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Advocating support for FAO's goals, vision and policies

Audience with HM the king of Thailand

At the time of his coronation on 5 May 1950, HM King Bhumibhol Adulyadej took a sacred oath, “We shall reign with righteousness for the benefit and happiness of the Siamese people”. In fulfilment of this oath, over more than five decades, His Majesty has been continuously involved in numerous development programmes geared toward helping his subjects throughout the kingdom. The majority of the programmes cover diverse sectors closely linked to food and agriculture, such as land and water resources, crop, livestock and fishery production, and forestry.

Being keenly interested in the improvement of the livelihood of the rural Thai population, and having extensive first-hand knowledge of the problems affecting the agricultural sector, thanks to his many field trips in the country, His Majesty has developed a long-standing association with FAO. As a token of the organization's recognition of His Majesty's tireless endeavours to alleviate the plight of the poor and of his outstanding leadership in agricultural development, Dr Jacques Diouf, Director-General of FAO, presented him on 6 December 1995 with the Agricola medal.

Upon his nomination as the FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, Dr Prem Nath made a request for an audience with His Majesty. This was granted on 12 January 1999 and lasted 2 hours and 40 minutes.

His Majesty emphasized sustainable water security as the key to food security, and insisted on the overriding importance of the management of water resources, including underground water, artificial rain-making, dams and check-dams, and flood control. He also touched upon the problem of soils and the requirements for soil erosion control. Expanding on the difficult economic situation the country was facing, he stressed the need for self-sufficiency, as advocated by his “New Theory for farm management”, which should result in integrated farming systems and enhanced self-reliance for small farmers.

His Majesty advised Dr Nath to visit his private suburban chemicals-free vegetable farms, set up for experimentation and demonstration purposes. Dr Nath replied that it would be a privilege for him to do so, and expressed his gratitude to His Majesty for the kindness and honour the King of Thailand bestows on FAO.

First audience with HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn

Dr Prem Nath, Assistant Director-General of FAO and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific, was granted his first audience with HRH Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on 5 October at Chitralada Palace. During the audience Her Royal Highness recounted her personal experience in the field and the projects she had initiated throughout the kingdom, including the FAO-financed Agriculture Project for Midday Meals for schools in remote areas.

The conversation touched upon the theme of the World Food Day for 1998, over which she had accepted to preside: Women Feed the World. Her Royal Highness mentioned the successful activities of farmers' wives' groups, as well as the various supplementary occupations introduced by Her Majesty the Queen.

Women Feed the World

The 18th World Food Day (WFD) celebration at RAP took place on 16 October with Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn as the guest of honour. This was the ninth such event that Her Royal Highness graciously accepted to preside over. This great privilege given to a UN mission may be attributed to the special relationship existing between FAO and the Thai Royal Family, which is keenly interested in agriculture and the rural people.

Guests included the Thai Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, privy councillors and high-ranking Thai government officials working in FAO's fields of activities. Also in attendance were heads or representatives of Bangkok-based UN mission and international organizations, ambassadors or representatives of FAO member countries in the Asia-Pacific region and of donor countries. Heads of research and academic institutions, representatives of NGOs and foundations also participated in the celebration.

The function started with Dr Nath's opening address, followed by the guest of honour's address. Then began the Y.S. Rao Award presentation ceremony, in which Her Royal Highness bestowed on each of the five recipients a commemorative medal, a certificate of merit and a modest cash award. These awardees included four outstanding female farmers and food producers from the Asia-Pacific region: Mrs Liu Minghua, a fish culture expert from China, Mrs Maria Marghareta Peodyastoeti Donosusanto, an expert in rural credit and finance from Indonesia, Mrs Sheereena Ali, a fish processing farmer from the Maldives, and Ms Thong-Ho Sudsawat, an agro-processor from Thailand. The fifth awardee was Ban Khao Hin Sorn Primary School from Chachoengsao Province, Thailand, the 1998 winner of the School Botanical Garden Contest organized by the Royal Development Projects Board under the School Botanical Garden Project financed by FAO. The contest covered schools in the rural area under the project.

One of the main features of the programme was the keynote speech on “Strengthening Women's Capacities to Feed the World” delivered by Dr Vandana Shiva, director of the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in India.

A folder containing several RAP and WFD publications was made available to guests. Highly appreciated was the flagship publication, The Lives of Maliwan, in both English and Thai versions. Maliwan Mansion is the seat of RAP.

Media coverage for the regional observance of WFD at RAP was high. All TV channels reported on the WFD celebration during their evening news around 8.00 p.m. on 16 October. An interview with Dr Prem Nath on WFD/ TeleFood was broadcast by Channel 11 after the evening news on 16 October. Radio Thailand (Thai-language programme) broadcast its interview with Dr Veravat Hongskul, Senior Fishery Officer, on 16 October from 6.30 to 7.00 a.m., and the External Service aired the interview with Dr Nath on the same day during the 7 o'clock morning news. This was followed by a regional feature story, “Women as guardians of biodiversity”.

News about the WFD celebrations by RAP and by the Thai Government were carried by several other radio stations, including a report on the four outstanding female farmers who received the Y.S. Rao Award (96 Mhz, Din Dum Nam Chum — Agriculture News) and on HRH the Princess's address (on Radio Thailand and on 101 Mhz — Thai News Agency).

Both RAP's and the government's WFD observances were covered by several newspapers in Thailand.

TeleFood 1998

Prompted by the WFS Action Plan and the urgency of the problem of hunger, Dr Jacques Diouf, FAO Director-General, decided to appeal to countries, enterprises and individuals to support a practical action plan. As a result, TeleFood was born in 1997, aiming at sensitizing all segments of civil society on the subject of hunger in the world and to collect funds to finance concrete projects.

Within the context of the World Food Day, this major global event is built around worldwide television broadcasts and is dedicated to raising awareness of and strenghtening solidarity for the campaign to end hunger. On Sunday 19 October 1997, a star-studded gala concert at the Vatican topped off a day-long transmission from Italy which was relayed by satellite around the world by RAI International.

In its pilot year 1997, TeleFood reached a global audience of 500 million people in more than sixty countries, generating more than US$2 million in donations. Every dollar of those pledges is channeled directly into grassroots development projects designed to give poor rural families the tools and the knowledge they need to lead lives free from hunger. The projects have been screened and selected to ensure that they will make a significant difference in improving the diet and the livelihood of the people involved. They provide concrete evidence of TeleFood's basic message that every person, no matter how far away, and every contribution, no matter how small, can make a difference.

In Asia and the Pacific, 11 countries actively participated in TeleFood 97 by organizing special events, broadcasting the global or national TeleFood TV programmes and fund raising. China broadcast a seven-hour TeleFood programme, carried on 40 TV channels to a potential audience of some 300 million. Thailand was the third largest fund-raising country in the world as a result of generous donations by the government and the private sector.

During 1998 and up until now, 262 projects in 91 countries have been approved against the TeleFood 97 donations. Of these, 56 projects were initiated in 21 countries in the Asia-Pacific region, with a total budget of US$449 000. They benefit important areas such as irrigation, through gifts of small pumps for poor Bangladeshi families, potato and water melon production in China, poultry raising in the Maldives, bio-intensive vegetables and fruits in the Philippines, home gardening in Sri Lanka, commercial bee-keeping in Samoa, fish drying in Tonga and aquaculture in Viet Nam.

In November 1997, the FAO Conference adopted Resolution 3/97 which acknowledged the success of TeleFood 97 and called for its continuation and expansion and invited all countries to promote the initiative within the framework of World Food Day. “Everyone concerned has shown that as human beings they will not accept that other human beings should be chronically ill”, said Dr Diouf. “No one can ignore the daily reality of hunger”.

TeleFood 1998, the second global event, carried this year's World Food Day theme, “Women Feed the World”, to all ends of the globe, from 16 to 18 October. Farmers who have participated in TeleFood projects shared the airwaves with world-famous performers in six global and several regional and national television programmes, in different languages, joining together more than one hundred countries in a solidarity chain against hunger.

A stellar lineup of artists came together in Dakar, Sénégal, for a celebration of songs and dances, while near Cairo, Verdi's classic opera Aida was performed live against the dramatic backdrop of the Giza pyramids. Both events were broadcast around the globe on 17 October.

In Asia and the Pacific, despite the current financial crisis, many countries launched TeleFood 98 events. In Cambodia, a documentary was broadcast on national television and fund-raising letters were mailed to potential sponsors. In China, several TeleFood events were organized such as a quiz, TV information programmes and shows, and a seminar on women and agriculture. In Japan, the nationwide NTV, NHK and TVK networks and more than 20 affiliated local channels broadcast daily programmes featuring TeleFood success stories and spots prepared by FAO.

In Thailand, on the occasion of the national celebration of World Food Day, a statement by the Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives was broadcast on all national channels, backed up by TeleFood video stories. TV Channel 11 broadcast at regular intervals over several days TeleFood spots appealing to the public for donations. “The Appeal against Hunger” was circulated and signed by athletes competing in the 13th Asian Games held in Bangkok in December 1998. TeleFood video spots were shown to staff during the UN Week celebrations at ESCAP.

The first two TeleFood years have demonstrated that with determination and well-conceived strategies, the world community can lead the drive to achieve food for all. Therefore, in the years ahead it is envisaged that TeleFood will continue to expand, horizontally through increased country participation as well as vertically through a deeper understanding and awareness among the public of the problem of hunger.

Twelve children below the age of five die every minute every day, because of hunger and malnutrition. Join the fight against hunger. Now is the time to act.

Deposit your contribution in
FAO TeleFood Account - Thailand 003-2-63530-0
Siam Commercial Bank - Banglampoo Branch, Bangkok

Partnership programmes

The partnership programmes, launched by the FAO Director-General in January 1994, involve the use of experts under Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) and Technical Cooperation among Countries in Transition (TCCT), cooperation with academic and research institutions, the use of highly experienced retired experts, and on-the-job training of young professionals. These programmes have significantly widened the resource pool of FAO's expertise, and enriched in a cost-effective manner the quality of the organization's interventions.

Member nations continue to demonstrate their commitment to the programmes, reflected in the rising number of signatory countries and requests for assistance in practically all fields of FAO's competence. As of the end of 1998, the FAO partnership programmes were undersigned by 23 countries in the Asia-Pacific region. Of these, the FAO regional office participated in two TCDC signing ceremonies during 1998.

TCDC represents the aspirations of developing countries to seek solutions to their problems through the use of their complementary capacities and resources, based on equality and mutuality of interest. This approach to development cooperation is inspired by a larger and nobler vision in which there is no donor-recipient relationship and countries join together to achieve common goals. The FAO regional office plays a catalytic and supportive role. During 1998 more than US$100 000 from regular programme resources was allocated to the partnership programmes. Under the field programme TCDC consultants increasingly replaced internationally recruited project staff.

New head at the regional office

Dr Prem Nath was appointed Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific with effect from 1 August 1998.

Dr Nath, a national of India, holds a B.Sc. in Agriculture from Bihar University, India, and a M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Horticulture from Kansas State University, USA. During 1962 to 1964 he served as an Assistant Professor of Horticulture at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute, New Delhi. From 1964 to 1969, he served as Head of the Department of Horticulture at the University of Udaipur. In 1969 he joined the Indian Institute of Horticultural Research, Bangalore, where he held the position of Head of the Vegetable Breeding Programme until 1971, when he became Senior Geneticist and Head of the Division of Vegetable Crops.

He joined FAO in 1976 as Vegetable Specialist and in 1979 became Project Manager with the Nigerian Institute for Horticultural Research at Ibadan. He later served as FAO Project Manager of the National Centre for Horticultural Research and Development in Saudi Arabia and FAO Chief Technical Adviser of the National Agriculture Research Authority in the Yemen Arab Republic. In 1990, he was transferred to Headquarters as Country Project Officer and was promoted to Chief of the Asia and Pacific Service in the Agricultural Operations Division during the same year. He served as Special Adviser to the Director-General on the Special Programme for Food Production in Support of Food Security in Low-Income Food-Deficit Countries from 1994 to April 1996 and as FAO Representative in Myanmar from May 1996 to July 1998. He is author of several books and bulletins and hundreds of research papers.

Dr Nath, who arrived in Bangkok on 28 July, succeeded Dr Soetatwo Hadiwigeno.

Crisis forcing Asia to review agricultural policy

The following are extracts from an article published in FAO Contact, October issue, containing an interview given by Dr Nath during his consultations at FAO headquarters in September.

How will you approach agriculture in the low-income, food-deficit countries?

I would like to emphasize the Technical Cooperation among Developing Countries (TCDC) Programme. The region is rich in technology, rich in expertise. But in terms of some technologies, there are countries that have it and those that don't. If we can encourage more technology cooperation among our 34 member countries, we will have done a lot. I want to prepare a blueprint of which countries have which technologies, and assist them in exchanging their technologies. We have funds to make TCDC work. I wish to make this region one of the models of TCDC.”

What other ideas are you bringing to your new post?

We have experts at RAP who have done a tremendous job in their own specialization. We have things going in rice, fruit, rural development, food processing…But now I would like to try a new approach. I want to extend to our member countries multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral assistance, to offer them a package…for example, from seed to harvest and market. We call this an integrated approach and it is more and more the trend. The donors want it as well”.

How do you see TeleFood in the region?

The Director-General has asked me to promote TeleFood. In Myanmar, we had programmes on TV and radio and we will do it again this year. We have already submitted some micro-projects. This programme is active in most of the countries.”

Promoting the South-South cooperation programme

On 1 October, Dr Prem Nath, the newly appointed FAO Regional Representative, called upon the Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives and the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Thailand.

Mr Pongpol Adireksarn, the Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, welcomed Dr Nath to Thailand, host to the FAO regional office. Dr Nath stressed the need to further broaden the scope of joint FAO-Thailand activities and clarified the rationale and modalities of the South-South cooperation programme. In reply, the minister confirmed Thailand's long-standing policy and support for technical cooperation among developing countries, through bilateral and multilateral mechanisms, and in principle endorsed the South-South cooperation programme. He noted that Thailand had vast expertise in several specialized agricultural disciplines that could be of benefit to neighbouring countries. It was thus agreed that staff members of the ministry and the FAO regional office would work out the details on Thailand's involvement with the South-South cooperation programme.

The next meeting was with Dr Surin Pitsuwan, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Thailand. Dr Nath recalled that Dr Surin had recently met the FAO Director-General in Durban and that they had agreed to pursue joint programmes for the improvement of livestock in Southern Thailand and export of cattle to Malaysia. Quarantine problems related to cross-border trade needed FAO assistance for the introduction of appropriate comprehensive technology packages, as well as financial support from bilateral donors.

Dr Nath suggested that the expanded South-South cooperation programme would offer optimal solutions with the inclusion of Myanmar, Bangladesh and Malaysia. The proposed mechanism is that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs act as a coordinating agency, the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives provide technical expertise, and FAO facilitate, also through the FAO representatives in these countries, exchanges between the programme beneficiaries in the countries.

It was agreed that focal points needed to be determined and that staff members at the working level would soon meet to elaborate detailed arrangements for the start-up of this promising cooperation.

During the meetings, both ministers also accepted Dr Nath's invitation to attend the regional observance of World Food Day on 16 October.

The agriculture minister of Thailand visits the regional office

On 20 January 1999, Mr Pongpol Adireksarn, the Thai Minister of Agriculture and Cooperatives, accompanied by senior members of his staff visited the FAO regional office.

Dr Nath briefed the minister regarding the programme priorities of the FAO regional office, its structure and available expertise. He emphasized the importance of the follow-up to the World Food Summit Plan of Action, the South-South Cooperation Programme and the Special Programme for Food Security. He also gave an overview of FAO's assistance to Thailand.

The minister explained that, as a result of the impact of the economic crisis, and in line with international commitments made earlier, revised agricultural policies and plans had been drawn up recently. The policies were considered in line with the recommendations and programmes formulated by FAO for global food security.

The minister pointed out the importance of “agro-diplomacy”, a significant function of his current position, as he met frequently with foreign delegations visiting Thailand. He stated that the present visit to RAP was part of this function.

Dr D. Antiporta, head of the RAP Policy Assistance Branch and chairman of the FAO Country Task Force for Thailand, explained that the decentralization process had resulted in closer ties with member countries and a more timely and efficient delivery of FAO services.

Other points discussed were the need to improve marine fishery development and management, in particular deep-sea tuna fisheries, rehabilitation of arable land in central provinces affected by inland shrimp farming, and management of marine fisheries in the Gulf of Thailand.

Finally, the minister called for FAO assistance in the preparation of master plans for agricultural commodities, e.g. sugar cane, rubber and dairy products. He supported TCDC mechanisms for the promotion of food security and technical cooperation between developing countries.

Lastly, the minister officially opened the new RAP training room and unveiled a commemorative plaque in the historical Maliwan Mansion. The visit was covered by Thai TV Channel 11 in its noon and evening news broadcasts.

Minister Pongpol and Dr Nath in conversation

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