75 years of growing, nourishing and sustaining our world


Take a virtual tour of FAO and its work over the years

This year FAO is celebrating 75 years of nourishing, sustaining and growing our planet – and we’re inviting you join us on this journey! ©FAO/Pier Paolo Cito

16/10/2020

This year marks the 75th anniversary of FAO in an exceptional moment, as countries worldwide are dealing with the global COVID-19 pandemic and its many impacts. 

This global health crisis, however, has been a chance to reflect on one of our most basic needs: food. For many, this pandemic has increased the struggle to access nutritious food. For others, it may have rekindled an appreciation of it. FAO’s mandate, centred around the eradication of hunger, elimination of poverty and sustainable management of natural resources, has never been more important than in 2020 - and we are inviting you to learn more! 

FAO prides itself on transparency and for the last several years, we have held open days to encourage visitors to learn more about our Organization and mission. Recently, we have begun offering these tours online to ensure that tours can be conducted safely and can reach a wider audience.

With this little preview below, we invite you on a virtual tour of FAO to get to know more about us, from our history and headquarters to our mission and goals. So if this story piques your interest and you would like to organise a tour for your school, company or other group – please get in touch! We would love to show you around. Or if you are more of a book lover, you can delve into FAO’s history in a newly released publication: FAO at 75: Grow, nourish, sustain. Together

Let’s start with the basics:

Why was FAO created?

In the aftermath of the Second World War, there was a renewed emphasis on inter-governmental cooperation to solve problems through dialogue and to avoid world wars from ever happening again. Simultaneously, food and agriculture were big topics at the time: production slowed as farm workers went to the front line. Factories that produced fertilizers, pesticides and farm machinery were destroyed, and trade had almost ground to a halt. The agriculture sector was hurting, and many people around the world were going hungry. It was during this period that FAO came into being. 

The original headquarters of FAO was in Washington D.C., USA, but it was decided that FAO would move to Rome, Italy. It seemed fitting as Rome had been the headquarters of its predecessor the International Institute of Agriculture, the very first intergovernmental organization to deal with issues of agriculture. 

FAO moved to Rome in 1951 and the government of Italy provided a building in the centre of the city, where FAO still resides today. In fact, FAO’s  building has a fascinating story!

Left/Top: Many Member States have donated artwork, furniture and crafts to FAO headquarters to celebrate the Organization’s diversity. ©FAO/Pier Paolo Cito Right/Bottom: One of two works of art by Mozambican artist, Bertina Lopes, donated to FAO as a gesture of gratitude for the Organization’s work in the country. ©FAO/Pier Paolo Cito

So, let’s start the tour…

The largest and most important space in the FAO headquarters is the Plenary Hall. It has seating for over a thousand people and was designed to hold high-level meetings with world leaders, such as heads of state and even the Pope. As a neutral entity, FAO offers a space for nations to come together to build a common understanding, making the Plenary Hall an important setting for this to happen.

It is also FAO’s job to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and information about food, agriculture and natural resources, in order to turn this knowledge into action through various projects across the world.

Celebrating diversity

Many Member States have donated artwork, furniture and other examples of their national and rural crafts to display at FAO headquarters to celebrate the Organization’s diversity.

For example, a second century floor mosaic from a building discovered in Tignica, 90 kilometers west of Tunis, was donated to FAO by the Government of Tunisia. The colours are still bright, and its tiles form beautiful floral arrangements.

Close by there’s a huge plaster copy of a statue of Minerva, by Vittoria Alata, on temporary loan from the Museum of Roman Civilization. The Government of Mozambique also donated two pieces by national artist, Bertina Lopes, as a sign of gratitude for all that FAO had done to help the country.

Many countries have also donated rooms that are used for events, conferences and bilateral meetings. For example, the Sheik Zayed Centre, funded by the United Arab Emirates, is used for press conferences, screenings and publication launches. The China Lounge, donated by the Government of China, receives distinguished guests like heads of state and prime ministers. 

In addition, the Organization offers an impressive library, welcoming researchers from around the world to consult its documents and rare books. Its collection includes one million FAO and non-FAO documentsas well as special and digital collections. It is considered one of the world's finest collections in food, agriculture and international development.

Every year, on the day FAO was founded - October 16 - we celebrate World Food Day to raise awareness on the important issues around hunger, food security and agriculture. FAO is calling for global solidarity during these difficult times to ensure everyone has access to enough safe, nutritious food to lead a healthy life. ©FAO/Alessia Pierdomenico

Join us!

FAO is calling for global solidarity to make agri-food systems more resilient so that these systems can deliver affordable and healthy food for all and provide decent livelihoods to the millions in agriculture. FAO is also standing behind our food heroes - farmers and workers throughout the value chain - who are making sure that food makes its way from farm to table even amid unprecedented disruptions such as the current COVID-19 crisis.

We are committed to nourishing, sustaining and growing our planet, and we invite you to join us! Whether you are part of a government, private business, non-profit organization, media outlet or civil society organization, we need you to spread your knowledge and support the call to transform our agri-food systems for the better. This year is no ordinary year and we need anything but ordinary action – only by working together can we continue to grow, nourish and sustain our world.

Photo gallery: 75 years of growing, nourishing and sustaining our world
As we mark United Nations Day on 24 October, we invite you to take a virtual tour of FAO and its work over the years.
1945, Canada - FAO was born on the afternoon of 16 October 1945 when its constitution was signed in Quebec City, Canada, by 34 countries, soon to be followed by many more.
1948, Greece - Schoolchildren having breakfast provided by a joint FAO‒UNICEF project.
1951, Italy - Construction work on the headquarters of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, Italy, is almost completed.
1960, Tunisia - A rice-growing experiment is underway in Tunisia, carried out by an FAO expert who devised a method of leaching salt from arable land.
1966, Ecuador - Farmers walking through fields of Hacienda Pesillo, Ecuador.
1969, Afghanistan - An FAO karakul sheep expert photographs a karakul lamb in Afghanistan as part of the breeding selection process, as students look on.
1970, Iran - Repairing and renewing an old irrigation dam which had seriously deteriorated after the 1962 earthquake in Iran. The villagers requested financial assistance and technical advice from the Government and FAO.
1978, China - A young woman with a basket of round pears she has picked in an orchard, China.
1980, Ethiopia - Farmers dig contour bunds on degraded land as a measure to control erosion, and then plant trees and shrubs to regenerate the land, Ethiopia.
1984, Philippines - Traditional fishing boats near the landing stage of Baliwasan Seaside, Zamboanga, Philippines.
1987, Central African Republic - Oral administration of medicine to a sick calf, part of a series of policies and activities of the Government of the Central African Republic aimed at strengthening and consolidating the development of livestock.
1993, Italy - FAO Conference regarding “Procedures for global harmonization of plant quarantine”.
1995, Iraq - A woman purchasing fruit from a stall at Baghdad market selling lemons, grapes and pomegranates.
1996, Italy - Pope John Paul II addressing the Plenary during the World Food Summit at FAO headquarters, Rome, Italy.
2003, Kenya - Fishermen participating in a Farmer Field School use special nets to contribute to the sustainable management of fish stocks, Lake Victoria, Kenya.
2012, Bolivia (Plurinational State of) - Cultivating quinoa as part of the “Semillas Andinas” project.
2013, West Bank and Gaza Strip - A man tends to the vegetable garden he maintains on the rooftop of his home, West Bank and Gaza Strip.
2014, Eswatini - A customer at a supermarket in Manzini, Eswatini, 20 km south of Mbabane.
2015, Zambia - Beneficiaries of the Social Cash Transfer Programme in Zambia receive their payment.
2016, Belarus - Vegetable growers walk between two vegetable plantations at the Minsk Vegetable Factory, Belarus.
2017, Bangladesh - Children use a computer tablet as a learning device, Bangladesh.
2017, South Sudan - Women carry a sack with fishing kits and seeds to be distributed by FAO in Padding, Jonglei, South Sudan.
2019, Lao People’s Democratic Republic - Local children water a kitchen-garden at the Farmer Nutrition School, Lao People’s Democratic Republic.
2020, Kenya - An expert with FAO Kenya uses his mobile phone to enter coordinates on the eLocust3 app while tracing hopper bands of locusts.
2020, Chile - Lo Valledor, the main wholesale market in Chile, continues to provide the public during the COVID-19 health emergency with protective measures for their collaborators and the community.
2020, Tanzania - FAO’s Hand-in-Hand geospatial platform shows land cover for the Rombo district area in Moshi, Tanzania

Learn more

2. Zero hunger, 17. Partnership for the goals