José Graziano da Silva, 65 years old and Brazilian will hold his position for another four years, as he was reelected until 2018 as the head director of FAO, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. He was elected the first time in 2011. Graziano is the first Latin American to occupy that post since the creation of the organization in 1945. ATLANTICO Magazine spoke with him about the subject with the researcher from Embrapa Márcio Carvalho Marques Porto, who spoke about the importance of the reelection for Brazil and for the countries in Africa.
For him, the fact that no country besides Brazil had presented another candidate, demonstrates the strong interest in the international community for the administration to continue, due to the good evaluation from his first term of office. Considering that he had only three years and a half to achieve results in the first mandate, because of the delay between the election and his taking office, as we know, for an Organization such as the FAO (whereas decisions are made in consensus), abiding by the respective regulations, the United Nations and its almost 200 member countries, an administration of four years is not really enough to show results”, he explains.
However, strategic and operational changes can be seen in the way the organization operates. “Graziano began by restructuring the FAO structure, defining Technical Cooperation as a priority, providing support to countries needier in foodstuffs and resources, based on such indicators as the Human Development Index. He reviewed certain benefits and privileges of the employees of FAO, beginning by his own and adopted an austerity policy. He also made it clear that the impact from the FAO actions must be observable in the field, based on increased crop production, productivity, and the quality of food in general, in spite of maintaining important actions, such as the diffusion of knowhow and statistics, the area that the Organization has is clearly comparatively advantages”. Porto also emphasizes the great experience of Graziano. “Latin America, as a large net exporter of foodstuffs to the world, and Brazil, as a giant in agricultural and livestock production, deserves to be led by an executive on the scale as Graziano. Besides that, his experience as an academic and Federal minister enables him to propose alternatives for doing away with world-wide hunger. His Program, “Fome Zero” (Zero Hunger), in spite of causing internal heated discussions, on the national level in Brazil, it has doubtlessly reduced extreme poverty and hunger in our country. Such results, doubtlessly contributed to his reelection and it will also serve as a basis for establishing actions for prioritizing family agriculture, which is greatly responsible for the production of foodstuffs in the developing world “.
The researcher also emphasizes that the African continent has to profit from Graziano’s reelection. “Dr. Graziano has already expressed and demonstrated that Africa will be placed as a priority in his actions for FAO. I remember having heard from him that ‘Africa is really important to us’, he expressed when reflecting on the priorities of the FAO — and the United Nations on a whole — for that continent. The attack plan for the African problem and his experience in the planning the “Zero Hunger” program have contributed to the head director to be given practically unanimous support from African countries in his reelection. The African countries, members of the FAO recognize the priority placed on Africa is genuine, as has been demonstrated by the FAO actions in the last three and a half years”, he evaluates.
José Graziano da Silva
He is a graduated agricultural engineer from the “Escola Superior de Agricultura Luiz de Queiroz” (Luiz de Queiroz Agricultural College) (Esalq) at USP (São Paulo University) and he has a doctor’s degree from Unicamp, José Graziano da Silva is the author of research studies on the subject of agrarian issues in Brazil. From 2003 to 2004, he participated in the advisory council when President Lula was in office as the extraordinary ministry of Food Safety and Fighting Hunger, as that was considered as the ‘father’ of the Zero Hunger Program.
New and old challenges
In this new administration, Graziano will face preexistent problems, such as the containment of price hikes of foods, as well as the concern for environmental issues, such as the sustainable usage of water and other natural resources as well. “Globalization has raised the prices of commodities due to the financial speculation in 2008, as a result of the international financial crisis, since, due to a combination of factors, the investment in agricultural commodities has been shown as a good destination for countries, companies, and monetary funds. Climatic adversities have contributed to the drop in the food supply, which resulted in unprecedented increases in the prices of foods and, even worse, a decreased supply. The challenge, for the globalized world is to guarantee adequate production and productivity levels in poorer countries, with high and medium input, so that the trade balance between supply and demand can remain stable. There are countless other challenges, such as for example, the theme on ‘water’ and sustainable usage of natural resources, of which, due to its importance have brought about problems to the world population and even conflicts among countries”, Márcio Porto points out.
For Porto, FAO considers that the private sector plays an important role in the production of in nature and industrialized foodstuffs. “On the global level, it seeks and enters into partnerships with diverse representative entities in this sector; it produces a series of extremely important data for making decisions for its users, whether they are individual farmers or representative organizations in the private sector. In Brazil and most of the African countries, the FAO Representatives are in charge of establishing local contacts and encouraging the use of information generated by the Organization for the production of foodstuffs. All the established or adopted policies by the FAO, jointly with governments are focused on encouraging the production of foodstuffs. The Organization has defined as one of its responsibilities the establishment of government policies by the governments by its member counties.
Márcio Porto is a plant physiologist and he joined Embrapa in 1974. He spent seven years in the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research), in Ibadan, Nigeria and afterwards at the IITA (International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, as an Agricultural Engineer. He coordinated the project in Maputo, Mozambique, a research project that included 11 African countries. More recently, Dr. Porto worked for FAO. It was the regional Assistant representative to Latin American and the Caribbean, the FAO representative in Chile and also represented the organization in Cuba, he acted in the FAO as the head of the division of Harvesting and Pasturing.