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08.01.2012 Business & Finance

New FAO chief pledges to prioritise Africa

By Ghanaian Chronicle
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The new director general of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the world's flagship agency for food policy, has indicated that Africa will be his priority at a time of limited resources.

In his first press conference, held on Tuesday, José Graziano da Silva said he wanted to see “one FAO” acting at country level.

“Many of these poor [African] countries have no facility of going to donors,” he said. “The FAO will be there to support those countries to achieve the desired results.”

Graziano da Silva, who played an important role in Brazil's successful “zero hunger” initiative, argued the key to improving food security in Africa was the political will to eradicate hunger, which could in turn be translated into action through financial resources, research and good practice.

“This mix of political will and finance and technical research are the most important combination to defeat hunger,” he said.

Graziano da Silva said he would attend an African Union summit later this month and visit the Horn of Africa, which – plagued for decades by conflict – has been hit by the worst drought in 60 years in some parts, particularly Somalia.

The FAO was criticised for inefficiency and bureaucracy under Jacques Diouf, its leader for 18 years, but Graziano da Silva said he was commited to reforming the $1bn organisation.

“The reform process is advancing, but there is still a lot to do,” he said. “Decentralisation is essential. I attach great importance to regional FAOs and a bottom-up approach … I will also look for improving technical work and reducing administrative costs.

“You solve food security problems at your village, at your town, at your neighborhood – not at the global level. Nobody eats at the global level. You eat in the restaurant, in the cantina, at your house. That's where you need to provide those answers.”

Graziano da Silva said he would cut excessive bureaucracy, travel and perks for top management, including himself. The FAO has faced long-standing calls from top donors, particularly the US and the UK, to get its house in order. Andrew Mitchell, the international development secretary, has urged the FAO's new team to drive through “ambitious and comprehensive changes needed to make it the high-performing organisation the world so urgently needs”.

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