Secrets of the South

Developing countries share solutions through South-South Cooperation

Cotton is a main income source for many communities around the world. ©Rafael Martinez/CONALGODON


For many people around the world, cotton is a safety net. As a crop resistant to climatic changes, it can be planted in dry and arid zones and represents a real economic lifeline in rural areas where there are high levels of poverty.

However, in the last 20 years, many South American countries that rely heavily on cotton have suffered a decrease in production, affecting the income of thousands of farming families. An initiative led by FAO, the Brazilian Cooperation Agency and other local partners hopes to counter this by working with farmers across seven countries in South America. The initiative encourages collaboration and the sharing of innovative farming methods. One exciting innovation is the development of the first prototype of a one-line cotton-harvesting machine for small areas. This allows smallholder farmers to switch from manual to machine farming, increasing their capacity, speeding up harvesting time and reducing costs. Through this cooperation, farmers across all participating countries reap the benefits of a more sustainable and profitable cotton sector.

This example is what South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) is all about: sharing lessons across countries with similar challenges, learning what works for development and empowering each other in the process.

So what exactly is South-South and Triangular Cooperation?

In short, SSTC is the sharing and exchange of development solutions – knowledge, experiences, good practices, innovative policies, technology and resources – between countries in the global South, in order to help each other to meet their development goals. Sometimes these relationships involve a donor from a developed country or multilateral organization, which then becomes Triangular Cooperation.

As a facilitator of SSTC, FAO unites countries that have development solutions with countries that are interested in applying them and ensures the technical quality of these exchanges. One of the most common methods of SSTC is the exchange of expertise, such as the deployment of experts or technicians from one country to another for a couple months or even several years. 

With help from Thai experts, Afghanistan’s new animal feed testing centre will shorten the waiting time for animal feed tests. Left: ©FAO/Shah Marai; Right: ©FAO/Freshta Ghani

Thailand and Afghanistan partner to improve animal feed testing

Through a South-South partnership, animal feed experts from Thailand shared their knowledge with Afghan lab technicians at an animal feed testing facility in Afghanistan. Around 75 percent of Afghani families depend on livestock for their incomes and diets, and because of this, high quality feed is fundamental to achieve an optimal level of animal productivity, health and welfare.

Previously, there was no proper feed testing facility in Afghanistan. This required lab technicians to ship animal feed samples to other countries for analysis, meaning a higher costs and longer processing time. However, a new feed testing facility was recently built by the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) in Kabul for which FAO provided its support through technical training and basic laboratory instruments. Thailand sent two experts to take stock of the existing laboratory equipment, assess the capacity of the Afghan laboratory and conduct technical training to about ten local staff. Farid Karimi, the laboratory’s head, said that the knowledge-sharing initiative made a huge difference. “Previously, we were unable to operate the available equipment. However after the training, we know how to use them. At the beginning of the training… we were not fully equipped with the required knowledge and skill sets. However, this training opportunity really helped us develop our capacity … and get the best out of this opportunity.”

A Chinese expert demonstrates sustainable farming methods in the DRC. ©FAO/LI Yuhao.

China’s partnership with the Democratic Republic of the Congo

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a team of agriculture experts from China went to assist local farmers with rice and vegetable production, animal husbandry and aquaculture. The DRC is a vast country with rich natural resources, but malnutrition and food insecurity are pressing problems. With China being the world’s largest rice producer, its team was in a prime position to help the local people make their production more efficient.

In the southern DRC, the expert team demonstrated rice planting technology, using six varieties of rice across four sites and transplanting the seedlings with new techniques developed in China.

Local farmers also learned the importance of dry bed seedling, a method of production that uses less water, ideal for this area which suffers from a long dry season. Farmers were taught soil testing and formula fertilization methods, which help to optimize crop management, as well as how to strengthen water control to avoid flood irrigation and prevent pests and diseases. All sites achieved higher harvests than before, with yields up by a staggering 133 - 466 percent.

The expert team also demonstrated how to cultivate millet, an extremely drought-resistant crop perfect for such a dry climate. For many farmers, this was the first time planting millet, and they were very enthusiastic about its prospects.

Celebrating 10 years

China was one of the first countries to engage in SSTC with FAO, and it has been an active participant and major promoter of SSTC in the areas of sustainable food and agriculture. This month FAO celebrates the 10-year anniversary of this partnership with an event in Kampala, Uganda to honour its achievements.

If we want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, the traditional models of cooperation will not deliver at the pace and scale required. SSTC represents an inclusive approach to spreading the benefits of globalization more widely, creating new markets and building a broader foundation for sustainable economic growth. Essentially, it is a key tool in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 2: a world without hunger.

Learn More

2. Zero hunger, 17. Partnership for the goals