Former Director-General  José Graziano da Silva


José Graziano da Silva has contributed more than 30 years of academic, professional and political knowledge on issues related to security, food and rural development. In particular, as the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)  from 2012-2019, he implemented the experience garnered with the Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) program in Brazil, which he conceived and later led while serving as Extraordinary Minister of Food Security and Fight against Hunger during the first government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

In Brazil

In 2001, José Graziano da Silva coordinated the development of the Zero Hunger program - a central component of Lula’s campaign for the country’s presidency - and in January 2003 he was appointed to the cabinet with the mission to implement it.

The Zero Hunger program introduced a new development model focused on the eradication of hunger and seeking social inclusion by connecting macroeconomic, social and industrial policies. This greatly accelerated progress in reducing hunger: between 2000-2002 and 2005-2007, chronic malnutrition in Brazil decreased from more than 10 percent to less than 5 percent, falling at a rate 2.5 times faster than in the previous decade. As a result, the country fulfilled the objectives of the World Food Summit and the first Millennium Development Goal.

And in 2014, Brazil was removed from FAO’s Hunger Map, as it was considered to have become the first developing nation to have eradicated hunger.

In FAO, as regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean

Graziano da Silva joined FAO in 2006, when he was appointed Assistant Director-General  for Latin America and the Caribbean. As FAO Regional Representative, Graziano da Silva called on governments to support the 2025 Latin America and the Caribbean Zero Hunger Initiative, which consolidated an important regional agenda focused on food security, sustainable rural development and family agriculture.

According to the "State of Food Security and Nutrition" report of 2014, Latin America and the Caribbean turned out to be the first region to reach the goal of the first Millennium Development Goal, which meant halving hunger by 2015.

In FAO as Director General – first term (2012-2015)

At the helm of FAO, Graziano da Silva reinforced the commitment to transform the vision of a sustainable and food-secure world into reality. During his first term (2012-2015), he carried out transformative changes within the organization by intensifying the focus of FAO's work on five strategic objectives: (i) ensuring food security; ii) promoting the production and sustainable use of natural resources; (iii) reducing rural poverty; iv) improving food systems and v) strengthening resilience. 

At the same time, he, conducted an internal reform of the UN agency by reducing bureaucracy and administrative costs; developed partnerships with various stakeholders, including civil society, private sector, academic and research institutions and foundation, and boosted FAO's capacity to support South-South cooperation -  the exchange of resources, technology, and knowledge between developing countries. Through these changes, Graziano da Silva helped to make FAO  a knowledge organization with its “feet on the ground” by reinforcing the technical capacity of its field work. 

Graziano da Silva was also instrumental strengthening the member states’ confidence in FAO  by reinforcing the organization’s “value-for-money” approach. This can be attested by the broad consensus reached-in approving successive FAO budgets and programmes of work. He  also strengthened FAO’s global mandate by actively supporting the Committee on World Food Security, the United Nations High-Level Task Force on Combating the World Food Crisis - of which he served as vice-president - and the UN Secretary-General's Zero Hunger Challenge (2012-2015), which was inspired by in the Brazilian program Fome Zero. In addition, also through his work with the African Union, as FAO Director-General he was instrumental in ensuring the political commitment of African leaders to the eradication of hunger by 2025.

In FAO as Director General – second term (2015-2019)

In 2015, as the only candidate for the post, Graziano da Silva was re-elected Director-General of FAO for a second four-year term (until 2019), with a historic turnout (177 votes, one against).

In that same year, in New York, the Brazilian Zero Hunger approach became the model of one of the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG-2) which calls for the eradication of hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.

José Graziano da Silva subsequently consolidated many of the initiatives launched during  his first term, in partnership with member countries and international organizations, with UN agencies, and with the academia, the civil society and the private sector.

Among the most notable achievements, Graziano da Silva shaped FAO’s crucial contribution to most of the key development challenges, including:

a) Reinforcing rural poverty as a root cause for forced migration;

b) Highlighting hunger as one essential precondition for conflict, a vision adopted by the UN Security Council in 2018;

c) Promoting a new approach to facilitate agriculture adaptation and to improve resilience as part of the mitigation for climate change impacts;

d) Highlighting biodiversity loss as a very serious threat for global food and agriculture;

e) Bringing the themes of two 2014 initiatives the UN International Year of Farming and the Second FAO-WHO International Conference on nutrituion to the top of the UN system agenda, as manifested by the declaration of the Decades of Nutrition (2016-2025) and Family Farming (2019-2028);

f) Highlighting the role of food safety as a key concern for food security, and for trade;

g) Reinforcing the view of a globalization of the obesity epidemic and the need to promote sustainable food systems that can foster healthy diets, as well as the necessity of a global regulation for food production and consumption.

Academic background

Graziano da Silva holds a degree in Agronomy and a Master's degree in Economics and Rural Sociology, both degrees from the University of São Paulo (USP). He has a PhD in Economics from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP) and post-doctoral degrees at the University of London and in Latin American Studies and Environmental Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz).

Before retiring as a professor from the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), Graziano da Silva taught  for more than 30 years and published 25 books on rural development, food security and agricultural economics. He has acted as tutor to more than a hundred professionals dedicated to rural development and food security as well as postgraduate students.

Over the years, José Graziano da Silva has received several academic honors, including:

2011 – Doctor Honoris Causa, Federal University of Uberlandia (Brazil)

2012 – Doctor Honoris Causa, Technical University of Lisbon (Portugal)

2012 – Honorary Professorship, China Agricultural University (China)

2014 – Foreign Fellowship of the National Academy of Agricultural Sciences, National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (India)

2014 – Doctor Honoris Causa, Bucharest University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine (Romania)

2014 – Doctor of Science (Honoris Causa), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (India)

2014 – Honorary Professorship, A Real e Veneravel Arquiconfraria da Ordem de Santa Maria de Jvrea Benedetina (Brazil)

2015 – Academic degree of honourable Professor, S. Seifullin Kazakh AgroTechnical University (Kazakhstan)

2015 – Doctor Honoris Causa, Russian State Agrarian University - Moscow Timiryazev Agricultural Academy (Russia)

2015 – Doctor Honoris Causa, Agricultural University of Tirana (Albania)

2015 – Doctor Honoris Causa, Baku State University (Azerbaijan)

2016 – Doctor Honoris Causa, University of Liège (Belgium)

2016- Doctor Honoris Causa in Philosophy, University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Lahore University (Pakistan)

2019- Doctor Honoris Causa, Universidad de Chile


Graziano da Silva has also received several decorations and memberships, including:

2019 – Medal Oriental Republic of Uruguay - Uruguay

2019 – Medal Dr. Alvarado Barcellos Fagundes - Brasil

2019 – Order of Merit in the Diplomatic and International Field - Slovenia

2019 – Ordre national du Lion Commandeur - Senegal

2018 – First Class Medal of Merit Citizenship – Cape Verde

2018 – Order of the Two Niles from Sudan Government

2018 – Officier de l’Ordre National du Burkina Faso

2016- Commandeur de l’Ordre National de la Republique de Madagascar

2015- Cavaliere di Gran Croce della Repubblica Italiana (Italy)

2014 - Member of the Board of Trustees of the Khalifa International Date Palm Award

2013 – Bestowal of the Chiefly Title SAOFA’I (Samoa)

2013 – Grand Officier de l’Ordre National du Bénin (Benin)

2012 - Member of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition

2011 – Tribute for his personal commitment to the eradication of hunger in Brazil, House of Representatives, Brasilia (Brazil)

2002 - Ordem do Rio Branco (Brazil)

Member of the Brazilian Society of Rural Economy and Sociology (SOBER). Vice-President of SOBER (1997-2001)


José Graziano da Silva has published over 25 books in Portuguese, English and Spanish and contributed essays and book chapters to a number of national and international publications. He is a regular contributor to different media outlets and has been published by the Financial Times, Le Monde, Valor Economico, Huffington Post, among others. His books include:

  • Graziano Da Silva, J.; Del Grossi, M.; Galvão de França, C. “Zero Hunger (Fome Zero): The Brazilian Experience”. Rome. Brasilia. e 2012. 388 p.
  • Campanhola, C. e Graziano da Silva, J. Editores. “O Novo Rural Brasileiro”. Brasilia: EMBRAPA, 2004. v.1 a 7 (ISBN: 85-7383-242-8).
  • Takagi, Maya; Graziano Da Silva, J.; Belik, Walter. “Combate à fome e à pobreza rural”. São Paulo: Ed. Cromosete, 2002. v. 1. 254 p.
  • Grossi, Mauro Eduardo Del; Graziano Da Silva, J. “Novo Rural: Uma abordagem Ilustrada”. Londrina/Pr: Gráfica Editora do Norte Ltda., 2002.  V. 1. 53 P e V. 2. 49 P.
  • Graziano Da Silva, J. “O novo rural brasileiro”. 2 a. ed. Campinas/SP: Coleção Pesquisa. Editora Unicamp, 2002. V. 1. 151 p.
  • Graziano Da Silva, J.; Belik, Walter; Takagi, Maya. “Projeto Fome Zero: Uma proposta de política de segurança alimentar para o Brasil”. 3a. ed. São Paulo: Instituto Cidadania, 2001. v. 1. 118 p.
  • Graziano da Silva, J. (Organizador e Prefácio) “Questão Agrária, Industrialização e Crise Urbana no Brasil”. Ensaios de Ignácio Rangel. Editora da UFRGS, V. 1, 266 P.
  • Graziano Da Silva, J. “A nova dinâmica da agricultura brasileira”. 2a. ed. Campinas/SP: Unicamp, 1999. v. 1. 217 p.
  • Graziano da Silva, J.” Tecnologia e agricultura familiar”. Porto Alegre/RS: Editora da UFRGS, 1999. V. 1. 238 p.
  • Graziano da Silva, J. “O que é questão agraria”. 18. ed. São Paulo/SP: Editora Brasiliense, 1998. 114 p.
  • Graziano Da Silva, J. “De bóias frias a empregados rurais”. Maceió/AL: Editora EDUFAL, 1997. v. 1. 220 p.
  • Graziano Da Silva, J. “A irrigação e a problemática fundiária do nordeste”. Campinas/SP: UNICAMP/PRONI, 1989. 131 p.
  • Graziano Da Silva, J. “Para entender o plano nacional de reforma agraria”. São Paulo/SP: Editora Brasiliense, 1985. 103 p.
  • Graziano Da Silva, J. “Política agraria”. Porto Alegre/RS: Editor Mercado Aberto, 1985. 80 p.
  • Graziano Da Silva, J. “A modernização dolorosa”. Rio de Janeiro/RJ: Zahar Editora, 1982. 192 p.
  • Graziano Da Silva, J. “Estrutura agrária e produção de subsistência na agricultura brasileira (1978)”. 2. ed. São Paulo/SP: Editora Hucitec, 1981. 267 p.
  • Graziano Da Silva, J. “Progresso técnico e relações de trabalho na agricultura”. São Paulo/SP: Editora Hucitec, 1981. 210 p.
  • Queda, O.; Graziano Da Silva, J.; Kageyama, Angela. “Evolução recente das culturas de arroz e feijão no Brasil”. Brasília/DF: Editora Binagri, 1979. 90 p.

Personal life

A Brazilian and Italian by nationality, he is married to journalist and lawyer Paola Ligasacchi, and has two children - from a previous marriage - and five grandchildren.