News - June 25, 2019

New head of FAO did PhD in Wageningen

Text:
Albert Sikkema

Last Saturday, Qu Dongyu was appointed as the new Director-General of the FAO. President of the board Louise Fresco thinks this appointment could be good news for WUR.

Qu, in orange tie, last visited Wageningen in January. © Sven Menschel

The Chinese Qu Dongyu, who is currently the vice minister of agriculture in China, received 108 out of 191 votes during the first electoral round for the position of the new head of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). He will follow up the Brazilian José Graziana da Silva in August.

Transition
The FAO is going through a transition, explains Fresco, who worked at the FAO in Rome for nearly ten years. It used to be a centralist organisation with many agricultural experts in various countries, but at that time, the FAO was the only global food authority and still had a significant budget. There are now more global food organisations, and the FAO is required to collaborate with local experts and global knowledge institutions such as WUR, Fresco states. She suspects that Qu Dongyu will be open to this.

PhD candidate
Fresco has known Qu Dongyu for a long time, even before he obtained his PhD in Wageningen in 1996 on potato cultivation under professor Evert Jacobsen’s supervision. ‘He is very proud of Wageningen. He visited Wageningen last year to discuss his candidacy with me.’

Agriculture
Qu is the first Chinese in a high international position, and Fresco thinks it is no coincidence that it is in an agricultural position. ‘The Chinese governors think 30 years ahead. Agriculture is very important for China. The country is not self-sufficient, so China wants to maintain good relations in the global food sector and to maintain visibility in this aspect.’ Qu’s appointment indicates that he has good connections and that China has a strong diplomatic network in the agricultural world. For many years, Qu was a researcher at and director of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), an organisation with many international contacts.

Collaboration
Fresco knows that Qu would like to collaborate with Wageningen. She hopes for a structural collaboration between the FAO and WUR on several global challenges. These could include emerging animal diseases, food safety, sustainable forest management and sustainable management of marine resources. ‘I would like to leave small projects behind and move towards a structural collaboration, in which, together with the FAO, we share our knowledge with vulnerable countries.’