17 December 2003, Rome - Agricultural development has always been driven by transfer of ideas, seeds and experience between different regions.

Exchanging views and methodologies can be a fertile source of innovation and partnerships.

FAO's South-South Cooperation initiative was created in 1996 as part of the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), to allow recipient countries of the programme to benefit from the relevant strengths, experience and expertise of other developing countries.

This week in Marrakech, the G-77 countries which include 135 developing countries around the world, will meet during a High-Level Conference on South-South Cooperation to identify ways and means of strengthening and expanding such cooperation.

International aid organizations, donor countries and UN agencies, including FAO, will also be present.

"To fight against hunger, we need to combine efforts, experience, and knowledge," explains FAO Field Operations Director Andrew MacMillan.

"This Conference is a great opportunity to continue building an International Alliance against Hunger. South-South Cooperation is about allowing countries to benefit from the experience and expertise of other more advanced developing countries," he adds.

FAO's South-South Cooperation

FAO launched the Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS) in 1994, two years ahead of the 1996 World Food Summit, as the flagship programme to assist its developing member countries to reduce hunger and malnutrition.

It was designed to improve household food security and rural livelihoods and stimulate the growth of local economies.

The South-South Cooperation initiative promotes expertise from other developing countries where experts often have a closer understanding of the social, cultural and economic realities of development within a context of food insecurity and poverty.

Its objectives are to enhance solidarity among developing countries and to allow the recipient countries to benefit from the relevant strengths, experience and expertise of other developing countries in a pragmatic and cost effective manner.

"This is done by providing experts for two or three years to work in the implementation of the SPFS in the recipient countries," explains MacMillan.

"Senior experts and a substantial number of field technicians with strong practical experience work directly with crop producers, animal breeders, fisher folk to increase their productivity and production and improve the community's access to food."

Working together, sharing costs

One of the programme's strengths is the low costs involved. They are shared between donor and recipient countries, funding institutions or third donor countries and FAO.

The cooperating country continues to pay regular salaries for the technician's or expert's family and the host country provides accommodation, a small stipend and travel expenses.

Up to now, ten cooperating countries have signed agreements with 28 host countries. Egyptian irrigation experts are currently sharing knowledge with their Tanzanian peers and more than 500 Chinese field experts will expend the next three years in Nigeria- all paid by Nigeria itself.

And the list of interested countries continues to grow.

"The South-South Cooperation programme builds a climate of shared responsibility and solidarity between developing countries," MacMillan added.

"FAO is keen to see the conference support an expansion of field projects for South-South Cooperation in food production in order to tackle chronic hunger and food insecurity, especially in the sub-Saharan African region."

Nuria Felipe Soria
Information Officer
(+39) 06 570 55899