FAO in China

FAO Success Stories

Poor small farmers and herders from ethnic minorities in western Sichuan Province recently saw their livelihoods improve in concert with environmental protection initiatives that ultimately led them to discover a greater variety of food sources in the region where they lived. The improvements were a result of an FAO technical cooperation project (TCP) that developed an integrated multidisciplinary methodology for China's farmer field schools (FFS). At the same time, the project increased the institutional capacity of the schools to assist farmers and herders over the long term.

The TCP responded to unexpected results from China's effort to strengthen environmental protection in the area. Because of those efforts, arable farmland declined by 37 percent when the government began restoring arable land into forests and grasslands. An environmentally motivated ban on collecting certain wild Chinese traditional herbs also put an end to a major source of income for many farmers and herders. Poor ethnic small farm communities were caught in a dilemma between conserving resources, or accepting lower incomes and increasing food shortages.

Chinese agriculture is much better prepared to deal with the threat of climate change after the successful completion a major FAO project that prepared farmers, field technicians, researchers and authorities to adapt to and mitigate the expected challenges of climate change. The project involved extensive training, demonstrations of best practices, multidisciplinary work and consultations that offered participants the opportunity to get together and exchange common concerns, ideas, best practices and technologies. The main implementing agencies of the project were research institutions that also benefitted from the opportunity to be involved in development issues that are likely to lead their research and applications well into the future.

Importantly, the project involved many female participants, including scientists from implementing agencies, policymakers in government at various levels and, perhaps most significantly, the project paid particular attention to women farmers because they are the ones most directly involved in agriculture production in the pilot provinces.

The South-South Cooperation (SSC) Programme with China is part of FAO's SSC Initiative under the framework of the Special Programme for Food Security designed to improve food security within poor households through National and Regional Programmes for Food Security.

Since the SSC Initiative was launched by FAO in 1996, China has always been actively involved and played a very important leading role in the SSC. To date, China has dispatched more than 1000 Chinese experts and technicians, through FAO, to Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and the South Pacific.

In May 2006, FAO signed a Letter of Intent with the Government of China on forming Strategic Alliance to improve the world food security. China intended to provide at least 3,000 experts and technicians over a period of six years to work and improve the productivity of small-scale farmers and fishermen in developing countries.

Future outbreaks of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) in China will likely be detected and contained much more quickly because of number of improvements to China's emergency preparedness, which strengthened the capacity of veterinarians to rapidly detect HPAI in poultry. These improvements are expected to significantly reduce the threat of pandemic influenza and help preserve the livelihoods of many farming families living in mainly rural areas. Importantly, early detection and control of HPAI also will halt its spread to neighbouring countries like Mongolia, Russia, Viet Nam, etc.

China is home to more than 20% of the world’s human population and a much greater percentage of the world’s livestock. These large populations often overlap with wildlife and the environment and this has led to the emergence of zoonotic infectious diseases with great economic and social impacts. Despite best efforts, China still faces complex challenges in controlling diseases such as Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI). The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) recognises that there is a severe lack of veterinary epidemiology capacity in China, which has hampered effective risk management. It requires competent veterinary field epidemiologists who can conduct surveillance efficiently and can investigate and respond to disease outbreaks effectively and rapidly. Therefore, the MoA has partnered with FAO to develop the China Field Epidemiology Training Program for Veterinarians (China FETPV) in response to this need.