World Food Day 2020: IAEA & FAO’s Joint Work Benefits Farmers and Increases Food Security Worldwide

In 2020, more than 80 developing countries from all over the world have received support from the IAEA in partnership with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in improving food security and agricultural development with the use of nuclear and nuclear-related techniques. These techniques are used increasingly in support of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal Zero Hunger at a time when some 80 per cent of the world’s extremely poor people live in rural areas and most of them rely directly on agriculture for their livelihoods, according to the FAO.

The Joint FAO/IAEA Programme of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture contributes annually to more than 250 IAEA technical cooperation projects and leads around 25 coordinated research projects towards increased global food security and sustainable agriculture, including for displaced people fleeing conflicts.

On the occasion of World Food Day, here are some of the successful outcomes of our collaboration from this year, demonstrating how nuclear and nuclear-related techniques help to combat rural poverty and build sustainable food systems against the background of climatic changes and animal disease epidemics.

Improving nutrient and water management for crop production on salt-affected soil in the Middle East

Salinization – the increasing amount of salt content in soil – contributes to land degradation, desertification and subsequently food insecurity. Ten countries in the Middle East facing severe salinization received IAEA/FAO support to improve soil, water and crop management practices with the use of nuclear and isotopic techniques. Five years on, farmers are successfully growing crops under saline conditions with significant yield. Additionally, guidelines are now available to help countries produce various crops on different types of salt-affected soils. Click here to read the full article.

A farmer in the upper Mesopotamian plain, Iraq, successfully growing eggplant and other forage crops using saline ground water in salt-affected soil. (Photo: I. Abdulrazzaq, Ministry of Science and Technology, Iraq)

Boosting farmers’ rice yields in Malaysia with plant breeding techniques

In Malaysia, rice is a staple food as well as a source of income for about 300,000 farmers. Since early 2020, Malaysia’s nuclear agency, Nuclear Malaysia, has been multiplying seeds of a high-yielding rice variety developed using radiation to induce genetic diversity and then subsequent plant breeding. This production arrangement is set to provide access of the improved variety to farmers to boost rice yields and food security in the country after the seeds are harvested and distributed to farmers towards the end of the year. Click here to read the full article.

Workers on a rice field used to multiply a rice variety with favourable traits developed using irradiation. (Photo: M. Gaspar/IAEA)

Protecting livestock in Bosnia and Herzegovina from animal diseases spreading in South-eastern Europe

Bosnia and Herzegovina veterinary authorities are now better equipped to protect livestock from several animal diseases spreading in South-eastern Europe thanks to the support of the IAEA and FAO. This is an important step for food security in the country and for the export of animal products and food to the European Union market. Click here to read the full article.

A scientist at the Veterinary Faculty of the University of Sarajevo analyzing genome sequences as part of a Joint FAO/IAEA project. (Photo: Veterinary Faculty of the University of Sarajevo)

Expanding range of fruit exports in Ecuador thanks to insect pest control

Ecuador, one of the largest producers of tropical fruit in the Western Hemisphere, is now adding non-traditional fruits to its export portfolio as a result of successfully fighting off the Mediterranean fruit fly with the help of the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT), a nuclear technique transferred to the country’s scientists by the IAEA and FAO. Click here to read the full article.

Tree tomato is now exported to markets in the United States, Latin America and the European Union. (Photo: AGROCALIDAD)

Strengthening food safety control system in Namibia to keep exporting fish

Despite tightening of quality and safety requirements in major import markets, fish and fishery products have continued to be a significant contributor to Namibia’s exports, thanks in part to a strong food safety and quality assurance system built in collaboration with the IAEA and FAO. The system incorporates nuclear science into quality tests for food and water safety and has allowed the country to make significant progress towards becoming self-reliant in carrying out these tests. Click here to read the full article.

A scientist in Namibia prepares samples for food safety tests. (Photo: NSI)

The Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture supports countries through adaptive research and development at its own laboratories in Seibersdorf, Austria, as well as through leading support and coordination of coordinated research projects involving some 400 research institutions and experimental stations, capacity-building and technology transfer to over 250 national and regional technical cooperation projects and technical and policy advice to policy makers.

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