Princess Sirindhorn named Zero Hunger ambassador by UN

img_5138Helping the poor and hungry has always been a large part of the work of Thailand’s royal family, and so Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn returned to work last week by accepting a new role from the United Nations as its Special Ambassador for Zero Hunger as she presided over World Food Day ceremonies at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s regional headquarters in Bangkok.

“Princess Sirindhorn, has long been a champion of projects to end hunger and improve nutrition in her own country Thailand and also in other countries of the Asia-Pacific region, including Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, Laos and Timor Leste,” said Allan Dow, a spokesman for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). For that reason, he said, FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva offered her the role of special ambassador.

Reducing hunger was a cornerstone achievement of the life’s work of the princess’s late father King Bhumibol Adulyadej. King Bhumibol launched over 4,000 royal development projects during his reign, many of which addressed the issues of hunger and malnutrition, and promoted integrated-farming in harmony with the environment through his “Sufficiency Economy Theory.”

In the late 1970s, Thailand had 53 percent of its children under five years old classified as underweight by the U.N. In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics were available, the rate was 7 percent.

King Bhumibol’s development work included public health projects, but he also addressed hunger and malnutrition through his many projects that focused on agriculture.

“His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej has shown us the way in his pursuit of improvements in sustainable agriculture for Thailand which is a country so important in food production for the world. Your Royal Highness has also carried forward that quest for improvements to agriculture,” said Kundhavi Kadiresan, assistant director-general of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) at the World Food Day ceremony.

The event was the first public appearance for Princess Sirindhorn outside of official mourning rites at the old Grand Palace for her father who passed away at the age of 88. The princess continues to attend the mourning rituals each day at the palace with other members of the royal family and prominent dignitaries.

During the World Food Day event she presented five exceptional farmers from around the region with Model Farmer Awards from the FAO. The winners came from Thailand, Mongolia, Viet Nam, Pakistan and Fiji.

Dilok Pinyosree, 39, a sugarcane farmer from Thailand’s northeastern Chaiyaphum province, and winner of a Model Farmer Award, said he followed the late King’s methods and avoids burning his fields after harvesting. Burning fields contribute to atmospheric haze that is bad for health and harms the environment. “Thanks to the King’s self-sufficiency philosophy, I can farm profitably and also look after the environment,” Dilok said.