The author is Director of the Animal Production and Health Division, FAO, Rome.
Fifty years have passed since FAO was founded in October 1945 in an assembly of representatives of 42 countries in Quebec, Canada. The important step taken by these countries was to tackle in a concerted manner the struggle against hunger and malnutrition. Over the past half century, the number of FAO member countries has increased to more than 170, which is among the highest of any UN agency, in recognition of its important mission in solving problems concerning nutrition, food and agriculture throughout the world.
The present Animal Production and Health Division (AGA) started within FAO as the Animal Industry Branch in December 1946. The transition to division status was made in January 1959, and three branches were created: Animal Production, Dairy, and Animal Health. An Operations Service was attached to the division in June 1968. After an overall reorganization in January 1970, the branches were upgraded to services and the Animal Production and Dairy branches were consolidated. The division consisted of three services: Animal Health, Animal Production and Dairy, and Operations. After that, the Animal Production and Health Division underwent further organizational restructuring in line with the development and evolution of the Organization. In June 1978, the present structure of AGA was established, consisting of the office of the Director, the Animal Health Service, the Meat and Dairy Service and the Animal Production Service.
Since its inception almost 50 years ago, the division has devoted its efforts to the development of livestock in FAO's member countries. Activities and programmes have concentrated on the improvement of animal production and productivity through disease and parasite control, breeding, nutrition, range and pasture management, and better methods of processing and marketing animal products. The division has addressed all aspects of management and use of farm animals and livestock products in order to improve food security and sustainable agricultural development in member countries. To assist in this pursuit, AGA began publishing the periodical World Animal Review in 1972. The review has proved to be an important vehicle for the dissemination of new information and developments in the livestock sector worldwide, especially in developing countries.
Livestock play an important role in agricultural development by contributing about 30 percent of total agricultural production, and recent trends in developing countries continue to show a higher growth rate for livestock products than for cereals.
In recognition of the fact that the diverse contributions of livestock to food security and sustainable agricultural development are most properly addressed through a systems approach, AGA has recently refocused its programme. The activities in animal production, animal health and the meat and milk sectors have been regrouped within the systems context, covering mixed-farming systems, pastoral or extensive grazing systems and intensive production and supply systems. These systems activities will be supported by the integration of the information functions of policy advice and planning.
Two special programmes have also been developed by AGA. The first - Emergency Prevention System for Transboundary Animal and Plant Pests and Diseases (EMPRES) - aims at controlling transboundary animal diseases, the main focus of which is rinderpest. As for the emergency prevention system for transboundary animal diseases, FAO plays a catalytic role in monitoring and coordinating regional and international efforts and providing technical advice and other forms of support to member countries.
The second important special action programme conservation of domestic animal genetic diversity - forms the basis for increasing production, productivity and sustainability of food and agriculture. This programme has been initiated to develop strategies for the management of animal genetic resources and the conservation of diversity.
On the occasion of FAO's 50th anniversary, AGA looks forward to contributing to the development of animal production and health in member countries, mainly by providing advice on planning and strategies and technology transfer.
The collection of papers in this anniversary issue of World Animal Review, all written by AGA professionals, intends to highlight the scope and variety of AGA's global activities, and it is hoped that it will stimulate discussion as to how we can further improve our contribution to livestock development.