ROME, 11 October 2002 - This year's World Food Day theme, "Water: source of food security", points to the essential role of water in food production for a world population expected to reach eight billion by 2030.

Each year on the anniversary of its founding, 16 October 1945, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) draws attention to the problem of hunger and malnutrition in the world.

World Food Day 2002 will be marked by a ceremony at FAO Headquarters, featuring a keynote address by President Hugo Chávez Frías of Venezuela, a message from Pope John Paul II, and speeches by FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf and Italy's Minister of Agricultural and Forestry Policies Gianni Alemanno.

Speakers will highlight the importance of better water management practices in agriculture production. Agriculture uses about 70 percent of all freshwater withdrawn from the earth. More and more water will be used for irrigation, as world food production increases to feed a growing population. Water used for agriculture must be managed wisely. An FAO study of 93 developing countries indicates that some water-scarce nations are already withdrawing water supplies faster than they can be renewed. Ten countries are already in a critical state, according to FAO.

At the FAO headquarters' ceremony, Director-General Jacques Diouf will award the World Food Day 2002 medal to the winners of a schools' poster competition, organized by the UN Women's Guild.

Following the World Food Day ceremony, a press conference by Venezuelan President Chávez and the FAO Director-General will take place at 12:45 in the Iran Room, at FAO headquarters.

The Director-General will appoint several new goodwill ambassadors to work with FAO's campaign against hunger. Famous soccer player Roberto Baggio (Italy) and Olympic track and field champion Debbie Ferguson (Bahamas) will be the first celebrities from the world of sports to be appointed FAO Ambassadors. In a move that will bring the number of goodwill ambassadors to 15, the Director-General will also appoint American singer Dionne Warwick, Italian artist Massimo Ranieri and the Associazione Nazionale Italiana Cantanti. This is a soccer team that includes renowned Italian singers acting in a benevolent capacity. FAO currently has ten Ambassadors: Nobel Prize winner Rita Levi Montalcini, singers Magida Al Roumi, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Al Bano Carrisi, Gilberto Gil, Mory Kanté, Miriam Makeba and Youssou N'Dour, actresses Gong Li and Gina Lollobrigida.

This year, World Food Day 2002 will have a special dimension as FAO joins with the international community to promote the sustainable use and management of water as an essential global resource. In more than 150 countries, there will be events marking the World Food Day 2002.

Non governmental organisations will meet at FAO to discuss the problem of water scarcity in food production. This meeting is sponsored by FAO and the Italian Association of NGOs.