FAO and the Dutch Rabobank Foundation will scale up their collaboration after two years of successful initiatives in East Africa.
"This is a flagship partnership for FAO," Director-General José Graziano da Silva, said in an address to the foodFIRST conference in Utrecht, which this year focused on the future of farming and food security in Africa.
In 2013, FAO and Rabobank Foundation began a partnership by collaborating on three projects in Tanzania, Ethiopia and Kenya, all oriented to improving smallholder farmers' incomes, access to financial tools and ability to invest in more efficient production of food crops.
Building on the progress achieved so far, the two institutions now intend to ramp up their pilot projects and establish similar collaborations in other countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia.
"We believe that working together with an organization like FAO can accelerate the realization of our mutual goals," said Pierre van Hedel, managing director of Rabobank Foundation. "We highly appreciate FAO's long-term commitment and vision with regard to the topic of food security, which is needed for smallholder development."
"No one organization can eradicate hunger and reduce poverty alone," FAO's leader said at the conference. "Only in partnerships with a broad range of stakeholders can we achieve this."
Queen Máxima of the Netherlands, the UN Secretary General's Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development (UNSGSA), was also present at the event.
pilots in Africa
The three initial joint projects in Africa all have focused on boosting food security through rural agricultural development.
In Tanzania, FAO and Rabobank Foundation are supporting access to financial services by organizations representing rice farmers in the Morogoro district. Greater yields from a new FAO-backed cultivation system are providing the incentive to invest in warehouses, which will allow farmers to store their output and sell it when seasonal prices are higher.
In Kenya, farmers working within a conservation agriculture project will have better access to loans in the form of seeds thanks to an initiative being developed by the partners.
In Ethiopia, FAO and the Rabobank Foundation are working with local microfinance lenders to select rural farming cooperatives that can tap into value chains, generating more jobs.
Founded in 1973 and based in the Netherlands, Rabobank Foundation is a corporate foundation funded by the Rabobank Group, which donates a percentage of its annual profits to the foundation's activities. Its main activity is to support cooperatives and member-based organizations through microfinance mechanisms. The Foundation assists small farmers and their cooperatives in rural areas of 24 Latin American, African and Asian countries.
Graziano da Silva also met with Rabobank Chairman Wiebe Draijer and Executive Board member Berry Marttin and agreed to work together on initiatives aimed at increasing access to seeds for smallholders in Africa and on increasing local purchases from family farmer cooperatives, especially those representing women, in West Africa.
They agreed that FAO and Rabobank Foundation will jointly explore ways to support more data and information sharing through mobile technology and to increase young farmers' access to technology in general.
Graziano da Silva met with Sharon Dijksma, the Minister for Agriculture of the Netherlands, who spoke at the conference.