Over the next two years an Italian trust fund of $2.3 million will launch pilot projects aimed at improving the lives of rural communities in a number of developing countries.
Representing a new approach to fighting hunger and food insecurity, the initiative will enable FAO to work not only with the central government but also with local authorities - at municipal, provincial and regional levels - of both developed and developing countries.
Italy's approximately 8000 municipalities, 100 provinces and 20 regions give some idea of the potential of the new initiative whose objective is to mobilize the social, human and financial resources of local Italian authorities to fight hunger and malnutrition.
As civil society and local authorities play an ever increasing role internationally in the fight against hunger and poverty, decentralized cooperation establishes solid, cross-cutting partnerships between organizations while encouraging active participation in democracy and the mobilization of resources.
The direct participation of local authorities also serves to strengthen the public sense of ownership, a condition FAO believes is important for sustainable development.
The new kind of triangular partnership (between FAO and local authorities in developing and developed countries) builds partly on commitments from different stakeholders made at the World Food Summit: five years later, held in June 2002, to work together towards an international alliance against hunger.
During the World Food Summit in 1996, Heads of State and Government committed themselves to reducing by half the number of people on the planet suffering from chronic malnutrition by 2015. The number currently stands at 840 million people.
Many FAO programmes correspond to objectives set by local institutions. The Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS), for example, aims to help farmers in low-income, food-deficit countries to overcome social and economic barriers to increased production through simple, low-cost and environmentally-friendly farming techniques.
The first decentralized cooperation pilot project is expected to be launched by FAO and Rome's town council, with Italian government support, in the Rwandan capital Kigali. The project will focus on developing agriculture on the outskirts of the city.
Further similar initiatives with local authorities in other countries are in the pipeline, FAO said. In France, the town council of Montreuil is expected to offer its support to local Mali authorities being advised by Vietnamese experts as part of South-South Cooperation, within the SPFS programme.
FAO hopes the results of these pilot projects will encourage the development of further decentralized cooperation programmes with the support of other donors.
FAO expert Loretta Sonn
(+39) 06 570 55330