FAO: What it is, what it does

The Food and Agriculture Organization was founded in October 1945 with a mandate to raise levels of nutrition and standards of living, to improve agricultural productivity, and to better the condition of rural populations.

Today, FAO is the largest autonomous agency within the United Nations system with 180 Member Nations plus the EC (Member Organization) and more than 4 300 staff members around the world. Following recent efforts to decentralize, FAO's staff includes almost 2 300 people at Headquarters and more than 2 000 working at decentralized offices and field projects. The Organization's 1998-1999 biennial budget is set at $650 million and FAO-assisted projects attract more than $300 million per year from donor agencies and governments for investment in agricultural and rural development projects.

Since its inception, FAO has worked to alleviate poverty and hunger by promoting agricultural development, improved nutrition and the pursuit of food security - the access of all people at all times to the food they need for an active and healthy life. The Organization offers direct development assistance, collects, analyses and disseminates information, provides policy and planning advice to governments and acts as an international forum for debate on food and agriculture issues.

FAO is active in land and water development, plant and animal production, forestry, fisheries, economic and social policy, investment, nutrition, food standards and commodities and trade. It also plays a major role in dealing with food and agri cultural emergencies.

A specific priority of the Organization is encouraging sustainable agriculture and rural development, a long-term strategy for the conservation and management of natural resources. It aims to meet the needs of both present and future generations through programmes that do not degrade the environment and are technically appropriate, economically viable and socially acceptable.

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