Celebrating World Food Day around the world

More than 150 countries around the world will observe World Food Day with special events, seminars, conferences, contests and media campaigns.

© FAO/I. Kodikara

14 October 2005, Rome - World Food Day is celebrated every year on October 16 to mark the anniversary of the founding of FAO in 1945.

The World Food Day theme this year, "Agriculture and intercultural dialogue", recalls the contribution of different cultures to world agriculture.

Civilization is founded on agriculture. Throughout history, the intercultural movement of crops and livestock breeds revolutionized diets, improved nutrition and reduced poverty.

Africa gave the world coffee, now a popular beverage worldwide. Asia domesticated rice which became the staple food for over half of the world's population. Wheat from the Middle East became the dominant crop in North America and Europe. The potato brought from South America by the Spanish "Conquistadores" in the sixteenth century became the main staple food for millions in Europe and elsewhere.

The World Food Day theme also recalls that intercultural dialogue is a precondition for progress against hunger and environmental degradation, the history of agriculture being full of examples of important intercultural exchanges, FAO said.

Intercultural dialogue between developing countries facing similar food and agriculture problems is an important way of sharing expertise and technologies. Intercultural exchanges in the field of agriculture also take place at international meetings and trade negotiations. They help to create interaction and synergies between countries and nations.

In Rome, the World Food Day ceremony on Sunday (16 October) at FAO headquarters includes an address by FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf and a speech by Italy's Minister of Agricultural and Forestry Policies Mr Gianni Alemanno. A Civil Society Forum on the WFD theme will be held in the afternoon.

Three new Goodwill Ambassadors

At the same ceremony, FAO Director-General Diouf will introduce the newly appointed FAO Goodwill Ambassadors: Paraguay's First Lady Ms María Gloria Penayo de Duarte, to be nominated first Extraordinary Ambassador of FAO; world athletics champion (discus throw) Beatrice Faumuina (New Zealand) and Irish singer Ronan Keating.

Paraguay's First Lady is a strong supporter of FAO's campaigns against hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity in Latin America. She believes that "hunger is one of the most violent forms of aggression against human rights".

In her country, Ms Penayo de Duarte has played an active role in various social, health and human development programmes in favour of women, vulnerable people and street children in Asunción and other parts of Paraguay, with particular attention to families living in extreme poverty.

She has backed several agricultural and food security initiatives, in particular a national soymilk production project to improve livelihoods in rural areas; an integrated development programme at community level and a mental health project.

Ms Faumuina is the first woman of the entire Southwest Pacific region to win a World Championship title. In 1997 in Athens, she struck gold at the discus throw.

Winner of the 1998 and 2002 Commonwealth Games, the 2002 International Association of Athletics Federations World Cup and seventh at the 2004 Olympic Games, Faumuina set eleven New Zealand discus throw records from 1993 to 1997. She was recently awarded the title of Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to Athletics.

Irish singer Ronan Keating was 18 when he made his debut. Now, after ten years, he is still in the public eye. His songs "Life is a rollercoaster", "When you say nothing at all", "Father and son", and "If tomorrow never comes" have become classics.

In June 2004, Ronan made a trip that was to change his life. He visited farmers and families in Ghana and other developing countries and was shocked at the sight of poverty and how unfair trade laws were destroying livelihoods.

Ronan already supports many charities and set up his own (Marie Keating Foundation) after he lost his mother to cancer in 1998.

"This isn't about people at home putting their hands in their pockets," Ronan says. "This is about joining a campaign to get our government to use their position on the IMF, the World Bank and WTO to change things."

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