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Renewing political will, a key ingredient to end hunger and malnutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean

FAO Director General stresses importance of investing in the poor as the way to achieve sustainable development

The idea that to end hunger we must decide to invest in the poorest is now widely accepted by all the countries of the world, Graziano da Silva said at the event.

25 June 2019, Rome - Political will is the fundamental and necessary ingredient to eradicate hunger and all forms of malnutrition - including overweight and obesity - in Latin America and the Caribbean, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said today.

"The idea that to end hunger we must decide to invest in the poorest is now widely accepted by all the countries of the world," Graziano da Silva said at an event on how to move from commitment to action to achieve Zero Hunger held during the 41st session of the FAO Conference, the Organization’s highest governing body.

The FAO Director General explained that Latin America and the Caribbean, until recently considered a global example in the fight against hunger and malnutrition, tackled the issue with a comprehensive package of social measures that include cash transfer programs to facilitate access to food for the poorest and most vulnerable people.

Going back to being a global example in the fight against hunger

Latin America and the Caribbean was the world’s first region to commit to eradicating hunger before 2025, in a commitment ratified by all countries in the Hunger-Free Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative (IALCSH).

"In the first 15 years of the century, Latin America and the Caribbean halved hunger, a tremendous achievement that the entire region can feel proud of," said FAO’s Assistant Deputy Director General and Regional Representative to Latin America and the Caribbean, Julio Berdegué.

"In the last six or seven years we have lost momentum and since 2010-201 we have not moved forward. We need to lift an average of 3.5 million people out of hunger each year if we want to reach Zero Hunger by 2030," he warned.

Berdegué noted with  concern the stagnation in the fight against hunger and stressed that efforts should be redoubled in the territories where "the hard core of the problem persists".

The FAO Assistant Director-General also highlighted the importance of renewing political will and returning to the agreements that allowed the development of solid institutional frameworks and governance systems such as the Parliamentary Fronts against Hunger.

Berdegué noted the approval of the Food and Nutrition Security Strategy of the CELAC, the region’s many Food and Nutrition Security National Councils, the impetus given to cash transfer programs, and the support to family farming and school feeding programmes.

FAO’s Assistant Director-General also stressed that hunger can no longer be the only concern: since 2003 the number of obese people in the region has surpassed the number of hungry people.

"Today, for every hungry person there are almost 4 obese people," said Berdegué, noting that the increase is largely due to the increase in consumption of ultra-processed foods high in sugar, salt and saturated fats.

"We have to consider this as a global fight so that in no corner of the planet a single child goes hungry," said Guadalupe Valdez, FAO's Zero Hunger Ambassador for Latin America and the Caribbean. "To achieve progress in the fight against hunger and achieve healthier diets, we must strengthen public-private partnerships, continue strengthening laws on school feeding programmes, give more support to family farming and regulate food labeling," she said.

"Frontal" fight against hunger and extreme poverty in Mexico

For his part, the Mexico’s Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development Víctor Villalobos, described the measures that the Mexican government is carrying out to "fight hunger and extreme poverty head-on" and promote agricultural development.

The plan, which he summarized in five major initiatives, includes programs to encourage the production of basic crops such as corn, beans or pumpkin; support for coffee and sugarcane production; programs to guarantee incentives and competitive prices for farmers; aid for the use of fertilizers for about 120 000 subsistence producers, as well as programs focused on the development of the southern part of the country.

Quoting the Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, Villalobos said: "In short, it is about ensuring that those who feed us are the first to eat."

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