XXXVI
FAO Regional Conference

for Latin America and the Caribbean Managua, Nicaragua

October 19-21, 2020

Live broadcast

Special Event by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS): Driving Transformation Toward Sustainable Food Systems for Healthy Diets

Today, the region of Latin America and the Caribbean is in a very difficult situation. It faces the challenge of achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, including eradicating hunger and extreme poverty, transforming food systems, containing the increase in malnutrition, generating new opportunities for economic development in rural areas, and making agriculture more sustainable and resilient to climate change. All of the above has become even more complex in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its profound impacts on health, the economy, and social well-being.

All these challenges require joint solutions between the actors in each country, and between countries.

The Regional Conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is held every two years. It brings together the governments of its 33 Member States in Latin America and the Caribbean to face the main regional challenges in food and agriculture.

In light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Director General, in consultation with the government of the Republic of Nicaragua, and after deliberation with the Regional Group, decided to postpone the 36th session of the Conference. The FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean will now take place on October 19-21, 2020.

We must transform food systems to achieve healthy diets for all

We must transform food systems to achieve healthy diets for all

The region of Latin America and the Caribbean is undergoing a rapid nutritional transition. Since 2014, hunger has grown again by 13 million people, and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to lead to an increase in the incidence of hunger. Overweight and obesity have not stopped growing and today affect 60 percent of adults in the region.

The region must make changes that allow progress towards sustainable food systems, which are capable of providing healthy and accessible food for all, in order to:

  • Eradicate hunger that affects 47,7 million people
  • Stop the rise in obesity and overweight that affects 262 million adults and 4 million children
  • Support the 51 percent of the population in the region suffering from one or more forms of malnutrition

The increase in malnutrition is related to the rapid changes in our food systems experienced in the last few decades. The region must respond to these challenges in order to guarantee greater supply and physical access to diversified and nutritious diets for all people, while facilitating economic access to food and improving information and consumption habits to promote healthy diets.

The region must increase in an efficient and sustainable way the production of foods that contribute to better diets, such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, fish and shellfish, by facilitating access to productive assets, financing and training for small and medium-sized producers, and promoting technological and digital innovation.

Countries must promote the circular economy, reduce food losses and waste, and improve distribution systems, including supermarkets, so that there is a greater supply of healthy and diversified food.

Short food supply chains, such as farmers' markets and local grocery stores, are also required, along with trade policies that promote greater food security, and better food safety and quality.

We must move hand-in-hand toward prosperous and inclusive rural societies

We must move hand-in-hand toward prosperous and inclusive rural societies

The development of Latin America and the Caribbean requires prosperous and inclusive rural territories. The region produces food for more than 800 million people, 14 percent of the world's crops and more than a quarter of its beef. These activities represent 20 percent of exports and 20 percent of employment in the region.

However, despite all this wealth, half of rural inhabitants live in poverty, and one in five lives in extreme poverty.

Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean must develop targeted policies for rural territories in order to:

  • Eradicate hunger and extreme poverty in rural areas.
  • Stimulate the development of new economic opportunities in lagging territories.
  • Implement FAO's global Hand-in-Hand Initiative.
  • Reduce the deficit of infrastructure and public services.
  • Expand the coverage of social protection programs.
  • Reduce migratory pressure, improving opportunities and well-being in rural areas.

It is necessary to increase investment in public goods, strengthen property rights for safe access to land, and extend the coverage and quality of rural services to provide better information to the agricultural sector.

Countries in the region should promote rural non-agricultural employment, private investment, basic infrastructure, greater links between the agricultural sector and markets, and access to Internet, information and telecommunications services, which are essential for the transition to digital agriculture and digital rural societies.

We must develop sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture

We must develop sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture

The region's rural areas contain 50 percent of the world's biodiversity, 23 percent of its forests, a third of the fresh water and 12 percent of cultivated land. This natural heritage provides the basis for abundant and diverse agricultural and food production, which employs and feeds hundreds of millions of people.

Latin America and the Caribbean must undergo a transformation towards sustainable and resilient agriculture, which will be a source of growth for the region, and allow it to:

  • Produce food in a more sustainable way, reducing the environmental footprint and achieving greater integration with ecosystems and biodiversity.
  • Train farmers and rural communities to promote ecosystems that are resilient to climate change.
  • Continue to contribute to global food supplies, while reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture.
  • Address situations of insecurity, violence and illegal economic activities.

The region must improve soil health and move towards efficient water use, integrate biodiversity conservation into production policies, and promote sustainable forest management. Countries must combat illegal fishing and ensure the sustainable growth of the fisheries and aquaculture sector.

Social protection must be linked to productive inclusion policies and programs. Countries should promote ventures associated with natural and cultural heritage, such as environmental services and products with geographical indications.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and the food system, it is necessary to combat deforestation, promote low-emission livestock, re-carbonize soils, and reduce food loss and waste.

We must invest in prevention to reduce the cost of disasters, improve information systems and risk monitoring, and implement productive practices that are resilient to climate change.

Implementing these changes requires greater investment, a great leap in digital innovation and technology, and a profound institutional reform to build a new system of governance, which involves more sectors of society and promotes cooperation between countries.

We must promote innovation and digital agriculture

We must promote innovation and digital agriculture

Latin America and the Caribbean needs to rapidly develop a regional roadmap for innovation and digitization of its food and agriculture sector in order to:

  • Take advantage of the ongoing technological revolution.
  • Improve the efficiency and sustainability of food and agricultural systems.
  • Boost the resilience of communities, agriculture and ecosystems to climate change.
  • Promote social inclusion and create jobs in food systems.

This revolution in digital agriculture and innovation must include sustainable growth, productivity of healthy foods, nutrition-sensitive agriculture, fresh food e-commerce, business models to improve nutritious and healthy food distribution, and modernization and digitization of wholesalers and traditional retail stores.

It must also promote biological and digital technologies in agricultural and food systems, foster climate-smart innovation in agricultural and livestock production, forestry and fisheries and aquaculture, and promote territorial innovation and digitization.

To boost sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture, innovations are required for a more efficient use of natural resources, which reduce the environmental footprint of agriculture and food systems.

Innovation and technology are also required to conserve biodiversity, protect ecosystem services, adapt agriculture to climate change, reduce disaster risks and increase the efficiency of agricultural water use.

FAO must improve its capacities to help Members in Latin America and the Caribbean

FAO must improve its capacities to help Members in Latin America and the Caribbean

FAO' operating model in Latin America and the Caribbean needs an upgrade. The organization should focus on achieving large-scale results and becoming more efficient, dynamic and innovative.

Starting in 2020-21, FAO proposes to adopt a programmatic approach, integrating normative, operational, investment and policy support. It will also seek to strengthen the operational and fiduciary capacities of its Regional, Sub-regional, and Country Offices.

FAO will also promote new partnerships, including with the private sector, and strengthen monitoring, evaluation and knowledge management, increasing resource mobilization in favour of member countries.

Map of projects in Latin America and the Caribbean

Accompanying rural territorial development in Latin America and the Caribbean, through the implementation of projects focused on the territory.

Photos of XXXVI FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean

XXXVI Conferencia Regionalde de la FAO para América Latina y el Caribe