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Director General  José Graziano da Silva

FAO Director-General receives "honoris causa" award for the fight against hunger

Photos by António Azevedo
FAO Director-General receives "honoris causa" award for the fight against hunger

30 July, Lisbon, Portugal - Ending hunger is not a puzzle. Nor does it require much time or large investment. And there’s an example: Brazil significantly reduced the problem with its Zero Hunger programme. Its primary instigator was former President Lula da Silva, but he was also assisted by José Graziano da Silva, the current Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) who, yesterday at the Higher Institute of Agronomy, received an honorary doctorate from the Technical University of Lisbon.

«Four decades of fighting hunger. And in all these years what I realized was that we have enough to feed all the world’s citizens.  All that is needed is no waste and for food to reach everyone. Brazil showed that this could be done quickly and inexpensively», said José Graziano da Silva.

For this Brazilian born in Illinois (US) in 1949, the son of scientists working on the soybean, there is one crucial element when talking of helping others. «The difference when combating hunger is the political will. This must be on the agenda, as we saw when I was working with Lula», he stated.

The Director-General made a point of stressing that FAO «does not give money» but «provides technical assistance». An example occurred in Peru, the country of origin of the potato. «In 2009 there was a wheat crisis and Peru’s imports – the country doesn’t grow this grain – were becoming unaffordable for its budget. Although the potato originated in Peru, having been discovered in the Andes, it was not widely eaten. So we promoted consumption of this tuber to reduce the country’s dependence on wheat», he related.

It was not by chance that José Graziano da Silva was honoured at the Higher Institute of Agronomy.  An agronomist by training, he says he was born «between academia and the ploughed fields». It was therefore natural for him to pursue his studies, but it was on his grandfather’s farm, in the hinterland of São Paulo, that he learned about hunger in rural communities.