Rome/Marrakesh. - Horizontal cooperation between countries of the global South is increasingly important to meeting the sustainable development challenges of our time, said FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva at the first International Conference on South-South Cooperation in Marrakesh, Morocco, this weekend.
"Many developing countries face similar challenges in food security and agricultural and rural development, and in many cases, the geographic, climatic, and socioeconomic conditions are similar," the Director-General said. "This makes it easier to adapt successful experiences to local realities."
"FAO's role is to facilitate the sharing of experiences and development solutions among you," according to Graziano da Silva, who stressed the Organization's longstanding support for South-South cooperation.
Since 1996, FAO's South-South program has worked to identify needed expertise and connect countries that can benefit from one another, helping deploy over 1,800 experts and technicians in more than 50 countries in the process.
The two-day South-South conference (Dec. 13-14) brought together agriculture ministers and high-level representatives of over 20 African countries to exchange knowledge on water management, financing and innovation in family farming and build stronger collaboration based on shared experiences and challenges.
The Minister for Agriculture and Marine Fisheries of Morocco and host of the event, Aziz Akhannouch, said he hoped the high-level meeting would strengthen our "shared commitment to reduce the agricultural divide and guarantee food security through enhanced South-South cooperation in agriculture."
A relationship among equals
Graziano da Silva stressed the different perspective that South-South exchanges bring to international cooperation, as "a relationship among equals" that "breaks the traditional dichotomy between donors and recipients."
The approach is widely recognized as a cost-effective tool for sharing homegrown development initiatives, he said, adding that "this sharing is more than just technical assistance -- it is also an exercise in solidarity."
New South-South agreement
The conference occurred following the establishment by Morocco of a new South-South Cooperation Trust Fund at FAO in April 2014, which will facilitate the sharing of Moroccan expertise in Africa.
With support from the fund, a tripartite South-South Cooperation agreement was signed on Sunday between FAO, Morocco and Mali.
Facing challenges, together
Speaking at the Conference, Graziano da Silva called family farming, the backbone of the rural economy and the key to fighting rural poverty and food insecurity according to Graziano da Silva.
The FAO Director-General also underlined the connection between a lack of economic opportunities for young people in rural areas to the immigration crisis in the Mediterranean and beyond, urging "actions that give poor rural people the opportunities to lead a dignified life within their communities, near their families."
Graziano da Silva placed FAO's increased focus on South-South cooperation into the larger organizational transformation that FAO has undergone in the last three years, "into a more efficient, focused and results-oriented organization."
"We have strengthened our decentralized offices so we are closer to countries and can offer you more tailored-made assistance," he said.
Graziano da Silva reaffirmed FAO's commitment to supporting family farmers beyond this year's International Year of Family Farming and pointed to South-South Cooperation as another way to support these local farmers in building food security and nutritious diets for all.
"I am convinced that, together, we will get there."
The conference was attended by ministers from Burundi, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Swaziland and Sudan.