Feeding the World with the UN FAO

Feeding the World with the UN FAO

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Maha Neouchy
October 22, 2012

The U.S.-Panama Initiative and Ford Global Scholars fall interns attended an informational programming event at the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (UN FAO) with Teresa Buerkle, Information Officer for North America at UN FAO's DC office. Their is ensuring people all over the world have regular access to quality food that will help them lead an active and healthy lifestyle. TWC interns learned that there are four specific areas where the organization focuses it's efforts:


  • Raising levels of nutrition
  • Improving agricultural productivity
  • Bettering the lives of rural populations
  • Contributing to the growth of the world economy

The UN FAO works to bring knowledge to rural communities in regions like Sub-Saharan Africa, North Africa and the Near East, three parts of the world where trends in hunger have not been improving. Due to conflicts that have emerged after the Arab Spring, hunger has sadly been on the rise in North Africa and the Near East.


In an effort to increase knowledge in regions where UN FAO focuses its efforts, the organization touched on the launch of a series of programs and other partner organizations fighting hunger and and trying to achieve food security:




  • "Save and Grow"-implements climate smart agricultural practices
  • "One Health"-seeks to understand the relationships between human and animal health

Partner Organizations


At the end of the event, Buerkle took questions from students about UN FAO's efforts.


Icaro Gama, Ford intern and international student from Brazil, asked about the FAO's position on transgenic, or genetically modified, food. Buerkle responded by saying that although "transgenic food is not something UN FAO thinks is the answer to everything, it is a tool that the organization uses." Gama informed her that in Brazil, this is a topic that they've been discussing a lot and while some critics find that it harms hungry populations, proponents find that it's one of the only solution.


Denisse Gonzalez, U.S.-Panama Initiative intern, asked about the differences and challenges of working with countries in Europe and Africa. Buerkle told Denisse that UN FAO "only assists with developing countries or countries in transition." Unfortunately it's almost impossible to compare different developing countries that receive aid from the UN FAO since each country's infrastructure varies on a case by case basis.


Delia Zuniga, U.S.-Panama Initiative intern, has been learning about trade agreements during her time spent with TWC this fall. Back in her country of Panama, the government has been able to increase food production, Zuniga noticed that farmers haven't been equipped with the proper tools and knowledge to maintain that level of food production in the future. In addition, farmers have used pesticides that impact health and environmental conditions of Panamanians. She asked Buerkle about the best way to address this problem: "The question doesn’t have a simple solution because it is policy that will create the most change. And sometimes it isn't developed countries who have answers for developing countries but rather other tropical areas."


Priscilla Martinez Valenzuela, U.S.-Panama Initiative intern, asked if it would be possible to consider farming using pesticides as a solution to producing more food if done in a controlled way. At the UN FAO, Buerkle said that pesticides cannot be "eliminated completely since they are a tool. But of course, the organization advocates that pesticides should be used judiciously and in an environmentally friendly way."


It was an informative event for a groups of students representing many international countries where hunger plagues many members of the population and where the production of food is a great source of concern.


[View photos of the event on our Flickr channel]

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