The U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced it is joining forces with three of Italy's main research institutions in the fields of food, environment and technology to help developing countries build stronger agricultural sectors through better research and information.
The new partnership will focus on advanced research and technology development to help developing countries manage natural resources more sustainably, promote innovation in agriculture and improve the quality of diets with studies on the best ways to use indigenous crops for healthy nutrition.
It will also support countries in adding value to agricultural products through enhanced processing techniques and certificate schemes and making food systems more inclusive, FAO said.
Through the new collaboration with FAO, countries will benefit from the expertise of Italy's National Research Council (Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche; CNR), the Council for Agricultural Research & Economics (Consiglio per la ricerca in agricoltura e l'analisi dell'economia agraria; CRA) and the national agency for new technologies, renewable energy and sustainable economic development (Agenzia nazionale per le nuove tecnologie, l'energia e lo sviluppo economico sostenibile; ENEA).
Together, the three institutions employ more than 10,000 scientists in more than 100 research institutes across Italy.
The global food and agricultural sector today is facing a myriad of challenges, including climate change, degradation of natural resources and plant and animal pests and diseases, as well as changes in dietary patterns that affect food systems. One of FAO's key roles is to generate detailed information related on these issues and connect countries with partners to share knowledge and expertise.
The crucial role of research
"Research plays a crucial role in agricultural and rural development — and it can unleash tremendous agricultural potential in the developing world," said Maria Helena Semedo, FAO deputy-director general and natural resources coordinator. "Being able to harness the wide ranging expertise of three of Italy's top research bodies will not only help countries better manage their natural resources and food systems but also support FAO' larger mission of eradicating hunger and malnutrition worldwide."
Italian Ambassador to FAO Pierfrancesco Sacco said the agreement marks a turning point in Italy-FAO relations, "In particular, the partnership will help address the growing challenge of bringing sustainability into the food and agricultural systems of developing countries — also in view of future implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals," he said.
With more than 100 research institutes and 8,000 research staff, CNR's areas of work include research and technological development in the areas of agriculture and food sciences, bio-medicine, engineering, environmental and social sciences.
As part of Italy's Ministry of Agriculture, CRA's 1,700 researchers and staff perform advanced research on agriculture, agroindustry, food, fishery, forestry and economics.
ENEA operates in the fields of energy, the environment and new technologies. It employs more than 2,600 staff across its 11 research centers.