FAO Investment Centre celebrates 50th anniversary

Centre helps member countries increase and improve quality of agricultural and rural investments

16 December 2014, Rome - FAO is celebrating the 50th Anniversary of its work devoted to improving public and private investment in developing and transition countries. 

The mission of FAO's Investment Centre: to work with countries to determine how to best invest in agriculture and rural development to reduce poverty. It also engages with governments to directly design, implement, supervise and evaluate agriculture and rural development projects in the field. In doing so, the Centre taps the vast wealth of knowledge and expertise of staff throughout FAO.

"FAO's Strategic Framework puts investment firmly at the centre of efforts to reduce food and nutrition insecurity and poverty throughout the world," says Gustavo Merino, Director of the Investment Centre. "We are incredibly proud to mark 50 years of FAO's support to investment and collaboration with our external partners."

Two thousand projects, one hundred billion dollars

The Centre's story is one of collaboration with member countries and more than 30 national, regional and international financial institutions as well as direct participation in thousands of development projects.

This work started in 1964, when the World Bank and FAO agreed to bring together their respective expertise in agriculture knowledge and technical and financial resources to support countries making smart rural investment choices.

Over the last five decades, FAO staff has helped leverage $110 billion in investment in member countries and supported over 2,000 projects in 170 countries.

"What those numbers do not convey are the years of capacity building and mentoring of national counterparts to undertake investment planning and implementation themselves," Merino says. "Countries now to look to FAO's input in policy decisions that enable them to both increase productivity and safeguard the environment."

Historically the Centre's core partnerships has been with other multilateral institutions such as the World Bank, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). But it has earned the role of trusted partner working with countries and lending institutions, helping shape and implement better and more targeted investments in agriculture and rural development. 

A strong track record

Through its work aimed at mainstreaming community-based approaches in investment, the Centre has worked to encourage its partners to invest in programmes covering areas such as natural resource management, farmer field schools, land tenure and making rural finance and credit more accessible.

Its mandate has evolved over the decades, from responding to emerging challenges and periods of acute food crisis in the 1970s and 1980s to engaging with poverty and hunger reduction strategies embedded in the Millennium Development Goals and tackling soaring food prices and drought in the Horn of Africa during the early 2000s.

It has also expanded its programme to address new challenges related to nutrition and to focus on fostering resilience, climate-smart agriculture and the emerging landscape approach to sustainable development - a core subject in the Centre's annual Investment Days hosted at FAO each December, which this year will also showcase water management, a signature specialty of the Centre from its inception, and take a closer look at agricultural potential in dryland areas.

The Investment Centre has a strong presence worldwide, supporting programmes and projects in Asia and the Pacific, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the Near East and North Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean.

The next fifty years

"If we were to sum up the Investment Centre's future goal it would be to channel our efforts to support countries to increase and enhance investment to achieve zero hunger during our life time, support sustainable production, reduce rural poverty and improve food systems, making tehm more inclusive and resilient to shocks," said Merino.

"We need to make sure the benefits of that investment reach the poorest farmers and improve their overall living standards. It's not just a question of access to food and basic goods, but also to increasing incomes, providing employment and generating development opportunities," he added.

Photo: ©FAO/Amos Gumulira
A child helps draw water from a well in Malawi.