FAO teams up with UNWTO to boost sustainable rural tourism to help strengthen rural economies & conserve ecosystems
New partnership aims to foster innovation & entrepreneurship, drive sustainable development & strengthen livelihoods in rural areas
29 September 2020, Rome – The Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) & the World Tourism Organization of the United Nations (UNWTO) today joined forces to promote sustainable tourism in rural areas with the aim of supporting rural economies.
Sustainable tourism in rural areas such as agritourism, ecotourism & pescatourism is an important driver of socio-economic growth that can reduce inequalities, increase resilience of rural communities & boost rural incomes.
The new partnership will also contribute to the ecosystems conservation & the development of the FAO’s Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), as well as support the Coalition of Fragile Ecosystems (COFE) – a global alliance of vulnerable communities living in fragile ecosystems that advocates for the protection of mountain & island ecosystems & the resilience of their populations.
FAO Director-General QU Dongyu & UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili signed today the first ever Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two organizations at FAO headquarters in Rome.
“The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding coincides with World Tourism Day this year focusing on Sustainable Tourism for Rural Development, a topic of deep interest for FAO,” the FAO Director General said.
“Tourism in rural areas can play a pivotal role in supporting rural economies through income diversification of farmers, job creation & raising public awareness of the significance of rural areas for food security, the environment, for the protection of culinary & cultural heritage, the conservation of local biodiversity & the maintenance of beautiful landscapes,” he noted.
For his part, UNWTO Secretary-General said: “This Memorandum of Understanding between UNWTO & FAO emphasises the cross-cutting nature of tourism & the importance of cooperation at every level to ensure the sector works for everyone. Both tourism & agriculture are lifelines for communities around the world. The agreement is particularly timely as it comes as we recognize 2020 as the year of Tourism for Rural Development. This was also the theme of World Tourism Day, which we celebrated this week, highlighting the role tourism must play in providing opportunities for rural communities & driving social & economic recovery.”
Key priority areas of the new collaboration
The accord established a five-year work plan between FAO & UNWTO which includes collaborative actions between GIAHS programme, the Coalition of Fragile Ecosystems (COFE), & other initiatives to foster innovation & entrepreneurship, drive sustainable development & income diversification opportunities & strengthen livelihoods, with a focus on youth & women. The new agreement will also focus on development of pescatourism – a new type of tourism promoting sustainable fisheries by offering visitors to experience fishing activities first-hand.
Through this unique partnership, the two institutions will support the development of solutions to facilitate access of local farmers & food producers to global markets, while creating new experiences, fostering networks & establishing public-private sector alliances.
One of the strengths of the new agreement is its focus on knowledge dissemination & guidance to develop & manage sustainable tourism through promoting good practices, smart solutions & innovative methods & products in rural tourism while conserving traditional values.
1000 villages project
During the meeting, the FAO Director-General invited UNWTO to join FAO in “a very ambitious project” which seeks to identify 1000 villages across the world to convert them into digital villages. He noted that the project will be implemented in collaboration with Microsoft, IBM, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation & other partners.
The FAO Director-General proposed to combine the strengths of both organizations: UNWTO‘s expertise in identifying the touristic advantages & value of these villages & FAO’s knowledge of the agricultural products they can market through e-commerce.
“A successful implementation of this project can make digital villages & rural tourism engines for increased resilience by diversifying incomes of farmers & for building back better in light of the COVID-19 pandemic”, Qu said.
The Director- General also invited UNWTO to support the FAO Hand-in-Hand Initiative.