World Food Day 2012

The 39th Committee on World Food Security celebrated World Food Day today in Rome.

This morning’s ceremony featured speeches from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme (WFP) Ertharin Cousin, Director-General of the FAO José Graziano da Silva and Pope Benedict XVI, whose message was delivered by Archbishop Luigi Travaglino.

This years theme was agricultural cooperatives, as José Graziano da Silva explains:

This theme was chosen to highlight the many, concrete ways in which agricultural cooperatives and producer organizations help to provide food security, generate employment, and lift people out of poverty. For FAO and its partners, agricultural cooperatives are natural allies in the fight against hunger and extreme poverty.
The Director-General of the FAO then went on to discuss the struggles of smallholder farmers:
Every day, small producers around the world continue to face constraints that keep them from reaping the benefits of their labour and contributing to food security not only for themselves but for all through active participation in markets.
[…] What is needed is the establishment of an enabling environment that allows small producers to take full advantage of available opportunities. Strong cooperatives and producer organizations are an essential part of that enabling environment.”
Ban Ki-Moon also acknowledged that agricultural cooperatives “are invaluable in our aim to double the income and productivity of smallholder farmers”.
IFAD President Kanayo Nwanze joined discussions on the collective power of smallholder farmers:
Individually, these smallholders have little power. But when they join together, they have greater purchasing power. They have greater bargaining power in the marketplace. And they have greater power to influence the policies that affect their lives.
President Nwanze also reiterated the UN’s ‘zero hungry’ promise, stressing:
In a world of plenty, as long as one child dies of hunger or suffers from malnutrition, our work is not done yet.  And there is nothing to celebrate.
Women farmers were also a key topic of the morning with Pope Benedict XVI’s message emphasizing the “invaluable role of women” in retaining the family role as well as upholding rural traditions.Ertharin Cousin concluded the event, urging the committee to increase productivity by educating farmers:

If farmers know there’s a market, if they receive training, they will produce more food with higher nutritional value
The 39th Committee on World Food Security will continue until the 20th October 2012.

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