From Food and Agriculture Organization’s website:
This year, on World Food Day, FAO is celebrating 75 years of nourishing, sustaining and growing our planet – and we’re inviting you join us on this journey! ©FAO/Pier Paolo Cito
FAO prides itself on transparency and for the last several years, we have held open days to encourage visitors to learn more about our Organization and mission. Recently, we have begun offering these tours online to ensure that tours can be conducted safely and can reach a wider audience.
With this little preview below, we invite you on a virtual tour of FAO to get to know more about us, from our history and headquarters to our mission and goals. So if this story piques your interest and you would like to organise a tour for your school, company or other group – please get in touch! We would love to show you around. Or if you are more of a book lover, you can delve into FAO’s history in a newly released publication: FAO at 75: Grow, nourish, sustain. Together.
Let’s start with the basics:
Why was FAO created?
In the aftermath of the Second World War, there was a renewed emphasis on inter-governmental cooperation to solve problems through dialogue and to avoid world wars from ever happening again. Simultaneously, food and agriculture were big topics at the time: production slowed as farm workers went to the front line. Factories that produced fertilizers, pesticides and farm machinery were destroyed, and trade had almost ground to a halt. The agriculture sector was hurting, and many people around the world were going hungry. It was during this period that FAO came into being.
The original headquarters of FAO was in Washington D.C., USA, but it was decided that FAO would move to Rome, Italy. It seemed fitting as Rome had been the headquarters of its predecessor the International Institute of Agriculture, the very first intergovernmental organization to deal with issues of agriculture.
FAO moved to Rome in 1951 and the government of Italy provided a building in the centre of the city, where FAO still resides today. In fact, FAO’s building has a fascinating story!
The largest and most important space in the FAO headquarters is the Plenary Hall. It has seating for over a thousand people and was designed to hold high-level meetings with world leaders, such as heads of state and even the Pope. As a neutral entity, FAO offers a space for nations to come together to build a common understanding, making the Plenary Hall an important setting for this to happen.
It is also FAO’s job to facilitate the sharing of knowledge and information about food, agriculture and natural resources, in order to turn this knowledge into action through various projects across the world.
Many Member States have donated artwork, furniture and other examples of their national and rural crafts to display at FAO headquarters to celebrate the Organization’s diversity.
For example, a second century floor mosaic from a building discovered in Tignica, 90 kilometers west of Tunis, was donated to FAO by the Government of Tunisia. The colours are still bright, and its tiles form beautiful floral arrangements.
Close by there’s a huge plaster copy of a statue of Minerva, by Vittoria Alata, on temporary loan from the Museum of Roman Civilization. The Government of Mozambique also donated two pieces by national artist, Bertina Lopes, as a sign of gratitude for all that FAO had done to help the country.
Many countries have also donated rooms that are used for events, conferences and bilateral meetings. For example, the Sheik Zayed Centre, funded by the United Arab Emirates, is used for press conferences, screenings and publication launches. The China Lounge, donated by the Government of China, receives distinguished guests like heads of state and prime ministers.
In addition, the Organization offers an impressive library, welcoming researchers from around the world to consult its documents and rare books. Its collection includes one million FAO and non-FAO documents, as well as special and digital collections. It is considered one of the world’s finest collections in food, agriculture and international development.
This World Food Day, FAO is calling for global solidarity to make agri-food systems more resilient so that these systems can deliver affordable and healthy food for all and provide decent livelihoods to the millions in agriculture. FAO is also standing behind our food heroes – farmers and workers throughout the value chain – who are making sure that food makes its way from farm to table even amid unprecedented disruptions such as the current COVID-19 crisis.
We are committed to nourishing, sustaining and growing our planet, and we invite you to join us! Whether you are part of a government, private business, non-profit organization, media outlet or civil society organization, we need you to spread your knowledge and support the call to transform our agri-food systems for the better. This is no ordinary World Food Day, and we need anything but ordinary action – only by working together can we continue to grow, nourish and sustain our world.