Ms Maria Helena M.Q. Semedo

Title: Deputy Director-General

E-mail: [email protected]


Maria Helena Semedo, Deputy Director-General, is an economist and politician from Cape Verde. A leading expert in global development issues, she has worked in public service for over thirty years.

As a strong advocate for tackling the root causes of hunger and poverty through food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture, Ms Semedo gives a voice to vulnerable people and communities, especially the rural poor and women and girls.

Over the last decade, FAO has contributed to a new narrative, one where agriculture features more prominently in addressing increasingly complex emerging global issues– from climate change to conflict. There is now a common recognition among all stakeholders that the agricultural sectors must be more sustainable. The focus is no longer just on increasing productivity but on promoting agricultural and food systems that minimize impacts on natural resources. Consequently, today FAO is strongly associated with sustainable agriculture in the broadest sense, meaning also fisheries, forestry, livestock, soils, water. Agriculture today matters more in the global conversation about climate change, moving from being part of the problem to being part of the solution.

This has been an opportunity for FAO to play a more important and visible role in promoting the transition towards sustainable food and agriculture, which lie at the heart of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Ms Semedo’s stewardship has allowed FAO to better position itself through high-level events such as the first International Symposium on Fisheries Sustainability. Greater engagement has included stronger strategic partnerships like the Green Climate Fund to help countries respond to climate challenges. By promoting a systematic integrated approach that takes a more inclusive view, Ms Semedo has fostered cross-sectoral and multistakeholder exchanges, seeing results such as the FAO Strategy on Biodiversity.

Before taking up her current duties in 2013, Ms Semedo gained valuable experience and insight in Africa, first as FAO Representative in Niger, then as Deputy Regional Representative for Africa and Sub-regional Coordinator for West Africa. Prior to her international career, she worked as an economist for the Cabo Verde Ministry of Planning and Cooperation before becoming Secretary of State for Fisheries, then in 1993 Minister for Fisheries, Agriculture and Rural Affairs – the first-ever woman Minister in her country. After serving as Minister for Tourism, Transportation and Marine Affairs from 1995-1998, she became Member of Parliament, a position she held until 2003. 

Honors and awards

November 2019: Crans Montana Forum Prix de la Fondation

December 2018: The Government of Brazil bestows the honorific Order of Rio Branco

The Universidade Aberta in Lisbon confers the Honoris Causa doctorate for her work in global sustainable development

March 2018: Woman of the Year at the commemoration of the 2018 Women Diplomats Day in Portugal

May 2008: Receives the Order of Niger for her distinguished service to the field of agriculture


No records found.

In the media

Africa Renewal

Op-ed: We must act now to avert an imminent food crisis in Africa, says FAO Deputy Chief


FAO’S major challenge today is securing healthy and sustainable food systems worldwide


Rallenta la deforestazione

France 24

Le Covid-19 met l'Afrique au défi de sa sécurité alimentaire, alerte la FAO


El mundo ha perdido 178 millones de hectáreas de bosques en tres décadas

Fatima Missionaria

Gestão eficaz reduz desflorestação a nível mundial

Financial Afrik

La déforestation en baisse dans le monde mais pas en Afrique (FAO)

Argentina Forestal

#FRA2020: La pérdida de bosques en el mundo se reduce en cifras estadísticas, pero continúa y urge adoptar medidas ante el daño ambiental, social y...


El Planeta ha perdido 175 millones de hectáreas de bosque desde 1990

В мире замедлилась вырубка лесов


Rodung von Wäldern verlangsamt sich weltweit


Rallenta la perdita di foreste nel mondo


Forest loss slows globally as sustainable management grows


Lassul az erdőirtás mértéke és terjedőben a fenntartható erdőgazdálkodás


Cada año, el día 22 de marzo se celebra el Día Mundial del Agua por resolución de la ONU

Prensa Latina

Agua, el más demandado y cada vez más escaso recurso natural


Langostas amenazan con matar de hambre a 12 millones de personas

Republic World

Pakistan Farmers Fear About Further Crop Damage As Locusts Breed


Pompage solaire et agriculture: une combinaison gagnante au Maroc

Green Report

Resilienza climatica a Cuba: 119 milioni di dollari dal Green Climate Fund


Fondo Verde para el Clima aprobó proyecto de resiliencia climática en Cuba

Mirage News

Green Climate Fund approves a $119 million climate resilient project for Cuba


FAO: dal 1990 spazzata via una copertura forestale estesa quanto la Libia


Maria Helena Semedo (FAO): “El progreso de las mujeres rurales ha sido desigual”