FAO's flagship Hand-In-Hand initiative aimed at eradicating poverty and hunger builds momentum

Government representatives express support at New York briefing

10 April 2021, New York/Rome - Progress made by countries in fighting poverty and hunger under FAO's flagship Hand-In-Hand Initiative during the last 18 months came under the spotlight at a technical briefing organized by FAO's Liaison Office in New York and the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (UN-OHRLLS).

Thursday's event also saw the collaboration of the Chairs of the Groups of LDCs and LLDCs and of the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS).

FAO Director-General QU Dongyu launched the Hand-in-Hand (HIH) Initiative in late 2019 shortly after taking office at the helm of the Rome-based UN agency. This initiative helps countries develop ambitious evidence-based, country-led, and country-owned programmes to eradicate poverty (SDG 1) and end hunger and all forms of malnutrition (SDG 2). To date, 36 countries participate in the initiative, and another 36 are finalising plans and programmes.

During the technical briefing, FAO Chief Economist, Maximo Torero, presented the Hand-In-Hand Initiative's signature match-making approach to UN member state representatives based in New York. He explained that it is designed to fill gaps in information, technology, capacity, coordination, market access, and technical and financial resources in countries where extreme poverty and hunger are most prevalent.

For example, in El Salvador, work is being carried out with municipalities to identify high priority areas where people are living off remittances and to make use of the land.

In Ethiopia, by using the Hand-in-Hand's Geospatial data platform, the government has identified new priority areas - the ‘agro-parks' - and is intensifying efforts to attract private sector funding.

In Nepal, the Initiative brought the World Bank and the government together to develop  Climate-Smart Agriculture Investment Plans.

In Nigeria, using the geospatial data and working with Rabobank and the World Bank, cooling storage facilities are being identified, with the aim of reducing food losses.

Also speaking at the technical briefing, UN Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for LDCs, LLDCs and SIDS, Fekitamoeloa Katoa ‘Utoikamanu, noted that the, "Hand-in-Hand Initiative is so important because it deploys the newest data and technologies to tackle the world's oldest problems. COVID-19 showed just how quickly the most vulnerable can fall into poverty and hunger, reversing years of development gains. We must now use all tools at our disposal to get back on track."

The Chairs of the Groups of LDCs and LLDCs and of the AOSIS echoed the same sentiment, drawing attention to the particular challenges faced by the respective group of countries. They also recalled and welcomed the establishment by FAO of an office dedicated to SIDs, LDCs and LLDCs.

Ambassador Perks Master Ligoya, Permanent Representative of Malawi to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of LDCs underscored how "recognizing the crucial role of agriculture and food security in LDCs, enhanced cooperation and collaboration for capacity building, and innovative use of modern technology and science, remain crucial in the successful implementation of SDGs 1 and 2 and of the 2030 Agenda."

The Permanent Representative of Kazakhstan to the United Nations and Chair of the Group of LLDCs, Ambassador Magzhan Ilyassov, reaffirmed the LLCDs Group's support to the Hand-In-Hand Initiative which, he noted, was launched to accelerate agricultural transformation and sustainable rural development.  "Our Group expresses its appreciation to FAO for integrating the Hand-in-Hand Initiative into the Roadmap for Accelerated Implementation of the Vienna Programme of Action."

Ambassador Walton Webson, Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the United Nations and Chair of the AOSIS emphasized that 'in SIDS, we know where we want to go and what success looks like. Success means that we have resilient micro, small and medium producers that are thriving in our island countries. The Hand-in-Hand initiative is a step in the right direction to help us get there.'

The technical briefing was well received by Member States and other participants who enriched the event with a lively discussion on the initiative.

The event was moderated by Angélica María Jácome Daza, Director of the FAO Office of SIDS, LDCs and LLDCs and closed by Heidi Schroderus-Fox, Director of OHRLLS.

Hand-in-Hand Initiative and putting the achievement of the SDGs back on track

Hard-won progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Least Developed Countries (LDCs), Landlocked Developing Countries (LLDCs) and Small Island Developing States (SIDS) is being eroded slowly but significantly. The long-term impacts of climate change have been compounded by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the deepest global recession in nearly a century.

The disruption of agri-food systems threatens food security and nutrition of hundreds of millions of people around the globe. The prevalence of undernourishment, which was at 8.9 percent globally in 2017-2019, reached 23 percent in LDCs, 20 percent in LLDCs and 16 percent in SIDS.

Evidence-based, country-led and country-owned, FAO's Hand-In-Hand Initiative aims to accelerate agricultural transformation and sustainable rural development to eradicate poverty (SDG 1) and end hunger and all forms of malnutrition (SDG2). In doing so, it contributes to attaining all of the Sustainable Development Goals. The initiative prioritizes countries where national capacities and international support are the most limited or where operational challenges, including natural- or man-made crises, are the greatest. In particular, the initiative responds to UN Secretary General António Guterres' proposals for repositioning the UN development system to redeploy and strengthen the assets of its entities, especially the specialized agencies, for improved data collection and analysis, policy and technical support, facilitation of robust partnerships to provide non-financial means of implementation, and scaled-up finance and investment to promote transformation at scale.

Photo: ©Chris Steele-Perkins/Magnum Ph / FAO
Women working in a field in Nepal where through the Hand-In-Hand Initiative the World Bank and the government are developing Climate-Smart Agriculture Investment Plans.