Finding strength in numbers
FAO: crossroads for local governments in the fight against hunger
19 March 2004, Rome - The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and Italy's Piedmont and Tuscany regions are joining forces to support the Brazilian Zero Hunger (Fome Zero) Programme.
The initiative will assist the Brazilian Government in constructing one million water collectors to help small-scale farmers in the arid northeast region of Brazil. A delegation of FAO and Italian experts will fly to Brasilia in April.
To understand the very basic problems that municipalities face when improving irrigation for local farmers or assisting in water management concerns, one of the most effective methods is to learn directly from other municipalities that have faced similar problems in the past and have found their own solutions.
Increasingly, governments and international agencies are recognizing the potential of local institutions and subnational governmental bodies in promoting development in poor countries. And increasingly more people are keen to become involved, through their local governments, in working towards the goal of achieving a world without hunger.
FAO is promoting a decentralized cooperation programme to connect this desire for local involvement with the participation of subnational governmental institutions, like municipalities or regions, in Europe.
Promoting local structures
"Civil society and local authorities play an ever-increasing role internationally in the fight against hunger and poverty," explained Javier Pérez de Vega, Coordinator for the FAO Programme of Decentralized Cooperation.
Decentralized cooperation establishes solid partnerships between organizations while encouraging active participation in democracy and the mobilization of resources. The direct participation of local authorities also serves to strengthen the public's sense of ownership, a condition FAO believes is essential to ensure sustainable development.
In many countries, the share of money from local or locally administrated budgets targeting decentralized cooperation, as a share of total official aid for development, is increasing every year. In Spain, for example, it rose from 2% in 1990 to 15% of the total budget for Official Development Assistance in 2000.
"Italy's approximately 8 000 municipalities, 100 provinces and 20 regions give some idea of the potential of decentralized initiatives whose objective is to mobilize the social, human and financial resources of local authorities to fight hunger and malnutrition," said Pérez de Vega.
Until now, FAO has worked with four European countries: Italy, France, Spain and Germany to promote decentralized cooperation in aid of development.
The first FAO decentralized cooperation pilot project was launched last year: a partnership between the town council of the Rwandan capital, Kigali, and the municipality of Rome, with Italian government support for the development of agricultural activities on the outskirts of the African city.
"These projects aim at establishing linkages between non-state actors and local administrations in order to create the basis for sustainable development, and at the same time, to address the problems of food insecurity and the lack of incomes of the very poorest households." explained Mr Pérez de Vega.
The Special Programme for Food Security
In Brazil, FAO's Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) is the vehicle through which FAO contributes to the Brazilian Zero Hunger Programme, entitled Fome Zero.
The SPFS acts as a framework for carrying out initiatives involving various stakeholders, local governments, farmers, non-governmental organizations and others in broad programmes for rural development and food security.
The SPFS, which began as a pilot programme in 1995 in 15 countries, aims to improve national and household food security through simple, low-cost and environmentally friendly farming techniques. Currently the SPFS is active in 100 countries.
Nuria Felipe Soria
FAO Media Office
(+39) 06 570 55899
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