WASHINGTON, D.C., and ROME -- More than 100 of the world's poorest countries will now be able to access leading food and agriculture journals for little or no cost with the launch of the second phase of the Global Online Research in Agriculture (AGORA) initiative, FAO announced today.

AGORA is a successful public-private partnership between FAO, 37 of the world's leading science publishers and other key partners, including the World Health Organization and Cornell University. Introduced in 2003 and providing access to 69 low-income countries, AGORA today expands to include universities, colleges, research institutes and government ministries as well as non-governmental organizations in an additional 37 lower-middle-income countries.

AGORA responds to the needs of thousands of students, researchers and academics in poorer countries, who continue to face challenges accessing up-to-date information which is vital to their work.

"We have seen from the first phase of this initiative that there is increasing demand for access to vital information by poorer countries. In less than three years, AGORA has already helped bridge the knowledge gap by providing 850 institutions access to over 900 journals in the areas of agriculture and related subjects," notes Anton Mangstl, director of FAO's Library and Documentation Systems Division.

Under the second phase of AGORA launched today, 37 countries with a per capita GNP of between US$ 1,000 and US$ 3,000 will be eligible. Institutions wishing to register will have a three-month free trial period before they are asked to pay an annual subscription of US$ 1,000. FAO will invest all subscription income into local training initiatives to help increase awareness and usage of AGORA amongst librarians and scientists.

"AGORA was an ambitious initiative from the beginning, but thanks to a very effective partnership between publishers and FAO we have made incredible headway with new institutions registering to join everyday," said AGORA Publishing Coordinator Maurice Long, of the International Association of Scientific, Technical and Medical Publishers.

AGORA is making an important contribution to the achievement of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals by providing essential information to improve the livelihoods of those who need it most.

SOURCE: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations via PR Newswire.