indicate that roughly 926 million people are undernourished – 792 million people in the developing world and 34 million in the developed world. Although these figures represent no change from the previous reporting period, new projections for 2015 and 2030 suggest some progress, even without additional efforts. By 2015, for example, the number of undernourished in the developing world should fall to around 580 million. This still lies far short of the World Food Summit goal of reducing the number to 400 million. That goal will not be reached until 2030 according to current projections.
If the goal were applied regionally there would be both good and bad. South and East Asia would likely approach the target, while Sub-Saharan Africa and the Near East and North Africa would probably remain far behind. Latin America and the Carribean would fall somewhere in between. Asia’s sunnier outlook is partially attributable to economic expansion and slowing population growth in the world’s two largest countries, China and India. Sub-Saharan Africa faces greater challenges. Most of the world’s poorest and most conflict-ridden countries are located here, where prevalence of undernourishment is high and prospects for rapid economic growth limited.
Q: What are the most important programs and forms of assistance given by FAO to Yemen? And what volume of aid programs has FAO implemented in the past and this year?
A: FAO has been associated with Yemen’s efforts to develop is agricultural production/food security and the rural development endeavors in the country over the past 40 years. FAO witnessed, as a full partner, all the great achievements that were obtained by Yemen in this vital sector of the national economy, and has, with all modesty, participated through its technical expertise and advisory services, in the progress accomplished so far.
FAO is not a financing institution, but it is a specialized UN Agency that provides technical assistance, through programs and projects, which are funded/financially supported by donors and funding institutions (i.e. UNDP, UNFPA and UN/Multilateral organizations, the World Bank and donor countries).
In addition, FAO provides technical assistance and support from its regular program sources, TCP, (Technical Cooperation Program), for specific actions in the agricultural sector development subjects, along well defined criteria and funding limitations and durations.
FAO’s interventions in Yemen have covered many different fields, from agricultural policy advice and planning, to the support of food security programs, to environmental protection and natural resources management for sustainable development (particularly water resources and land/soils resources), specific crops development and promotion, plant protection, livestock production and animal health, forestry/range management and desertification control, nutrition aspects support to agricultural extension and agronomic research, agricultural marketing and credit, fisheries development, training on a short-term and long-term basis, etc..
It is not possible at this stage to get into the details of FAO’s participation in specific projects over the past 40 years, for all the subjects mentioned above as FAO’s programs are sometimes multipurpose, covering more than one subject, and overlap over different periods, since the life cycle of the projects could vary from one to two years to many years, as much as ten years for some programs.
FAO Program in Yemen (Y2001)
The presently ongoing program/projects, that are under implementation during the year 2001, cover the following subjects:
1. FAO Technical Cooperation Program (TCP)
– Surveillance and Strategy Formulation for Rinderpest and other Major Diseases, US$244,000
– Special Program for Food Security, Water Control Component, US$346,000
– Assistance to at Policy Formulation, US$238,000
– Support for the Establishment of a National Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information and Mapping System (FIVIMS) US$249,000
– Improvement of Date Palm Production US$288,000
2. UN Program Funding:
– Sustainable Environmental Management, US$694,700
– Sustainable Water Resources Management, US$856,000
– Poverty Eradication and Employment Generation, US$369,708
– Reproductive Health and Gender Integration in Education Curricula, US$496,268
– Wholesale Fruit and Vegetable Market in Al-Husainiyah, US$500,000
3. Unilateral Trust Funds (Yemen/World Bank)
– Unilateral Trust Fund
– Fisheries Development – Phase IV, US$500,000
– Wadi Hadramaut Agricultural Project, US$2,751,268
– Technical Assistance to Land and Water Conservation Project, Forestry Component, US$2,751,268
– Technical Assistance to Land and Water Conservation Project, Water Resources Component, US$1,382,137
– Support to Agriculture Sector, Agenda Two US$61,000
4. Donor Countries’ Funding (Netherlands Government):
– Watershed Management & Wastewater Reuse in the Peri-Urban Areas of Yemen, US$4,557,000, to be completed in March 2002
– Environmental Resource Assessment for Rural Land Use Planning US$5,198,000, to be completed in May 2002
– Disposal Operations of Old Pesticides in Surdood, US$1,152,000
5. FAO Normative Work
In addition to the above, FAO provides technical support, advisory services, training and expert consultation through its normative activities (Regular Program budget), by the various technical departments and units at FAO Headquarters in Rome and at the FAO Near East Regional Office in Cairo.
Special programs that were undertaken recently by FAO on the global level are also covering Yemen and contribute to its efforts in food security endeavors, such as the Special Program for Food Security (SPFS), which is mentioned above as an FAO/TCP project, and also the microprojects of TeleFood, which are targeting the poor farmers and producers at the community level, and which are financed by voluntary contributions collected worldwide during the World Food Day/TeleFood campaigns. In Yemen, there were 7 TeleFood projects during the biennium 1998-99 and presently (biennium 2000-2001), there are seven new TeleFood projects on small livestock activities and agriculture.
During the present year, FAO is in the process of preparing programs in the following areas:
– Natural Resources Management/ Combating Desertification
– Development of Cash Crops (date palm, coffee, mango and olives)
– Fisheries Development in Yemen
There is close cooperation among the interested partners, shareholders, government services and potential donors. The governmental sector includes the Ministry of Planning, Agriculture, Fisheries, the Environmental Protection Authority, regional development entities, Agricultural Research and Extension, Sana’a University and the Department of Agriculture. Potential donors include the UNDP and other UN agencies and the World Bank. The European Community involvement consists of major donor countries such as Netherlands, USA, Germany, etc.
The basic work for field program development is undertaken by national consultants and is supported by FAO technical services in Rome and Cairo. Eventual participation of international consultants may be required.