A leading official of the Food and Agriculture Organisation has called on private companies to further contribute to the worldwide effort against the widespread food shortage.

"Many of the companies that are here today are present in many countries. This is important because what you do locally against hunger can quickly become global", said FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva in a private sector partnerships meeting held on October 10.

At the meeting, the official announced that FAO has set up a multi-donor trust fund to allow private sector companies to financially contribute to the organization's work and support FAO projects and programmes. "I welcome and encourage you to join this partnership and kick start this newly established fund," he said.

He explained that FAO members approved the Strategy for Partnerships with the Private Sector, which focuses around five main strategic objectives. "These are the areas where I would like us to work together."

Hakan Bahceci, Chairperson of the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM) at the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS) in Rome, thanked FAO Director General for giving representatives of more than 10.000 companies the opportunity to meet and share priorities. He also expressed his support for the undergoing transformation in FAO to enhance cooperation with the private sector. "We share the five strategic objectives that FAO holds," he said.

This is the second of a series of meetings with the private sector that started last year and an effort to strengthen the working relationship that includes the approval of a strategy and takes place in the framework of the Committee on Food Security (CFS).

The dialogue between FAO and the private sector has made significant progress, including recent agreements with Rabobank Foundation and Grameen Foundation to support smallholder farmers. Collaborations with long-term partners such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation are also expanding.

Graziano da Silva underlined that although the new hunger figures recently released show that undernourishment continues to fall and the latest estimates signal there are nearly 26 million fewer hungry people in the world in 2013, "we will need an exceptional level of collaboration between the public and private sector to bring the hunger number down to zero and we need to work together to make a significant change".

"Working with the private sector is not only about receiving financial support, but also benefiting from your dynamism, innovation and entrepreneurship at the global, regional and national level," said Director General to representatives of agri-food stakeholders ranging from trade, investment and finance, food processing, livestock, bioenergy and crop production. He stressed that the private sector was a key actor in building the political consensus necessary to support the fight against hunger and highlighted the importance of the sector's participation in the Committee on World Food Security.

The Director-Genral recalled that last year the CFS approved the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security and expressed his hope that a similar agreement could be found on the Principle for Responsible Agricultural Investments. He noted that the Second Ministerial Meeting on Food Prices held on October 7 had stressed the need to increase investment in agriculture and the urgency of agreeing on the principles.

"Eradicating hunger is about joining forces to scale up successful programmes and linking actions for better results. In doing so, we need to work with small-scale producers, helping them increase their production and productivity and linking them to value chains and to functioning markets," he said.

Graziano da Silva invited the private sector to support the upcoming International Year of Family Farming in 2014 through joint advocacy, outreach and communications campaigns with FAO. He pointed out that farmers themselves are an important part of the private sector worldwide.-VNA