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A new approach to capacity development

FAO sustains country-led efforts to address local needs

Photo: ©FAO/Desmond Kwande
Capacity development must address the needs of local people in developing countries.

12 May 2011, Rome - Supporting countries to take the lead in their own sustainable development and food security by putting greater emphasis on capacity development has become a renewed priority for FAO. This was emphasized by the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to FAO on 6 May 2011 to discuss rising food prices.

"[The international community] must work to support countries carry out solutions that they take the lead in designing and implementing. We want to help countries and those who live and farm within the countries to actually bolster their own long-term capacity for agricultural growth," Clinton said.

Capacity development is now recognized as a core function of FAO, and a launch ceremony was held at its headquarters on 10 May 2011 to draw attention to the Organization's new Corporate ٍٍStrategy on Capacity Development.

In this renewed approach, development results will not only be measured by short-term outputs but also by how FAO engages local, national, and regional actors.  FAO programmes will place greater emphasis on policy support, knowledge sharing, partnering, and sustainability.

A driver of change

"FAO is moving beyond providing traditional technical assistance to using broader and also more integrated approaches. In FAO's Knowledge Arm, we will still foster the methods and tools which connect local people with each other and with their community bodies, with FAO playing a supportive role. At the same time, we will improve the ways that we work and focus on building long-term approaches, which are key for achieving lasting results in critical areas like climate change, food security, nutrition, and gender," said Ann Tutwiler, FAO's Deputy Director-General for Knowledge.

Success stories

Training will remain a key component of FAO's work and an indispensable tool, but current efforts need to be comprehensive to help countries adopt more sustainable methods to foster development.

India, for example, sought a sustainable approach to growing cotton while reducing the use of pesticides. FAO teamed up with national partners to create Farmer Field Schools (FFS), training nearly 50 000 farmers in four Indian states. This led to the participation of another 100 000 farmers. Several Indian states adopted FFS as the official approach to sustainable field management practices. Agricultural extension services and policies in the country were reoriented and partnerships between scientific and research institutions, universities and policy-makers were formed.


In Gambia, 78 percent of the forest area is severely degraded. The government recognized that improved forest management required greater community involvement. FAO worked with the Gambia Forestry Department to introduce community-based enterprise development at the local level. This methodology has since been incorporated into the curricula of many of the technical schools that prepare students for forestry management. As a result of these efforts, many villages now successfully engage in community-based enterprise development.

Capacity development must be country-led to address the needs which the country itself identifies through national priority strategies and plans.  FAO engages locally and supports this process as FAO cannot deliver capacity development but can facilitate its achievement and with its renewed approach it is in a better position to do so.