Beginning on July 1st, José  Graziano da Silva of Brazil begins a four-year term as Director General of the Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), replacing Jacques Diouf of Senegal.  Diouf’s 18-year tenure at FAO prompted a change in agency rules regarding term limits.

Graziano was in charge of former Brazilian President Luis (Lula) da Silva’s “Zero Hunger” program begun in 2003 which helped to dramatically decrease malnutrition in the South American country. Graziano had also been FAO’s regional representative for Latin America and the Caribbean since 2006.

The FAO, as the largest UN agency, with an annual budget of some $1 billion, has faced longstanding calls for budget cuts from top donors such as the United States. But the agency has a difficult task before it in trying to reduce world hunger at a time of record high food prices.

 In a statement before his election, Graziano said “ending hunger is not a charity, but an investment in our poorest people and a key to sustainable development.”  Under the leadership of reform-minded Graziano, those inside and outside the FAO expect the agency to find ways help countries design their own hunger-eradication programs.