FAO steps up support to South-South Cooperation

Countries benefit from increased transfers of know-how, technologies

6 December 2011, Rome - In a growing trend towards cooperation among countries of the global South, developing countries are putting more financial and technical muscle behind initiatives to help each other improve food security, as evidenced by new agreements fostered by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) among some of its member countries.

FAO recently co-signed two new tripartite agreements between the People's Republic of China and the Republics of Liberia and Senegal, respectively, to support implementation of a series of food security initiatives and projects in Liberia and Senegal.

The agreements were signed in the context of the Strategic Alliance between FAO and China on South-South Cooperation (SSC) in support of programmes for food and nutrition security in selected countries. The funding provided through the new agreement comes from a US$ 30 million FAO-China Trust Fund.

Under the agreement with Liberia, China will contribute more than US$ 1 million and technical assistance through 24 Chinese experts and technicians, to support implementation of the National Programme for Food Security over a two-year-period. In Senegal, China will provide assistance through 26 experts and technicians.

"At a time when continued economic uncertainties are having an impact on the flow of traditional, North-South development assistance, South-South Cooperation is creating and building on partnerships that support the direct exchange of financial and technical contributions between developing countries," said Laurent Thomas, FAO Assistant Director-General, Technical Cooperation Department.

Sharing knowledge

"FAO's South-South Cooperation (SSC) initiative was launched in 1996 to provide technical support to country-level action on food insecurity. Since then, FAO's experience with South-South Cooperation has shown that the knowledge and skills of technical experts and field technicians from the South have made an invaluable contribution to efforts to modernize small-scale agriculture throughout the developing world," Thomas added.

A total of 47 tripartite agreements have been signed to provide technical assistance among developing countries in Africa, Asia-Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, and over 1 500 experts and technicians have been fielded in the framework of various food security initiatives.

In addition to the Strategic Alliance with China, letters of intent for SSC Strategic Alliance have also been signed so far with Argentina and Indonesia, and are under discussion with Morocco.

In one such SSC project, Vietnamese experts are helping to implement irrigation activities in Chad to support rice cultivation and horticulture, and to increase cereal production, artisanal fishing, bee-keeping and food processing. Under a tripartite agreement signed with FAO in 2010, ten Vietnamese experts are helping Chad to implement the activities under the country's five-year, US$ 200 million National Programme for Food Security (which FAO helped to design).

In Malawi, irrigation engineers from the Republic of the Union of Myanmar helped their national counterparts to develop and disseminate irrigation technologies among smallholder farmers. They included the use of water diversion techniques and materials which were previously unknown to the farmers, and which helped to improve water flow and reclaim flooded areas.

­The Government of Venezuela has provided financial support for the transfer of technology to African countries in the field of small-scale water control, while the Government of Brazil has agreed to provide specialized training in agricultural research institutes and training centres for qualified African nationals.

Eye on the future

The Global South-South Development Expo, currently underway at FAO headquarters in Rome, is expected to inspire more strategic alliances with developing countries which are in the position to provide experts, technicians and funding for countries which are eligible for SSC projects, but which are not able to shoulder the costs.

The Expo, an annual event since 2008, has representatives of countries, civil society, private sector and UN agencies and is designed to showcase, enhance and foster new South-South alliances that will help countries to achieve the Millennium Development Goals through sustainable, equitable development.

Photo: ©FAO/SSC
South-South Cooperation at work in Malawi.