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Burundi women's farming class

Women from the village of Mutambara in rural Burundi learn the art of tomato cultivation through a program called Farmer Field School in December 2010. Image: Giulio Napolitano/FAO

(WNN) Rome, ITALY, WEST EUROPE: The FAO – Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations with the international Slow Food organization agreed on May 15, 2013 to band together to develop actions to improve the livelihoods of smallholders and others working within agri-farming efforts to produce our world’s food. Under a three-year ‘Memorandum of Agreement’ signed by the the two organizations, they are now joining forces to promote more inclusive food and agriculture systems at local, national and international levels.

The actions will focus mainly on joint advocacy campaigns, strengthening local, regional and global food networks and raising awareness of global initiatives such as the International Year Family Farming in 2014. Actions will highlight the value of local foods and neglected food crops while also targeting market access for small-scale producers, enhancing conservation and use of biodiversity, reducing food losses and food waste, and improving animal welfare.

Slow Food is an international, non-profit grassroots organization that aims to promote quality food produced and distributed in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. It has over 100,000 members worldwide and is active in 150 countries. Thanks to its projects and initiatives Slow Food involves millions of people worldwide.

“Slow Food and FAO share the same vision of a sustainable and hunger-free world, safeguarding biodiversity for future generations. Today’s agreement, providing for a number of important joint initiatives, brings us a step closer to that objective,” said FAO, Director-General José Graziano da Silva as he signed the partnership agreement for FAO with the International Slow Food organization.

“Collaboration between FAO and Slow Food stems from our common purpose in promoting the wealth of local gastronomic traditions, in the defence of food biodiversity and in support of smallholder farmers and producers,” said Carlo Petrini, Slow Food, President, as he signed next to Graziano da Silva.

Valuing traditional food

Activities under the agreement include the protection of traditional food products and the promotion of culinary traditions as well as the cultural heritage of rural communities.

To support the FAO’s role in revaluing and promoting neglected food crops, Slow Food is planning to begin work to help produce inventories of local, indigenous and underutilized species that are potentially important to food security.

Together the organizations will work to facilitate market access for smallholder food producers through strengthened producers’ organizations and cooperatives. Slow Food is planing to shorten the food supply chain, including marketing, through labeling, packaging, and guaranteeing fair prices for both producers and consumers.

The two organizations have also promised to promote animal welfare as a primary element to add value to animal products and boost incomes for farmers and others in the food supply chain. Slow Food’s role here is to develop and promote specific guidelines and tools for the implementation of best practices.

Collaboration with ongoing FAO initiatives

With the agreement, FAO is planning to identify synergies and areas of collaboration within ongoing initiatives, possibly including the Hunger-Free Africa initiative grouping the African Union, FAO and Brazil’s Instituto Lula. This initiative aims to eradicate hunger from the continent starting with four countries – Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger.

Another possible area for collaboration for the agreement is through strong support for rural women. This can be facilitated through the ongoing Dimitra project run by FAO, the European Commission and Belgium. This participatory information and communication project highlights women’s key role in food production so that their interests are better taken into consideration.

An additional possibility in the agreement is the development of toolkits for the international Education of Rural People (ERP) Partnership, which aims to remove existing constraints and ensure education and skills training for all rural people.


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