An intergovernmental organization, FAO has 194 Member Nations, two associate members and one member organization, the European Union. Its employees come from various cultural backgrounds and are experts in the multiple fields of activity FAO engages in. FAO’s staff capacity allows it to support improved governance inter alia, generate, develop and adapt existing tools and guidelines and provide targeted governance support as a resource to country and regional level FAO offices. Headquartered in Rome, Italy, FAO is present in over 130 countries.
To meet the demands posed by major global trends in agricultural development and challenges faced by member nations, FAO has identified key priorities on which it is best placed to intervene. A comprehensive review of the Organization’s comparative advantages was undertaken which enabled strategic objectives to be set, representing the main areas of work on which FAO will concentrate its efforts in striving to achieve its vision and global goals.
Its challenge: there is sufficient capacity in the world to produce enough food to feed everyone adequately; nevertheless, in spite of progress made over the last two decades, 870 million people still suffer from chronic hunger. Among children, it is estimated that 171 million under five years of age are chronically malnourished (stunted), almost 104 million are underweight, and about 55 million are acutely malnourished (wasted).
The mandate is to support members in their efforts to ensure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food. It can help by supporting policies and political commitments that promote food security and good nutrition and by making sure that up-to-date information about hunger and malnutrition challenges and solutions is available and accessible.
The world’s population is predicted to increase to 9 billion people by 2050. Some of the world’s highest rates of population growth are predicted to occur in areas that are highly dependent on the agriculture sector (crops. Livestock, forestry and fisheries) and have high rates of food insecurity. Growth in the agriculture sector is one of the most effective means of reducing poverty and achieving food security. It must ensure that increased productivity does not only benefit the few, and that the natural resource base can provide services (pollination, nutrient cycling in soils, quality water, etc.) that enhance sustainability.
Most of the world’s poor live in rural areas. Hunger and food insecurity above all are expressions of rural poverty. Reducing rural poverty, therefore, is central to FAO’s mission. Many living in rural areas have been lifted out of poverty in recent decades. In 1990, 54% of those living in rural areas in developing countries lived on less than $1.25 a day and were considered extremely poor. By 2010, this share had dropped to 35%. Rural poverty remains widespread especially in South Asia and Africa. These regions have also seen least progress in improving rural livelihoods. FAO strikes to help smallholders improve farm productivity whilst aiming to also increase off-farm employment opportunities and find better ways for rural populations to manage and cope with risks in their environments.
With increasing globalization, agriculture as an independent sector will cease to exist, becoming instead, just one part of an integrated value chain. The value chain exits both upstream and downstream, or from production through to processing and sales, in which the whole is now highly concentrated, integrated and globalized. This poses a huge challenge for smallholder farmers and agricultural producers in many developing countries where even the most economically valid smallholders can easily be excluded from important parts of the value chain. Increasing their participation in food and agricultural systems is critical to achieving FAO’s goal of a world without hunger.
Each year, millions of people who depend on the production, marketing and consumption of crops, livestock, fish, forests and other natural resources are confronted by disasters and crises. They can strike suddenly – like an earthquake or a violent coup d’état – or unfold slowly – like drought-flood cycles. They can occur as a single event, one can trigger another,or multiple events can converge and interact simultaneously with cascading and magnified effects. These emergencies threaten the production of, and access to, food at local, national and, at times, regional and global levels. FAO’s mission is to help countries govern, prevent and mitigate risks and crises and support them in preparing and responding to disasters.