ROME, 16 October 2002 -- Some 150 countries around the world observed World Food Day today with seminars, conferences, contests and media campaigns dedicated to the theme of "Water: source of food security." World Food Day, which marks the anniversary of the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 16th October 1945, served this year to sensitize public opinion on the essential role of water in achieving sustainable food production to meet the demands of a growing population.

During an official ceremony at FAO headquarters in Rome, FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela, who was this year's World Food Day keynote speaker, stressed the essential role of water in food security.

Dr. Diouf said that "careful water management will be crucial to grow the food we all need to lead productive and healthy lives" while the world population is expected to rise to 8 billion in 30 years'time.

"The combined vicious impact of poverty, rising demand for food and insufficient availability of water poses a serious challenge for world food security and universal access to clean water," Dr. Diouf also said.
The FAO Director-General urged all concerned to ensure water availability and food security, while safeguarding the environment. "We need to produce more while using less water, to spare the part needed for use in homes and industry."

Stressing the need to avoid poor irrigation practices, Dr. Diouf said: "Irrigated farming is at least twice as productive as rainfed farming, and during the next 30 years some 70 percent of additional food production in developing countries should come from irrigated land."
In his keynote address, President Chávez condemned what he called "wild capitalism and immorality" and said that "the root of poverty, hunger, water pollution is the economic model imposed on the world". He deplored "the absence of an ethical approach" and the fact that "rich countries are imposing standards and norms on poor countries" while maintaining subsidies to farmers in industrialized countries. "There is no other path than justice," President Chávez added.

Commenting on the outcomes of the Johannesburg Summit on sustainable development and other major world gatherings, the Venezuelan President said: "We are miles away from the goals we set to ourselves. If we simply make speeches and produce documents we are not acknowledging reality."

President Chávez also mentioned his proposal to establish an international humanitarian fund to relieve the debt burden of developing countries and devote significant funding to urgent food and water development programmes.

Other speakers at FAO headquarters' ceremony included Italian Minister of Agricultural and Forestry Policies Gianni Alemanno, and Monsignor Renato Volante, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO, who read a message from Pope John Paul II.

Italian Minister Alemanno called for national and international strategies for a better use of water in agriculture. He stressed that the world needs "ethical values" to solve the global problem of hunger, poverty and water scarcity. He added that at a time when the winds of war return to blow, only a deep dialogue between North and South can help to achieve progress.

The Pope, in his message, urged "greater cooperation in protecting water supplies from contamination and improper use, and from that exploitation which aims only at profit and privilege."

At the same ceremony at FAO headquarters, FAO Director-General introduced the newly-appointed FAO Ambassadors: Olympic track and field champion Debbie Ferguson (Bahamas), renowned American singer Dionne Warwick, Italian artist Massimo Ranieri, the Italian charity football team "Associazione Nazionale Italiana Cantanti", represented by Mr. Enzo Ghinazzi, and famous football player Roberto Baggio (Italy).

Prominent personalities from the worlds of cinema and theatre, music andscience, sport and politics, academia and the arts, have been appointed FAO Ambassadors in recent years. They include Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi Montalcini, actresses Gina Lollobrigida and Gong Li, and singers Magida Al Roumi, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Al Bano Carrisi, Gilberto Gil, Mory Kanté, Miriam Makeba and Youssou N'Dour.

Since 1999, FAO Ambassadors contribute to FAO's mission by helping to put the spotlight on the problem of hunger.