FAO 70th Anniversary

Welcome to FAO’s 70th Anniversary portal!

Do you know what FAO has done over the past 70 years to end hunger in the world? Test your knowledge with this short quiz!

Do you want to know more about the story of FAO? We prepared some materials that will take you on a journey through the main events, our leading figures and their endeavors over the past 70 years.
Click here to know more



1965 - 75

Boosting Farm Power

Attitudes toward mechanization changed considerably between the mid-1950s and the mid-1960s, largely due to the green revolution. In 1966, the UN/FAD World Conference on Land Reform emphasized the need for an integrated approach to agriculture. By 1968, the Organization’s annual State of Food and Agriculture report looked at raising agricultural productivity through ‘technological improvements’ as a way to free up land that would be used to feeding them.

During the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s, food production in the world grew consistently and total output increased by more than half. Nevertheless, in this period, political deadlocks and economic shocks such as the dramatic rise in oil prices meant that FAO’s challenge was to contain the subsequent threat of famine while continuing its work with nations for strategic research and action in long-term food security and production. 

Livestock Development

In order to help developing countries’ increase their farm production, FAO began to pay special attention to the diseases afflicting farm animals and how to eliminate them.  

In 1947, FAO’s first major project was a Campaign against Rinderpest in China. Funded by United Funds Relief and Rehabilitation Administration, the project enjoyed initial success and was extended to other Asian countries. By the end of 1950s this highly contagious viral disease that attacks cattle, buffaloes and other cloven-hoofed animals had been eliminated from most countries in Asia.

Among other livestock diseases that FAO began to tackle during this period was the foot-and-mouth disease which has been kept at low levels and had been wiped out in several European countries for several years. This was also the time when FAO spearheaded the fight against African swine-fever which afflicted Spain and Portugal in the 1960s and the Western Hemisphere in the 1970s, and is a fight that continues to this day. 1975 was the year when a major long-term programme against the trypanosomiasis in Africa was launched.

Alleviating Poverty and Protecting the Natural Resources

From the 1950s to the early 1970s, the presence of large stocks of cereals in North America was taken for granted throughout the planet. Then in 1972, the world production of grains fell for the first time in two decades. Imports needs rose and surpluses disappeared almost overnight. Add to this equation a series of environmental issues that ranged from the pollution of land, water and air to the destruction of the world’s heritage of plant genetic resources, and you have a world crisis. 

The world’s state was reviewed in the UN Conference on the Human Environment in Stockholm. FAO was asked to act to conserve the earth's agricultural, forestry, fishery and other natural resources and to strengthening ongoing work. One of the issues that emerged from the conference was the recognition that poverty alleviation helped in protecting the environment. Indira Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, the then Indian Prime Minister, brought this connection forward in her speech at the conference:

‘We do not wish to impoverish the environment any further and yet we cannot for a moment forget the grim poverty of large numbers of people. Are not poverty and need the greatest polluters?’

FAO immediately set to work after the Stockholm conference to establish a framework for its programme on Natural Resources and the Human Environment. This had two main components, the first relating to the assessment of the state of natural resources and the second to their management.

Dealing with the food crisis
November 1974, Rome, Italy - Opening of the World Food Conference, Palazzo dei Congressi, Rome.

In 1973 the world was in the middle of a food crisis. To make matters worse, the political embargo and the sharp raised prices of oil, both curbed production of the world’s factories and farms while sharply inflating a global inflation that was already at the margins of governments’ ability to control. This led the US to convene the World Food Conference (1974), to address two most fundamental needs: food emergency and ensuring adequate supplies to narrow the gap between the developed and developing countries.

Henry Kissinger, Secretary of State of the United States of America delivering his speech, advocated for increased investment worldwide and confirmed US commitment so that “in ten years’ time, no child will go to bed hungry”. 

August 1973, Chad– FAO has coordinated airlifts of emergency food supplies in Chad and in the other Sahelian Countries.

Governments examined the global problem of food production and consumption and recommended the adoption of an International Undertaking on World Food Security, solemnly proclaiming that;

‘every man, woman and child has the inalienable right to be free from hunger and malnutrition in order to develop their physical and mental faculties.’ 

One of the results of the World Food Conference was the establishment of a FAO Committee on World Food Security. The Committee was a forum to review and follow up of policies of world food security, food production, nutrition and access to food.

It was in the same period that, in light of the aggravated situation affecting the whole world, FAO put forward a five point plan of action. FAO, World Bank and UNDP were tasked with setting up food production multilateral and assistance programmes to strengthen food security assistance and ensure the unilateral adoption of national stock policies according to specific criteria. These measures could not have come at a better time for areas most in need, one case in point were the countries affected by the Sahel crisis.

Despite the aid provided, the Sahel crisis took many years to recover, at least partially. When in 1980 the President of Mali, Mr. Moussa Traore’, addressed an urgent appeal, before the international community, to rescue the region, it came as no surprise.

Thirty years after the end of World War II and the world was a very different place, politically. With FAO as focal point or facilitator, huge strides had been made by governments, NGOs and donor agencies in the field of cooperation for food security.

It was increasingly clear that the very real threat of hunger now could only be dealt with concerted worldwide action.

Harnessing Agricultural Research

During the 1960s, researchers noted that diseases, environmental pollution and farming practices were causing an alarming decline in biodiversity worldwide. Protecting biodiversity was crucial to boosting ecosystem productivity and well-planned and implemented research to preserve it would pay remarkably high dividends.

In 1965 a panel of experts was established to study ways to protect endangered plant genetic resources. At that time, FAO was involved in over 615 projects assisting research at the national level in diverse fields, from sorghum and millet development to irrigation to tick-borne cattle diseases.

Along with FAO, there were four different research centers in Europe that collaborated and shared findings. In 1971 to integrate these research centers and harness their strengths, the Consultative Group on international Agricultural Research (CGIAR) was created. Sponsored by FAO, UNDP and the World Bank, CGIAR was established as an informal association of 44 donor governments and organizations to enable stable long-term research programmes that would be outside the capacity of individual countries. The CGIAR secretariat came from the World Bank, while FAO provided that of the Group’s Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).