Resource Mobilization

Switzerland and FAO: innovative partnerships provide answers to global challenges

Harare, Zimbabwe - Seed physiologist and research coordinator Mduduzi Tembani takes a sample of the eucalyptus seed. (c) FAO / Jekesai Njikizana

11/12/2017 - 

Rome, 11 December 2017: With the signing of six agreements with FAO, the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) has made a strong statement in support of the global goals to achieve sufficient and safe food for all, to promote sustainable agriculture and food systems, and to conserve and sustainably use natural resources. To achieve these goals, the initiatives covered by the agreements set out to increase responsible investments in agriculture, to control the introduction and spread of plant pests, to introduce sustainable soil management practices globally, and to maintain the diversity of and access to seeds*. 

Switzerland has long been one of FAO’s strongest partners. FOAG specifically has been a champion in supporting global initiatives that foster multisectoral cooperation, the gathering and dissemination of knowledge, and global governance, acknowledging that complex global challenges can only be overcome with innovative partnerships. FAO talked to Mr Alwin Kopse, Head of International Affairs, Sustainable Development, Food Systems Unit at FOAG, to get a better understanding of how this cooperation is relevant in the response to some of the most pressing global challenges.

Q: Mr Kopse, can you give us a brief overview of the projects that have been agreed upon today? Which results do you expect, and how are they important and beneficial for people’s lives? Why and how is it relevant for Switzerland to support these specific projects?

A: The Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture follows three strategic directions with regard to international agricultural policy that help make sustainable agriculture and food systems fit to meet the challenges ahead, such as the generation gap in agriculture, soil degradation, loss of biodiversity, or climate change: 

  • fostering sustainable intensification and agroecology;
  • strengthening the actors and their resilience in agriculture; and
  • conserving and sustainably using agrobiodiversity. 

The projects we have agreed fall into these categories. 

The collaborations with the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) and the Global Soil Partnership (GSP) promote innovative approaches to plant protection and soil management. They make use of information technology that allows actors to be more precise in farming and in applying sustainable agricultural practices. With the project that supports the RAI (Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems) Umbrella Programme of FAO, we expect to know more about the kind of responsible investments needed in food systems that help attract young people to agriculture. This will lead to strengthening a key group of stakeholders for the future of agriculture. Finally, with the contributions to the Benefit-sharing Fund of the International Treaty for Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, Switzerland is contributing to the new programmatic approach of the Treaty with regard to conservation and sustainable use of plant agrobiodiversity.

Q: Why did you choose FAO as your partner in elaborating and implementing these projects?

A: FAO and Switzerland have a long-standing relationship that dates back for more than 70 years. This was acknowledged recently when FAO was the international guest of honour at the Salon Suisse des Goûts & Terroirs, a major food festival, in Bulle, Switzerland. The strategies of FAO and Switzerland are complementary and mutually supportive. Both are engaged in promoting sustainable agriculture, strengthening the resilience of agricultural actors and working towards more sustainable food systems. FAO is a knowledge-based organization with a focus on normative work. Its expertise is at the forefront of agricultural thinking. Therefore, it is only logical that Switzerland is working with FAO.

Q: FOAG is at the forefront of supporting innovative and catalytic partnerships, often encouraging other resource partners to join. Could you explain why this kind of collaboration is valuable to you?

A: As a small country, Switzerland is well aware that our contribution to help meet the challenges of our time is most effective if and when we partner with others. Nobody is able to meet these challenges on their own. This is also why Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 17 calls for innovative partnerships between all relevant stakeholders. In engaging in innovative and catalytic partnerships, FOAG is doing its part in bringing this and other SDGs to life. At the same time, these partnerships often bring policy development and best action on the ground together, allowing stakeholders from all relevant backgrounds and horizons to learn from each other to become better in their respective fields of expertise. We are convinced that these partnerships will bring the shift towards more sustainable agriculture and food systems quicker and more inclusively than if we try to address these issues through a traditional silo approach.


*Specifically, FOAG supports the following initiatives:

  • Special International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC) Trust Fund
  • RAI (Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems) Umbrella Programme
  • FAO Multipartner Programme Support Mechanism (FMM)
  • Global Soil Partnership (GSP) Healthy Soils Facility - the GSP implementation plan of action
  • International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) - developing country participation and ITPGRFA
  • Trust Fund account for the disbursement of funds for approved projects under the Benefit-sharing Fund of the Treaty