Graziano da Silva meets Unilever CEO

Support to smallholder farmers focus of discussion with global corporation chief

20/02/2014 - 

 FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva and Unilever Chief Executive Officer Paul Polman discussed the importance of supporting smallholder famers at a meeting at FAO headquarters today.

“This meeting was an opportunity to discuss global issues that we need to solve, food security being obviously very high in the agenda,” the Unilever chief said. “The fact that almost a billion people go to bed hungry every day is unacceptable. This makes FAO a strategic partner for the private sector.”

Currently the British-Dutch multinational works directly with over 1.3 million smallholder farmers worldwide. “The issues that you need to solve to employ that many people are unique and different from Tanzania to Vietnam or Mexico, so the way you set it up always starts at the country level,” Polman said. “That’s when FAO comes in again to help us make a difference where it is needed the most. We need to work together in partnership” he added, referring to the corporation’s collaborations with the other UN Rome-based agencies. “The issues that the world faces are simply too big for us to deal with alone”, he said.

Graziano da Silva and the CEO also discussed the UN Zero Hunger Challenge as FAO’s main framework to eradicate hunger. The FAO chief encouraged Unilever to work with FAO to scale up efforts and turn the vision of an end to hunger into reality through a concrete operational plan.

Graziano da Silva and Polman discussed the upcoming Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), co-organized by FAO and the World Health Organization, which will take place in November 2014. Unilever CEO lauded FAO’s work in the field of nutrition and its efforts organizing this meeting.

FAO and Unilever are exploring a global partnership agreement aimed at joining forces in the fight against hunger with a particular emphasis on supporting smallholder farmers.

FAO Director-General and Unilever's CEO shared their views on public-private partnerships and discussed potential collaboration in several areas: food waste, deforestation and sustainable forestry management, and nutrition for food security. 

FAO and Unilever are also exploring the development of a joint methodology in Africa and Asia to measure improvement of smallholders livelihoods’ linked to Unilever’s value chain and  both organizations might further collaborate on Unilever’s food loss assessment in palm oil supply chains in Malaysia. 

Other potential initiatives include data sharing on water use to grow crops and joint plans to reduce water use based on FAO best practices.

FAO’s existing fruitful collaborations with Unilever include donations to improve household food security and nutritional status in southern Bangladesh and a project in the same country that links school milk with smallholder dairy development.

The Private Sector Mechanism

The reformed Committee on World Food Security allows for the participation of the private sector through the Private Sector Mechanism, which includes more than 200 private sector companies.

Graziano da Silva informed Polman that the private sector has extensively participated in the Responsible Agriculture Investments (RAI) consultation process suggesting priorities for policy, incentives, and best practices for responsible agricultural investment, and requested Unilever to adhere to the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests.