Upon achieving independence from the United Kingdom, the country of Ceylon became a member nation of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 1948 and development support to Ceylon’s agriculture and livestock sectors dates back to 1953. With UNDP support, FAO was actively involved in providing technical assistance to the country which was renamed “Sri Lanka” in 1972.
In 1979, a full FAO Representation was established within the UN compound in Colombo. As UNDP support for FAO executed projects diminished in 1990, FAO has continued an active supporting role through trust fund arrangements and with the Technical Cooperation Programme to address government needs and priorities within the sectors of agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries and forestry.
Since 1979, some 350 projects and programmes have been implemented with FAO support amounting to nearly 300 million USD, while many thousands of Sri Lankans have benefited from training in-country and abroad and many have been supported to participate in international conferences around the world.
The government and the people of Sri Lanka have significantly benefited from the technical expertise and support provided by FAO over the past half a century. Consequently FAO has a high degree of respect within the country and the government has displayed a considerable level of trust for FAO as the Representation was requested in 2010 to take a lead for agricultural livelihood reestablishment for conflict displaced people in the north including full provision of seed paddy for the current planting season.
As the 26 year-long conflict with the Tamil Tigers ended in 2009, a new planning exercise is now underway between the government and FAO to prioritize needs within each mandated sector for the next five years.
FAO maintain constant and regular contact with government officials and has close partnerships with the UN Country Team and donors to assist the government to address their stated needs and priorities within FAO’s mandated areas.
Toward this end, FAO co-chairs the sector working group on agriculture and food security with WFP, and is currently also responsible for the coordination of agriculture rehabilitation in the north. Finally, FAO chairs the poverty pillar of the UNDAF which encompasses FAO’s mandated sectors.
Looking ahead, FAO’s programmes in Sri Lanka will continue to expand in 2011 and beyond, with some 100 staff at present based in 10 different locations.