FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean

Eleventh regional planners forum on agriculture and “Symposium on innovation systems for sustainable agriculture and rural development”

13-09-17 - 15-09-17


Innovations in agri-food systems have provided for qualitative and quantitative leaps in the development of the agricultural sector in both the developing and developed countries. This concept is seen as a process for farmers, marketers and agro-processors along the value chain to improve their production practices, with the involvement of the private and public sectors, civil society and developmental partners. Higher levels of adoption of innovations in agriculture lead to improvements in productivity, competitiveness, trade, income generated by the sector, sustainability and, reduction of the Region’s food import bill.

The reduction of rural poverty in countries of the region, as well as levels of food and nutritional insecurity, is a complex problem requiring a systemic and innovative approach, especially in the context of strong growth in food demand and climate change, with increasing pressure on natural resources.

In the case of the Caribbean, the challenges in overcoming poverty and food and nutritional insecurity are related to optimal use of resources, loss of market access for agricultural products to key export markets, globalisation and trade liberalisation and the attendant influx of ‘cheap’ imported foods, growing incidence of childhood obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and low levels of intra-regional trade. To address these issues, members of the Technical Working Group of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Cluster (AFNC) of CARICOM committed their agencies to closer collaboration and coordination of work programmes and to priority areas of regional interventions to meet the objectives of the Community Agriculture Programme (CAP) and the Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy (RFNSP). Also, the CARICOM Council of Ministers for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) has mandated that Member States play an enhanced role in regional mechanisms in addressing the constraints to agriculture.

In this regard, noteworthy innovations have been advanced across the sector and are contributing to the sustainable and inclusive development of agriculture and rural sectors. There are important examples of innovation in family farming in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC), which have enhanced the assets of rural communities through the use of technology according to their own productive and cultural processes, and subsequent linkage to more efficient and sustainable markets.

An examination of the lessons learned from these innovations and the implications for policy makers is important to improve the performance of the agricultural sector, particularly small farmers, and to promote improved productivity and investments at different levels, as well as to guide the support to institutions, commercialize value-added products, and ultimately increase farmers’ incomes and wellbeing.

Some of the key considerations in the advancement of public policies and a strategy for adoption of innovations in agriculture that would serve to benefit all stakeholders are:

  • Access to new financial and transportation services,
  • The promotion of more inclusive markets and buyers and sellers platforms
  • The removal of non-tariff measures and barriers to trade with emphasis on SPS measures
  • Access to human and technological resources
  • Management of knowledge networks
  • Promotion of good practices
  • Trust between actors and institutions in the agricultural innovation system, which often impedes collective action3.
  • Adaptive capabilities of family farmers to face external shocks (economic and environmental).

Recently, in 2016, FAO held the Second Regional Forum on "Innovation systems for Sustainable Rural Development", which provided the opportunity for discussion and critical reflection, where the classical concept of innovation was analysed based on its impact in rural areas, with an emphasis on family farming and the democratization of innovation systems. The next steps in terms of innovation include a proposal for a publication containing the main presentations from the Forum, and the commitment to hold a third Forum on innovation for sustainable rural development in the Caribbean.

In this context, the FAO is partnering with the CARICOM Secretariat with support of the members of AFNC, to organise the 11th Meeting of the Regional Planners Forum on Agriculture with a focus on Innovation systems for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development. This activity stems directly from the FAO’s commitment to support the implementation of the 2017 Action Plan of CELAC’s Working Group on Family Farming and Territorial Rural Development, and to contribute to CELAC’s Food and Nutritional Security Plan for the eradication of hunger by 2025. CARICOM member states, as members of CELAC, sharing common interests and shared principles with Latin America countries, contributed to the formulation of the two aforementioned Plans of CELAC.


General Objective
To identify and promote policies and institutional mechanisms that help to strengthen innovation systems for sustainable agriculture and rural development in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Specific Objectives

  • Expand dialogue on the progress of public policies and institutional mechanisms that promote the innovation systems in agriculture in LAC.
  • Identify priority areas of innovation at the regional and sub-regional levels to promote the development of more sustainable agriculture taking into consideration best practices, experiences and lessons learnt both within and outside the region.
  • Make recommendations to decision-makers which would inform the development of public policies, legal frameworks and instruments that promote the inclusive innovation systems.
  • Identify opportunities for cooperation and coordination among countries and institutions of the region in the areas addressed during the Forum.


  1. The main issues relating to innovation systems to be discussed and implemented in countries of the region are Identified and prioritized.
  2. Successful experiences of initiatives that promote innovation systems to strengthen agriculture and sustainable rural development are analysed and disseminated.
  3. An action plan to be developed in countries of the region is defined for the areas identified and prioritized during the workshop.
  4. Coordination with strategic partners to determine the role each will play in the activities defined in the framework of the action plan.

Focus Areas

Agricultural officials of the Caribbean and Latin American will collaborate during a two-day symposium, which will be conducted in modules to address the three focal areas described below. The deliberations will be closely linked to the work of members of the AFNC which coordinate work in the specific thematic areas and priority commodities which have been approved by Ministers of Agriculture for regional interventions under the agricultural policy framework for CARICOM.

The analysis and discussion will be based on a critical view of public policy and institutional actions, facilitating the development of innovative proposals to reform and/or strengthen the framework to meet current demands of the countries and local communities.

I. Financial Services, Investments and Institutional Strengthening: Currently in the region, there is strong demand for more rural services, including financial instruments, such as loans and insurance, as well as investment in agriculture. The participation in this discussion of strategic actors that support/provide sustainable investment in the sector is important to facilitate public-private partnerships and promote actions by all stakeholders, which will contribute to sustainable rural development. In addition, actions are needed to (i) strengthen institutions and foster coordinated and participatory approaches for implementing national and regional policies that include rural services and Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) measures and (iii) enhance the capacity for adoption of new innovative practices (with a special focus on youth and rural women) to improve production systems of rural families.

II. Climate Smart Agriculture: The predicted impacts of Climate Change on the Agriculture Sector of the region are likely to adversely affect food and nutrition security in the region. For the Caribbean, as Small Island Developing States, the impacts will be exacerbated because of their vulnerabilities and limited natural resource base. Innovation strategies and policies must therefore take these issues into consideration to build resilience and promote sustainable natural resources management systems. This will include capacity building and knowledge sharing to facilitate the adoption of innovation practices.

III. Value Chains, Access to inclusive markets and instruments: There is clearly an important demand to invest in science and technology to improve the rate of adoption of innovations by all actors along the value chain. Management of information for improved access to inclusive markets as well as better coordination for more efficient and effective use of resources will also support initiatives in innovations. A discussion about structural conditions is required for family farmers and agro processors to maximise their production and productivity and achieve access to more sustainable and fair markets. The participation in this discussion of the strategic actors that promote the development of competitive value chains, business models and facilitate public-private partnerships is key to determining the policy considerations in innovations for this focal area.


The two-day meeting will include three modules based on the issues defined previously and a fourth module for the analysis, discussion and definition of the action plan. Each module will begin with keynote presentations on the issue to be addressed, which will be supported by selected technical papers developed by experts and contributions from representatives of Member States. Guideline notes for presenters and the Meetings’ detailed agenda will be provided in advance to all delegates.

In addition, each module is expected to generate discussions that will highlight examples of successful innovations of relevance to the focus area. The sessions will allow for exchanges among the participants with the aim of capturing best practices, lessons learnt and challenges as well as policies and incentives that are considered necessary to support and strengthen the innovation systems . At the end of each module, the moderator (or team responsible for the module) will end the session by announcing the agreements and/or recommendations arising from each module, which will then be compiled in a single document capturing the discussions and presentations made during the Forum. In the case of the CARICOM group, recommendations will include specific actions to be taken to the Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED) Ministerial meeting.

Participation and interaction of delegates is an essential part of the methodology with the moderator of each module responsible for generating this discussion. Each module will be based on one of the three main themes. On the last day, there will be a session for discussion with representatives from public partners and non-governmental sectors, the private sector and academia, with the aim of defining the areas to be developed as part of the strategic plan in innovation systems in Caribbean countries.