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



1975 - 85

United in the fight against hunger
1979, Italy - World Conference on Agrarian Reform and Rural Development

When FAO carried out its fourth World Food Survey in 1977 on the state of hunger and malnutrition in the world, the overall picture was grim: 10 percent to 15 percent of people were found undernourished and 50 percent people suffered from hunger or malnutrition or both.

Despite the stark conditions of rising poverty, hunger and malnutrition, developing nations fought back with resiliency: they began to consider the idea of collective self-sufficiency.

It was a time of high hope, when developing countries after winning political independence, were determined to work for their economic independence.

The World Conference on agrarian reform and rural development (WCARRD) that was organized in the late 1970s was an opportunity for many developing countries to bring this idea forward.

At the same time, the UN began to realize that a common approach to finding solutions to common food related problems in developing countries could yield better results as these countries shared similar socio-economic conditions. Promoting technical cooperation among them was crucial to reaching their goals.

The Buenos Aires Plan of Action, adopted in 1978 by 138 States, to promote and implement technical cooperation among developing countries (TCDC), represented a blueprint for major changes in approaches to development assistance, and guided FAO’s subsequent work in these areas.

While developing countries began to share their technical knowledge and noted the improvements in their communities, the UN was aware that those countries were far from being food secure. FAO needed to continue to monitor and provide timely and reliable information on those countries facing serious food emergencies so that appropriate actions could be taken by the governments and the international community. One instrument that was set up in that period worth noting was FAO’s Global Information and Early Warning System for Food and Agriculture in 1977.

16 October 1981, Italy - Celebration of the first World Food Day ceremony

The effect of the economic crisis of the 1970s on agriculture was devastating as agriculture suffered a huge setback. This meant that FAO, governments and donor agencies had to work even more closely in different sectors to eradicate hunger and to galvanize public support.

The idea that action by governments, organizations, groups and individuals should all join together to take a stand against the injustice of hundreds of millions of people being denied their right to food was gathering support within he UN family, support which culminated with the establishment, in 1981, of the World Food Day.

Producing Better Small Scale Irrigation

FAO has always been actively involved in the promotion of appropriate agricultural techniques, including irrigation, to support and relief communities affected by sudden shocks or crisis.

The recurrent climate-related shocks occurring in the regions of South of Africa and the Indian Ocean, have always been negatively affecting the highly sensitive livelihoods and economies of local communities, eroding their ability to fully recover from them and increasing their vulnerability to subsequent disasters.

This is also why, during its fourth decade of existence, FAO gave greater attention to the development of small-scale irrigation schemes as an attractive way to re-establish production and income and to increase significantly the resilience of the local population to overcome subsequent emergencies.

Large schemes, although they have their place, they require an extremely long gestation period and involve enormous investments. They are also highly demanding in terms of management, farmer training and maintenance. While small scale irrigation projects are much more limited in their impact, they can be carried out much faster and yield quick results such as increasing food produce for farmers and their resiliency to future threats, providing consistent employment. 

Harnessing marine resources to alleviate hunger
1984, Bangladesh – FAO and UNDP have helped to survey the fish resources of the Government of Bangladesh

When FAO was first established, the principle of the freedom of the seas were regarded as available to all and the responsibility of no one. In the following years, FAO noted how harnessing this underused resource could help alleviate hunger for so many farming communities in underdeveloped regions.

Thanks to remarkable technological advancements, fish production in the world more than quadrupled from the 1940s to the mid-1970s. Success has its dangers, and in this case the uncontrolled expansion, mainly by industrialized nations, resulted in the overexploitation of many valuable fish stocks. By the mid-1970, total world fish production began to level off.

For developing countries, the situation was different. Many lacked the capacity to benefit from the freedom of the seas. Adding insult to injury, they would endure foreign fleets fishing near their shores. This issue was raised in international fora and after many discussions, it was unilaterally agreed that extended jurisdiction of a coastal state over fish resources would be claimed for up to 200 miles seawards. This was enclosed in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea which presented the opportunity to manage this precious resource properly.

The FAO Conference on Fisheries Management and Development held in Rome in 1984, provided the first major follow-up to the new regime for the world's oceans with a strategy, described as ‘world charter for fisheries’.

As developing countries were striving to increase their share of world trade in fish and fishery products, FAO established regional fish market information services.

Increasing Livestock Production

In the 1960s, policy makers’ focused primarily on crop production at the expense of developing their livestock. Ten years later, as incomes were rising, the demand for livestock products increased dramatically. The average intake of animal protein, including fish, in developing countries went up by 20 percent. FAO’s focus has concentrated on containing and preventing diseases and on technologies to increase production. The ways to do this has been by improving breed and feed of livestock.