FAO's Strategic Programme on Information Management and Dissemination to Assist in the Fight Against Hunger

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and its 184 Members highlight information as one of the priority areas in fighting hunger and achieving food security. As a result, FAO established the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT) for agricultural information management and dissemination, in an effort to fight hunger through effective and immediate access to relevant and timely information. WAICENT is FAO's strategic programme for improving access to essential documents, statistics, maps and multimedia resources to millions of users around the globe. This Programme provides access to the accumulated knowledge and expertise of the Organization, thereby assisting decision-makers, professionals and the public-at-large to obtain and use essential information.

Through WAICENT, FAO plays a key role in enhancing food security and agricultural development in the following areas:

Improving Access to Information
FAO WAICENT offers information that is organized and cross-linked to facilitate user access. A point of entry to this information is the WAICENT Portal (, which provides the main thematic access points to FAO's technical information. The WAICENT Portal also features the Information Finder, an online search tool that allows the user to navigate through FAO's extensive multimedia resources.

The FAO Virtual Library
The FAO Virtual Library is the primary digital archive used to support the work of FAO and its technical publications. The Virtual Library's central element is a set of Web links, databases and electronic resources that support FAO in its role as a Centre of Excellence.

Setting Standards for Information Management
For over 20 years, FAO has been setting standards for information management in areas of documentation and spatial and geo-referenced data relevant to the work of FAO. Through WAICENT, FAO collaborates with Member Nations and other partners to develop and disseminate global standards and procedures for agricultural information management and exchange.

Providing Tools to Manage Agricultural Information
Essential to improving access to information is the ready availability of appropriate tools, such as mapping systems, Web applications for the collection of "metadata", templates for the creation of electronic documents, search engines and harvesting data. Together with its partners, FAO WAICENT makes available information management systems for use by institutions in Member Nations.

Access to All
In addition to the resources accessible on-line through the WAICENT Portal and the Information Finder, many of FAO's specialized information systems are also available on CD-ROM. This is especially important in Member Nations where access to the Internet is not yet readily available.

Capacity Building in Information Management: Resources and Training
FAO WAICENT works closely with stakeholders in Member Nations and the international community associated with agricultural development and food security. Through partnerships, FAO WAICENT assists in developing facilities and networks for access to and sharing of information. Improving efficiency, quality and relevance of knowledge exchange are key areas, as is communication using electronic media. Activities include:

  • The Resource Kit - A cooperation between FAO and a range of partners. This unique e-learning initiative provides users worldwide with the essential skills, knowledge and tools needed for effective information management in agriculture.
  • FAO WAICENT Field Programmes - A mechanism for collaboration with governments and local communities, providing technical advice and support to strengthen information management capacities, through the effective use of ICTs (information and communication technologies).

Staff in FAO Regional and Subregional Offices are crucial in implementing Outreach activities and in promoting collaboration with agencies and institutions.

Intergovernmental Process
The Consultation on Agricultural Information Management (COAIM) is an intergovernmental process for FAO Members to discuss and recommend policies related to management of and access to agricultural information. This process was established recognizing the key roles that information and knowledge play in ensuring food security and sustainable development.

Points for discussion:

  • An Introduction to FAO WAICENT
  • Fighting Hunger With Information - A Political Perspective
  • Achieving the Objectives of the World Food Summit: five years later - the Vital Role of Information
  • Challenges for WAICENT - Issues, Options and Choices


List of speakers

For additional information visit the FAO WAICENT portal.



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FAO, 2002