Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Food and Agriculture Organization elects a new chief

The Food and Agriculture Organization elected a new chief yesterday. The 191 member nations voted to select Brazilian Josè Graziano da Silva to succeed Jacques Diouf. Many food security advocates applaud the appointment because of his experience in leading agricultural reforms in the fast growing country of Brazil.

From the Inter Press Service, writer Sabina Zaccaro gives us some background on de Silva.

The new chief succeeds Senegalese Jacques Diouf, who was first elected in 1993. The new director-general takes over in January 2012 and will remain in charge until July 2015. Following a recently revised rule, he is only eligible for one additional four-year term, while Diouf has been elected to three consecutive six-year terms.

Economist Jose Graziano da Silva, who was FAO's regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean, had served as food security minister under former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. In that position, he played a key role in the "Zero Hunger" government initiative that brought about a significant decrease in malnutrition in Brazil.

Working closely with civil society, and recognising the central role of women in agriculture, the programme contributed to lifting an estimated 24 million people out of extreme poverty, and to reducing malnutrition by 25 percent in the country, according to official figures.

Graziano's past success gives hope to civil society organisations, who largely expect an era of consultation and inclusion.

"By supporting smallholder agriculture, Brazil is tackling hunger successfully. We expect Graziano to bring the same approach to the FAO," Marco de Ponte, secretary general of ActionAid Italy, told IPS.

"In the Diouf era the common thinking was that transferring technical knowledge in agriculture was enough to fight hunger," de Ponte said. "But hunger is largely determined by political choices related to the food market, and hunger grows where you have unfair access to production."

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