26 May 2003, Rome -- The Netherlands has pledged an additional 6.3 million euros in support of the FAO/Netherlands Partnership Programme (FNPP), FAO announced today.

The FNPP was established two years ago as a flexible funding mechanism for FAO's interdepartmental and interagency work in support of food security, forestry and agrobiodiversity activities.

In total the Netherlands' contribution to the partnership programme totals more than 18 million euros. The additional funds will allow the programme to continue its activities for another year.

The extension of the agreement was signed in Rome by the Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to FAO, Ewald Wermuth, and the FAO Assistant Director-General for Technical Cooperation, Henri Carsalade.

"This additional contribution reflects the Netherlands' appreciation of FAO's ongoing reform process," said Carsalade. "It means that the Government of the Netherlands recognizes the added value that FAO brings to the process of long-term development throughout the world."

Learning from the field, for the field

"The technical assistance that FAO offers to developing countries on themes such as agricultural policy, food security, management of national forest resources, or during agricultural trade negotiations within the WTO is fundamental," Ambassador Wermuth said.

One of the themes that runs through the many FNPP projects is integration. Projects are carried out alongside already existing local initiatives, contributing to their momentum.

In Mozambique, for example, an FNPP activity applies local knowledge gained over the years to emergency situations.

In February 2000, torrential rains and a cyclone ruined the crops and houses of some 207 000 people.

Impact on seeds

The FNPP supported the Instituto Nacional de Investigação Agronómica (INIA) and the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), enabling them to carry out research with local communities in three affected districts to analyse the long-term impact of natural disasters on plant genetic diversity.

The results of the research are being used to redesign and improve seed relief efforts, in collaboration with a large number of emergency organizations.

"Understanding the range of variation that farmers have among their seed collections before a natural disaster, how that is affected by natural disaster and how the situation is affected by most traditional disaster intervention is vital to provide them with the appropiate assistance," according to Peter Kenmore, an FAO biodiversity expert.

"If a loss of genetic diversity occurs, we need to support seed systems to draw upon farmers' knowledge and make sure that the seed system provides genetically diverse seeds adapted to local conditions," he said.

The FNPP-INIA team worked closely with local farmers, mainly women, who were not only growing the crops but also managing the germplasm and keeping seed collections. Because genetic resources "are not only what is in the seeds but what is in the heads, in the hands of the farming community," said Kenmore.

The Bangladesh example

One of the countries worst affected by climate change is Bangladesh. Its miles of coastline are the focus of another FNPP initiative.

The 37 million people who live in the country's 19 coastal districts are at the whim of the elements, suffering when rivers burst their banks and cyclones and floods drag them into a vicious cycle of poverty and hunger.

An FNPP initiative, carried out by a team of international and national experts, is being implemented through the Support Unit for International Fisheries and Aquatic Research (SIFAR) based at FAO.

The work aims to understand the causes and consequences of poverty and vulnerability in coastal areas, using appropriate indicator-based methodologies which are being developed by SIFAR, under the FNPP initiative.

A key objective is to inform local and national institutions in the development of appropriate policy responses.

"We realized that many of the previous assessments had focused solely on technical solutions, such as the availability of fishing material, without examining the vulnerability in which people live, the structural and temporal constraints faced by men and women seeking access to resources," said Fabio Pittaluga, an FAO coastal livelihoods expert working with SIFAR.

"The process allowed us to work alongside local experts involved in coastal development and create new methodologies and tools to analyse the socio-economic situation faced by many of these communities."

Thanks to this $35 000 initiative, the Government of Bangladesh improved its capacity to analyse and map levels of poverty and vulnerability specific to coastal areas.

The new expertise is being used to formulate an integrated development strategy for the region based on the reduction of people's vulnerabilities.

Nuria Felipe Soria,
FAO Information Officer,
+39 06 570 55899