World Food Day
The World Food Day theme for 2008 is "World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy".
The cover of the World Food Day Issues Leaflet 2006
World Food Day (WFD) was established by FAO's Member Countries at the Organization's 20th General Conference in November 1979. The Hungarian Delegation, lead by the former Hungarian Minister of Agriculture and Food, Dr. Pál Romány has played an active role at the 20th Session of the FAO Conference and suggested the idea of celebrating the WFD worldwide. It has since been observed every year in more than 150 countries, raising awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger.
Since 1981, World Food Day has adopted a different theme each year, in order to highlight areas needed for action and provide a common focus. The theme for 2006 is "Invest in agriculture for food security". It was chosen because only investment in agriculture – together with support
for education and health – will turn this situation around. The bulk of
that investment will have to come from the private sector, with public investment playing a crucial role, especially in view of its facilitating and stimulating effect on private investment. In spite of the importance of agriculture as the driving force in the economies of many developing countries, this vital sector is frequently starved of investment. In particular, foreign aid to agriculture has shown marked declines over the past 20 years.
This year's theme
2008 World Food Security: the Challenges of Climate Change and Bioenergy
2007 The Right to Food
2006 Investing in agriculture for food security
2005 Agriculture and Intercultural Dialogue
2004 Biodiversity for Food Security
2003 Working Together for an International Alliance Against Hunger
2002 Water: Source of Food Security
2001 Fight Hunger to Reduce Poverty
2000 A Millennium Free from Hunger
1999 Youth Against Hunger
1998 Women Feed The World
1997 Investing in Food Security
1996 Fighting Hunger and Malnutrition
1995 Food For All
1994 Water For Life
1993 Harvesting Nature's Diversity
1992 Food and Nutrition
1991 Trees for Life
1990 Food for the Future
1989 Food and the Environment
1988 Rural Youth
1987 Small Farmers
1986 Fishermen and Fishing Communities
1985 Rural Poverty
1984 Women in Agriculture
1983 Food Security
1982 Food Comes First
1981 Food Comes First
Issues for 2006
Seventy percent of the world’s hungry people live in rural areas, where agriculture either puts food in stomachs directly or, through employment in a flourishing agricultural and food processing sector, puts money to buy food into people’s pockets. At the World Food Summit in 1996, Heads of State and Government from around the world committed themselves to promoting public and private investments in agriculture as a contribution to the goal of reducing by half the number of hungry people by 2015. The first Millennium Development Goal reiterates the target of reducing
hunger and extreme poverty by half by that date. In 2003, African Heads of State and Government, in the “Maputo Declaration”, committed their governments to allocating at least 10 percent of national budgets for agriculture and rural development within five years. Despite the need, however, foreign aid for agriculture and rural development has continued to decline. Over the past 456 years, it has fallen dramatically – from
over US$9 billion per year in the early 1980s to less than US$5 billion in the late 1990s. Yet an estimated 854 million people around the world remain undernourished. The current extent of food security across the world was highlighted in a report by FAO released October 9 2006, which
said that 40 countries were facing food emergencies and required external assistance.
Agricultural growth and hunger
Many studies have shown how agricultural growth reduces poverty and hunger, even more than urban or industrial growth. For example, the only group of countries to reduce hunger during the 1990s was the group in which the agriculture sector grew. Looking back at the figures for the last 30 years, it can be shown that those countries that have invested and continue to invest most in agriculture – both public and private – now experience
the lowest levels of undernourishment.
Most of the world’s farmers are big-scale farmers. As a group, these women
and men are the biggest investors in agriculture. They also tend to be food-insecure; that is, their access to food is inadequate or precarious. If they can make a profit with their farming, they can feed their families adequately throughout the year and reinvest in their farms by purchasing fertilizer, better-quality seed and basic equipment. Small producers face many obstacles that are beyond their control: lack of credit, insecure land tenure, poor transport, low prices and poorly developed business relations with agribusinesses at the commercial end of the agricultural supply chain; then there are natural factors such as drought, flood, pests and disease. Agribusiness is the umbrella term for the local, national or international companies that handle or transform the farm produce as it is passed up the long chain, called the supply chain, to the consumer. In economic terms, these businesses add the most value in the supply chain. They typically invest their own capital in transport, processing and wholesaling and retailing, selling commodities such as rice and wheat, high-value crops like vegetables and niche products such as cut flowers. Supermarkets are becoming the biggest players in national, regional and international food-supply chains, setting grades and standards and even making cross-border supply chains work. If the supply chain works well with fair returns on investment for everyone, the first link – the farmer
– earns enough money to feed his or her family and to re-invest. Employment created by the many businesses in the supply chain enables still more people to live a decent life. Hunger declines and the quality of rural life improves.
Agribusinesses in developing countries face problems. These include lack
of good roads, railways and market infrastructure, lack of recognised grades and standards to define product value, weak legal structures for enforcing contracts and practical difficulties in developing business arrangements with large numbers of small-scale farmers. Some problems are
beyond the control of the developing countries. Agricultural subsidies in developed countries and tariffs and non-tariff barriers, for example, can distort international agricultural trade and prices. At the regional level, tariffs and customs procedures often restrict cross-border and informal trade.
Promoting profitable partnerships
The new model for cooperation between the public and private sectors in rural development can be broken down into four main components: new ways of bringing together producers and agribusiness; new ways of establishing and enforcing grades, standards and related regulations; a new emphasis on improving the investment climate for agriculture; and new efforts to provide essential public goods such as rural infrastructure. A major problem for processors and traders is often getting enough quality farm produce in the first place. In this, the public sector can help promote cooperatives and “outgrower” schemes, both of which can grow crops or raise livestock to order. Cooperatives are already important players in agriculture. For example, in Asia, the International Cooperative Alliance represents 53 cooperative movements with 523 million members in 21 countries. The public sector can support such producer groups with legal safeguards, management and business training and by encouraging the private sector to assist cooperatives in areas such as market information and production technologies. Outgrower schemes – subcontracting
arrangements in agribusiness – are enjoying a revival. Companies often
provide technical assistance, materials and/or financing to local farmers to help them grow a particular product, which the company agrees to purchase at a later date. Outgrower schemes can be an effective means of creating local employment and improving the incomes of local farmers. They can also be beneficial to business operations by building reliable local supplies of raw materials.
Legislation and controls
Governments need to enact and enforce rules and regulations that create a safe and predictable environment for private investors. An example is grades and standards. Buyers and consumers of produce – in both developed
and developing countries – are increasingly demanding high-quality food
produced to rigorous standards of size, colour and shape. They are setting strict controls to make sure food is safe and is produced under environmentally friendly and sustainable systems. Standards for humane treatment and slaughter of livestock have become a big issue. The more detailed and widely known the standards are, the easier it is for all the
players in the sector to conform. Such standards can even be set by producer associations or buyers. The public sector is responsible for the development of laws and regulations, control, inspection and approval mechanisms as well as for supplying the manpower needed to enforce and operate the system.
Investment climate crucial
Any person or business with money to invest, including a smallholder, must decide where to invest the money. If returns on investment are better in another sector – such as land speculation or a small business in town – then an investor will logically put his or her money there. However, public policy and public investment can create an environment that makes agriculture a good investment. An attractive climate for investment is one where there is good governance and transparent public administration, where there is macroeconomic discipline and stability, and where there is political stability. Cumbersome tax systems coupled with inefficient or corrupt tax administrations are amongst the greatest obstacles to investment and entrepreneurship. Lack of support for rural finance, venture capital and microfinance will starve agribusinesses of the nourishment they need to flourish.
Public goods and law
Governments sometimes run market information systems so that the farmers and traders know where and when to sell to get the highest prices. Labour markets, land tenure security and food safety are the responsibility of government and are critical areas examined by would-be investors, both domestic and international. If they are weak in a country or if they are not clear and fair, the investors will go elsewhere or invest in sectors judged less risky than agriculture. Investment in infrastructure in rural areas, especially in water, roads, power and communications, has a crucial role in kindling agricultural growth. In Africa, there has been a resurgence of such investment, increasingly in partnership with the private sector, promoted by the World Bank’s Africa Action Plan, the
report of the UK-led Commission for Africa and the African Development
Bank’s Africa Infrastructure Consortium. If countries get these conditions right, dramatic benefits to agriculture and poor rural households can be expected. For example, when China introduced secure household land contracts and started investing heavily in rural infrastructure and agricultural research in the late 1970s, agricultural production soared and hunger fell rapidly. Over the following two decades, total grain output increased by 65 percent and the prevalence of hunger
was reduced by almost two-thirds. The public sector in many parts of the developing world has been slow to respond to the changes that globalization has brought to markets. Investment in building the capacity of governments to help their small farmers and to encourage private investors is money well spent.
Events take place in over 150 countries to mark World Food Day. In Rome, home to FAO’s headquarters, these include in 2006 a 5km Run-for-Food race
through the city’s historic centre, with up to 5,000 people taking part.
(Click here for full details). A Right to Food Youth Education Initiative is being launched, which includes comic strips in several languages for young people across the world. FAO's Director General delivers an address
outlining the goals of World Food Day (click here for 2006 address), the
US Mission to FAO presents a keynote speech and the pope sends a message of support for the day. (For a full list of global events for 2006 across the rest of the world click here). Below are example of events held across
the world in recent years.
In Italy, ministries, universities, research agencies, international agencies and NGOs have organized many conferences as well as exhibitions and symposia. The Italian Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Policies organized a meeting which focused on women's rights in rural areas in 2005. In Germany, the Federal Ministry of Consumer Protection, Food and Agriculture have all become involved via press conferences. Spanish television has been active in broadcasting events. FAO Goodwill Ambassador – Spanish soccer star Raul – has taken part in events and
helped highlight food-security issues across his country. The UK Food Group has also been active through conferences and media broadcasts. In the emerging economies of Eastern Europe – i.e., Albania, Armenia,
Croatia, Czech Republic, Georgia, Hungary, Macedonia, Moldova, Serbia and
Montenegro, and Slovak Republic – a variety of activities have been held.
In Armenia, staff from the Ministry of Agriculture, non-governmental organizations, Armenian State Agriculture University, the donor community, international organizations, and the mass media have participated in the World Food Day ceremony. In Hungary, renowned experts have given presentations in the Hungarian Agricultural Museum and FAO, and WFD medals have been awarded to well-known Hungarian experts by the FAO Sub-Regional Representative.
Angola celebrated WFD in 2005 through the 4th Forum on Rural Women, while in Burundi the second Vice-President planted potatoes to provide a symbolic example about food production. In Central African Republic, the
President of the Republic has inaugurated a bridge at Boda to coincide with World Food Day, making the agricultural production area more accessible. In Chad, thousands of people have attended debates,
conferences and activities including theatre, films, folk dance, visits to project sites and visits by agricultural companies. In Ghana, the
Ministry of Food and Agriculture has hosted a food security conference, while Namibia has run an awareness campaign through national media. Asia
The Government of Bangladesh has been involved through organizing a food festival; in China in 2005, celebrations were organized in Qujing City,
where numerous ethnical minorities live, by the Ministry of Agriculture
and the Government of Qujing City, with the participation of a number of senior officials of the Government. In the Democratic People's Republic
of Korea, seminars have been held and visits made to various project sites. The Ministry of Agriculture of Indonesia has in the past organized a major
Food Expo in Bandung, West Java, while a Farmers' and Fishermen's Workshop of NGOs was held in Bali.
Latin America and the Caribbean
In Chile, exhibitions of indigenous food products have been prepared by local communities. In Argentina, senior officials of the Government,
academics, international organizations and the press have participated in the main ceremony. In Mexico in 2005, a National Campaign for a "Mexico Without Hunger" was held, with the involvement and support of civil society and students. In Cuba, producers have been able to exchange views and experiences at an agricultural fair. The media strongly supports awareness campaigns on World Food Day; for example in Venezuela there has
been national coverage of events.
The Near East
In Afghanistan, representatives of Ministries, embassies, UN agencies, International Financial Organizations, National and International NGOs
and FAO staff have attended the World Food Day ceremony. Egypt has hosted
a Forum on nutrition issues. Morocco and Tunisia have held seminars and
exhibitions. In Cyprus, special ceremonies have been organized in primary and secondary schools, where teachers explained the significance of World Food Day.