Rome -- FAO has signed a new partnership agreement with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC),the world's largest humanitarian network, to help improve food security and strengthen the resilience of vulnerable communities.
FAO and the IFRC have agreed that FAO will provide technical guidance to complement IFRC's extensive network of 13 million volunteers - who in turn reach some 150 million people - to assist poor households cope with threats and disasters that impact agriculture, food security and nutrition.
FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said the partnership with IFRC was an important step towards addressing world hunger with greater coordination, focusing both on its root causes and on building more resilient communities.
'Our organizations are committing to a partnership that can have a significant impact on the lives of the poor and marginal people, particularly those affected by crises, conflicts and disasters who suffer from hunger and malnutrition,' said Graziano da Silva at a signing ceremony on World Food Day.
'We are committed to taking our collaboration one step higher and reinforcing our voices and our work together for the most vulnerable farmers, herders, fishers, tree-dependent communities and people with livelihoods that depend on the access and availability of natural resources.'
IFRC Secretary-General Bekele Geleta said: 'National Red Cross and Red Crescent societies have been responding to the effects of drought and disasters for decades. Through the work of our volunteers within communities around the globe, we see how hunger and malnutrition affect the lives of vulnerable people all through the various stages of their lives.
'In addressing food insecurity, it is not sufficient to tackle the aspects of food production and access alone: we need to recognize collectively that we must change the way we work and the way we invest to address the underlying issues of vulnerability such as poverty and extreme weather events,' Geleta added.
Three-year action plan
FAO and IFRC have drawn up a three-year action plan that includes activities to address climate change and combat land degradation, including tree planting and sustainable water management, and to reduce food losses and waste.
Focus countries and regions such as the Sahel and the Horn of Africa will be identified for the joint activities, with particular attention to marginalized groups such as smallholder food producers, women, young people and the elderly whose livelihoods depend on natural resources.
The action plan also includes initiatives that will help both organizations speak with one voice to advocate with decision-makers to ensure the eradication of hunger and malnutrition is top of the global agenda.
'By joining forces, we are building on the formidable dynamism, energy and desire to make the world a better place of millions of volunteers worldwide to develop concrete actions to eradicate hunger, especially in the most vulnerable parts of the planet,' said Marcela Villarreal, Director of FAO's Office for Partnerships, Advocacy and Capacity Development.
Building on collaboration
The new partnership builds on existing collaboration between FAO and IFRC, and particularly through its member Red Cross and Red Crescent societies.
For example, FAO has worked with the Red Cross societies in Namibia and Zambia as part of the Zambezi River Basin Initiative to increase the resilience of communities vulnerable to flooding by helping them prepare for disasters and strengthening or diversifying income-generating activities.
FAO and the American Red Cross also cooperated successfully on a fisheries recovery programme in Aceh, Indonesia, following the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.
'There is wide potential for replicating such types of collaboration especially in disaster- and conflict-prone countries before, during and after a crisis hits,' said Dominique Burgeon, Director of FAO's Emergency and Rehabilitation Division.
'FAO provides quality technical support and capacity development, while IFRC coordinates and assists the national societies with the implementation as well as with performance and accountability.'
The memorandum of understanding signed today will also serve as an umbrella agreement for all collaborations between the two organizations at national level through FAO country offices and the 187 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies worldwide.