The Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species (GFU) was created to ease and increase information and knowledge exchange in the field of underutilized and neglected species.

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During the first Conference of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) in Dresden, Germany, in May 2000 a working group recommended an involvement of GFAR in underutilized species in order to increase the visibility and valorize the work already done and to stimulate activities at regional level. The group also recommended to establish a Facilitation Mechanism operating at global level. In two follow-up meetings of an informal group consisting of representatives of FAO, IFAD, IPGRI, ICUC and BMZ this idea was further developed. BMZ provided funds for the establishment of a Facilitation Unit and IPGRI offered to host the Unit.

In July 2002 a Steering Committee was appointed to give overall guidance and support to the Facilitation Unit. The lifespan of the Unit will depend on the necessity for such a unit felt by the stakeholders and available funding.

The initial phase lasted from May 2002 – February 2005. The project was evaluated by an external consultant commissioned by the donor in May 2004 and as an output of the positive assessment funding has been secured by BMZ (till December 2007), the ToR slightly changed and the focus of the work is placed in the following three areas:
  • Documentation, Information and communication
  • Policy analysis and advice to decision makers
  • Public Awareness

Initiators of the Unit

Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations

International Center for Underutilised Crops (ICUC)

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)

Bioversity International
[former International Plant Genetic Resources Institute (IPGRI)]

Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammnenarbeit und Entwicklung (BMZ), Germany


Promote and facilitate the sustainable deployment of underutilized plant species to increase food security and alleviate poverty among the rural and urban poor.


Support and strengthen organizations and networks working on different aspects of underutilized species through:

  • providing improved access to information and financial resources
  • increasing public awareness on the role of underutilized species for improving livelihoods
  • giving advice to policy makers on how to create an enabling policy environment for the deployment of underutilized species

Steering Committee

On the initiative of GFAR, an informal group of representatives of FAO, IPGRI, ICUC, IFAD and BMZ, all committed to support underutilized species have developed the concept of a Global Facilitation Unit (GFU). The informal group has decided to form a small Steering Committee to guide the work of the Facilitation Unit.

As proposed at the meeting in Bonn, July 2001 (meeting report - pdf; 68 Kb) the SC will be composed of a representative of FAO, IFAD, ICUC, IPGRI and BMZ. These members will select a chairperson. The coordinator of the Global Facilitation Unit shall act as secretary to the SC. The SC may co-opt additional members. During the meeting in March 2003 GFAR was welcomed as a new member.

Members will serve on their institutional capacity for a period of 3 years (2002-2005) or the duration of the project.

The Steering Committee meets at least once a year and provides a record of its meetings to the GFAR SC which will include a report from the Unit Coordinator.

Travel expenses and per diem incurred in attending SC meetings should be borne by the member institution. In exceptional cases the Facilitation Unit and the SC members will explore the possibility of assuming the costs by the Facilitation Unit. It is up to the SC to decide on the venues of the meetings.

Current Members
  • FAO: Eric Kueneman - Chairperson (Alternate - Caterina Batello)
  • IFAD: Shantanu Mathur (Alternate - Alessandro Meschinelli)
  • Bioversity International: Mauricio Bellon (Alternate - Stefano Padulosi)
  • BMZ: Marlene Diekmann
  • GFAR: Ajit Maru

  • ICUC: Hannah Jaenicke

Terms of Reference
  • Provide overall guidance on the program of the Global Facilitation Unit and the implementation of the project
  • Assist the Global Facilitation Unit to link with regional and national stakeholders
  • Advise the Global Facilitation Unit on scientific and regional matters related to the identification, assessment, improvement, development, sustainable use and marketing of underutilized species and assist in identifying additional sources of information
  • Approve workplan of the Global Facilitation Unit and support its efforts to mobilize additional resources
  • Review and assess the progress made by the Global Facilitation Unit and make recommendations for future work
  • Provide progress reports to the GFAR Steering Committee

Meeting Minutes


Meetings and Conferences co-organized or attended by the GFU



Global Facilitation Unit for Underutilized Species
E-mail: [ ]
Via dei Tre Denari 472/A
00057 Maccarese

Paul Bordoni
E-mail: [ ]
Tel: ++39 06 6118 302
Fax: ++39 06 61979661
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Via dei Tre Denari 472/A, 00057 Maccarese, Rome, Italy
Tel: ++39 06 6118 292 - Fax: ++39 06 6197 9661
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