The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations established the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT) to foster the management and dissemination of agricultural information in an effort to fight hunger and achieve food security. WAICENT is FAO's strategic programme for improving access to documents, statistics, maps, and multimedia resources.
Communication Strategies: 

WAICENT is a website that aims to build the capacities of those who work to eliminate hunger by providing:

  • full-text publications and technical documents available through the internet on agriculture, fisheries, nutrition and forestry (specific subjects include trends in trade, country-specific information, food safety and deforestation, among others);
  • codes of conduct, interactive tools for use at the national level, and early warning and disaster prevention systems;
  • data, including maps and charts, obtained through the FAO online statistical databases, containing over one million time-series records, covering international statistics in the area of agricultural production, trade indices, food supply, land and food aid; and
  • other multimedia resources available on the FAO Web site, including mapping systems, web applications for the collection of "metadata" (information about information), and templates for the creation of electronic documents, search engines, and harvesting data.

This information is organised and linked to facilitate user access. A point of entry is the WAICENT Information Finder, an online search tool that allows the user to navigate through the site according to several criteria.

WAICENT makes available information management systems for use by institutions in member nations. For instance, the Electronic Information Management System (EIMS) collects metadata on Web pages, documents and other material and disseminates information on the Internet; the News and Events Management System (NEMS) publishes information that changes frequently, such as events calendars and news items.

The WAICENT Outreach Programme assists in developing facilities and networks for the access to and sharing of information. Activities include:

  • The WAICENT Resource Kit, an e-learning initiative providing users with the skills, knowledge, and tools needed for information management in agriculture;
  • The WAICENT Field Programme, a mechanism for collaboration with governments and local communities providing technical advice and support to strengthen information management capacities through the use of ICTs (information and communication technologies).

WAICENT also provides the Country Profiles and Mapping Information System, a tool for finding information through country-specific searches. This corporate effort to bring together existing thematic and statistical data, maps and graphics offers an alternative to individual searches of FAO's multiple databases and information systems. Users search by selecting a country and then combining their choice with a thematic area - sustainable development, economic situation, agriculture, forestry, fisheries - or one of FAO's 16 Priority Areas for Interdisciplinary Action (PAIAs) such as organic agriculture or biotechnology.

Development Issues: 

Agriculture, Hunger, Economic Development, Technology.

Key Points: 

WAICENT is the primary digital archive used to support the work of FAO and its technical publications.

Supporting WAICENT, in turn, is the Consultation on Agricultural Information Management (COAIM). This intergovernmental process for FAO's member nations is a forum for the discussion and setting of policies related to management of and access to agricultural information. This process was established recognizing the key role that information and knowledge play in ensuring food security and sustainable development. Through COAIM, FAO member nations establish a global framework for prioritising WAICENT activities.

Currently, new initiatives are underway to create improved standards for the exchange of information between different information providers, such as the use of metadata. As part of its efforts to expand access to WAICENT, especially in member nations where the internet is not yet widely available, many of WAICENT's specialised information systems, including FAOSTAT, AGRIS, CARIS, Gender and Food Security, and Combating Desertification, are also available on CD-ROMs.

Partner Text: 

FAO's member nations.