Press releases

 Back to archive

Press Release 98/60 


Rome, October 16, -- World Food Day was observed in some 150 countries today, on the theme "Women Feed the World," stressing women's key role in food production and appealing for equality between women and men. Meanwhile, an assessment by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) showed that 30 developing countries are facing food emergencies, mainly due to the effect of both El Niño and La Niña weather phenomena.

FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf spoke at FAO Headquarters in Rome, along with Italian Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Senator Rino Serri. The Rome observance also heard a message from the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Angelo Sadano relaying Pope John Paul II's hopes on World Food Day. The message was read by Archbishop Alois Wagner, the Permanent Representative of the Holy See to FAO.

Referring to this year's World Food Day theme, "Women Feed the World," FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf said, "I am personally convinced that the goal of food security for all cannot be reached unless the voice of the silent majority of humanity is heard. The enormous contribution made by women in agriculture, forestry and fisheries, and thereby in achieving household and national food security, must be recognized and valued."

Dr. Diouf said that recognition of the role women play in ensuring food security was translated into concrete commitments in the Plan of Action adopted at the 1996 World Food Summit. The plan called for the promotion of women's full and equal participation in the economy, and for secure and equal access to and control over productive resources including credit, land and water.

Italy's Under-Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Senator Rino Serri, told the gathering that women, along with children, are the principal victims of misery and underdevelopment and the first to suffer from food insecurity, although having a fundamental role in sustainable development.

"It is evident that in order to reduce poverty and increase food security one must invest in the training and productivity of women, granting them full legal and social dignity," he said, adding: "It is time that women have full access to all factors of development," outlining them as access to land, legal ownership and credit.

The message by the Vatican's Secretary of State, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, said: "The Holy Father expresses the hope that this World Food Day will help to bring a deeper understanding of women's capacity to nurture, to love and to educate. This will lead in turn to a deeper understanding of women not only as 'feeders of the world,' but as peace-makers and guardians of true human values."

It asked for the recognition of equal rights for women, saying: "This is essential if women and men are to work together on the basis of reciprocal functions and complementary roles. It is all the more important at a time when humanity is facing new and important challenges."

According to the FAO foodcrop assessment, the world food situation overall is mixed with many areas such as North America producing bumper crops. However, other regions are experiencing serious weather related problems. Persistent rains and floods attributed to the La Niña phenomenon have taken a heavy toll on human life, crops and property in Asia. In Bangladesh, the floods destroyed standing summer rice crops and delayed autumn planting, while in Indonesia, the poor food situation is due to last year's prolonged drought and the continuing financial crisis. The greatest number of countries with food supply problems are in Africa, where civil strife in parts of East, Central, and West Africa continue to disrupt food production, the report noted.

Established in 1979 by FAO's biennial governing Conference, World Food Day is observed each year on the anniversary of the founding of FAO in Quebec City, Canada on Oct. 16, 1945 to highlight the world food problem and seek solutions. It was observed this year with various commemorative events in more that 150 countries around the world.


For more information on FAO, World Food Day and TeleFood please visit our Website at:  or contact: John Riddle, Information Officer at (39) 06 57 05 32 59.


 FAO Home page 
 Search our site 

Comments?: [email protected]

©FAO, 1998