Monday, July 30, 2012

UN FAO Director Calls on Academics to Help Fight Hunger

The Director General of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, José Graziano da Silva, called on academics to get more involved in research to help reduce rural poverty and assist small-scale farmers as part of the global fight against hunger.  “One of the great
challenges we have today is to use academic knowledge to understand and improve the life of rural populations throughout the world,” he said in a speech at the World Congress of Rural Sociology in Lisbon, Portugal. “To do so, we need to look at the reality outside of university walls.” 

Mr. Graziano da Silva outlined the most pressing issues in the fight against hunger, including food insecurity, nutrient deficiencies, unsafe food and unequal competition between small-scale and large food producers. He called on academics to conduct research into these areas to advance discussions on responsible agricultural investments and food security.

Mr. Graziano da Silva also pointed to the integration of small-scale farmers into the agricultural
chain and the issue of governance in this sector as additional areas of academic concern adding that “there is a growing concentration in the agricultural and food chain, and this has an impact on small-scale farmers.”

Partnerships in policy research should also look into how food can be distributed more efficiently both at a global and a local level,” the FAO chief said. “If we want more people eating healthy diets, based on fresh foods, we will need to reduce transportation and storage costs, but also food waste and loss.”

In addition, he called on academia to come up with proposals to improve the working conditions
in rural labour markets, which are often extremely poor and lack social protection measures. “All these issues need better conceptual clarification and practical proposals from academics and policymakers,” Mr. Graziano da Silva said.

While many of the issues he identified are only tangentially related to law, perhaps academics in the legal field should give more thought to how our research with respect to the rule of law, international trade and transportation and related topics can assist in this effort.

(cgb) (Adapted from a UN Press Release)

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