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FAO Director-General praises trend toward small-scale local food production

Says that sustainability depends on the way food produced and consumed

Photo: ©FAO/Alessia Pierdomenico
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
Pollenzo/Bra, 25 March 2013 - Small-scale producers, local production and consumption circuits and recovering traditional crops have a major part to play in reducing hunger, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva told professors and students at the University of Gastronomic Sciences today, also noting the many possibilities of cooperation between FAO and the university to fulfil the vision of a hunger-free and sustainable world.

He said that the Green Revolution of the 1960s had increased per capita availability of food by over 40 percent, but at the cost of a loss of food diversity because of a focus on a few crops and significant impact on the environment from intensive use of chemical inputs.

But now there was a trend towards growing and marketing traditional foods, towards improving local infrastructure and markets and helping small-scale producers, all of which was good for the environment and the economy of rural areas, where hunger was worst, he said.

"Under-utilized crops ... can have a positive impact on food security," he said. "Recovering these crops is a way towards food security. It also means rediscovering lost flavors and identifying new ones. That is something that unites all of you to the poor farmers throughout the world," the Director-General told the audience.

Graziano da Silva mentioned cassava in Africa and South America and quinoa in the Andes as food crops that were coming into their own, to the benefit of poor farmers and their families. He encouraged his audience to help spread the word about the International Year of Quinoa, being celebrated this year.

Gastronomic sciences and Slow Food

The University of Gastronomic Sciences was founded in 2004 by the Slow Food movement, headed by Carlo Petrini, who was in the audience. Slow Food works with FAO on a project that helps map food biodiversity in four African countries: Guinea Bissau, Mali, Senegal and Sierra Leone. The project has helped farmers bring traditional foodstuffs to market in developed countries through an annual event.

"This link to markets completes a virtuous circle: recover traditional crops, support local production and link them to markets, allowing for an increase in their income," said Graziano da Silva.

"Your interest in rediscovering different foods is a way to recognize the cultural value of food, a value that is often forgotten in today's globalized and fast world," added the FAO Director-General.