Maguindanao, North Cotabato new focus areas of partnership between New Zealand and FAO

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NEW ZEALAND Ambassador to the Philippines David Strachan (left) welcomes Vicente T. Lao as Honorary Consul for Mindanao at a dinner reception in Davao City on May 26. — LEAN S. DAVAL, JR.

DAVAO CITY — The United Nations’ (UN) Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and New Zealand government have sealed a new project focusing on the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato.

FAO representative in the Philippines Joe Luis Fernandez said this new partnership will be an expansion of existing agricultural programs aimed at facilitating linkages with the value chain, ensuring market opportunities in growth areas, and improving the resiliency level of communities.

“It is our hope that our past successes will be sustained and scaled up,” said Mr. Fernandez in a speech during last week’s inauguration dinner for Vicente T. Lao as New Zealand’s newly appointed Honorary Consul for Mindanao.

FAO’s involvement in Mindanao started soon after the government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) signed a peace deal in 1997, initiating projects to address immediate needs of conflict-affected farmers and fisherfolks in the central Mindanao area.

The UN agency has implemented several New Zealand-funded projects in the Philippines between 2011 and 2017, including the restoration of agricultural livelihoods in areas affected by conflict, flooding and drought.

“I am quite excited for this (new) project as this will also contribute to expanding FAO partnerships with other stakeholders including the private sector,” he added.

The FAO-New Zealand joint initiative would be in line with the priorities and strategies set out in the Philippine government’s Mindanao 2020 program, Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022, and the New Zealand Aid Program Strategic Plan 2015-2019.

FAO recently completed a Mindanao Strategic Program for Agriculture and Agribusiness (MSPAA) and a Marawi Response Plan, which both provide a framework for the agency’s interventions. — Maya M. Padillo