Guatemala City, Guatemala, 26-30 April 2004


Table of Contents

I. Introduction

1. Back in 1948, the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (Art. 25) formally identified food security as a basic human right. Towards the end of 2000, the United Nations Millennium Summit established poverty reduction and food security as key development policy goals.

2. In 1996, the Heads of State and Government and high-ranking representatives of FAO Member Nations, gathered at the World Food Summit (WFS), pledged their political determination to cut by half by 2015 the number of people suffering from food insecurity in 1990-92. They thereby set themselves a target and adopted a commitment to halve food insecurity in the world.

3. The inadequate performance of poverty and undernourishment indicators tells us that, under present trends, the WFS target will not be achieved within the set time frame. With an estimated 54.8 million undernourished people in Latin America and the Caribbean, this would mean reducing the number to about 30 million if the target were to be reached, while extrapolation of current trends suggests that 49 million people will still be living with food insecurity in 2015.

4. In 2002, the World Food Summit: five years later (WFS:fyl) focused attention on the political will and the mobilization of resources and issued a declaration, the International Alliance Against Hunger (IAAH), which was premised on the fact that the target could only be achieved if all stakeholders made a concerted concrete effort.

5. The Initiative to Review and Update National Agricultural, Rural Development and Food Security Strategies and Policies (March 2003) responds to the need for countries to adjust their strategies and policies towards meeting the WFS:fyl target, with assistance from FAO.

6. This paper sets out to summarize the updating of country policies. It does not address or refer to problems of urbanization, especially food insecurity in urban areas, undernourishment or obesity.

II. Changes in substance and formulation of national strategies and policies for food security and agricultural development

Salient features

7. The most relevant features of strategies and policies are the reduction of food insecurity and poverty; rural development; institutional reform, participation and decentralization; and subregional trade and integration.

8. The countries and subregional groups included in this summary are:

Andean Community

9. Food security: the objective of food security is beginning to be incorporated into the strategies of virtually all the countries of the subregion. Ecuador and Venezuela have gone even further and, with FAO support, are implementing Special Programmes for Food Security (SPFS), while Peru is in the process of formulating a specific strategy.

10. Poverty: over 40% of the population live in poverty, with more than 15 million people unable to meet their minimum food needs. All the country strategies are designed to deal with this situation.

11. Agricultural and rural development: this is an objective shared by all the countries, employing a wide array of instruments whose coherence and final impact is under discussion.

12. Subregional trade and integration: reinforcing the Andean Community is a priority objective. The Quirama Declaration is an important step in this direction as it emphasizes the fostering of common Andean policies.

13. Institutional reform, decentralization and participation: reform has been instituted with the transfer of functions relating to rural development and land-use management to local authorities. Legislation has also been passed for the creation of entities providing for citizens' participation and consultation.

Southern Common Market

14. Food security: Chile, Uruguay and Argentina have low nutritional deficits, while Brazil and Paraguay have higher shortfalls. As this subregion is a net food exporter, the problem of food insecurity is tied more to problems of access deriving from the unequal distribution of income. Brazil's campaign against hunger (Zero Hunger Programme) is a key government priority, which has managed to mobilize the whole of society. The innovative feature of this effort is that it seeks to combine long-term structural policies with specific policies aimed at broadening short-term access to food to vulnerable groups. This strategy is similar to the twin-track approach mentioned later, which seeks to address all aspects of food security in an integrated matter. This topic is a component of the Poverty Reduction Strategies of both Argentina and Paraguay and both countries are preparing the implementation of a Special Programme for Food Security (SPFS).

15. Poverty: all the countries have adopted the objective of reducing poverty, usually in a context of rural development and with targeted programmes, such as Chile Solidario.

16. Agricultural and rural development: agriculture is given a prominent role in national economic development. Virtually all the countries are seeking to improve the competitiveness of their agricultural export sector, with a focus on food chains. This emphasis is always accompanied by support programmes for small and medium-sized producers and a focus on rural development.

17. Subregional trade and integration: given that most of these countries are net food exporters, emphasis is placed on enhancing access to world markets. These countries have also been playing a leading regional role in international trade negotiations (FTAA, WTO). The supranational structure (MERCOSUR) has been strengthened by instituting policy-making bodies, such as the Commission of Permanent Representatives, and the Administrative Secretariat has been converted into a Technical Secretariat.

18. Institutional reform, decentralization and participation: objectives pursued include the modernization of the State, enhanced governance, decentralization and participation.

Central American Agricultural Council

19. Although the Central American countries have achieved economic stability and a reasonable level of agricultural growth, they have not managed to reduce poverty or food insecurity. Between 1990 and 1999 the number of undernourished increased from 4.9 million to 6.4 million, moving further from, rather than closer to, the WFS target.

20. Food security: food security has been introduced as a priority objective. Three of the countries (Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua) are implementing and expanding their SPFSs at national level, while El Salvador, Costa Rica and Panama are in the process of making arrangements for doing so. The CAC is also implementing a subregional project.

21. Poverty: the countries have 15-year poverty reduction strategies as well as consensus national policies and short-term compensatory policies.

22. Agricultural and rural development: agriculture is recognized as the engine of development because of its strong contribution to output, income and rural employment. Agricultural and rural development objectives have been included in strategies for 2000/2010.

23. Subregional trade and integration: Central America is noted for its efforts towards integration and the strengthening of intra- and extra-regional trade. It recently concluded a free trade treaty with the United States and is negotiating a similar agreement with the European Union.

24. Institutional reform, decentralization and participation: legislation has been introduced to modernize the State with appropriate enabling entities. Legislation on decentralization has also been enacted with implementation programmes tending to focus on local development.


25. The framework policy-making document is the National Development Plan 2001/2006 which originates the sectoral programmes, including the Programme for the Agricultural and Fisheries Subsector under the responsibility of the Secretariat of State for Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food (SAGARPA).

26. Poverty: despite the good performance of certain macroeconomic aggregates, poverty persists and is mainly concentrated in the rural sector, where 44% of the population are poor as compared to 16% in urban areas. Nutrition deficiencies affect 5.2 million inhabitants. The situation is being addressed by means of multiple programmes, including notably those of the Secretariat of State for Social Development (SEDESOL) and its many instruments: direct subsidies, food aid and temporary employment.

27. Food security: SEDESOL is developing important programmes for the direct supply of food while SAGARPA, with FAO assistance, is implementing a SPFS as a pilot to deal with food security and rural development problems in as many as 250 microregions in the country.

28. Agricultural and rural development: agricultural development receives the support of three transfer programmes for producers:

        Elements important for rural development include the SPFS, the Indigenous Communities Development Programme and the Programme of Coordination of Rural Development Actions.

29. Trade and integration of trade: free trade agreements have been signed with the USA and Canada; the European Union; Bolivia and Costa Rica (1994); Venezuela and Colombia (1994); Nicaragua (1997); Chile (1998); and Israel (2000). There is an economic complementarity agreement with Uruguay (1999). Mexico has been a member of LAIA since 1980 and APEC since 1993. It is engaged in preparatory talks with MERCOSUR, the Central American countries and Japan, and is a member of the FTAA.

30. Institutional reform and change, decentralization and participation: one important change has been the creation of the Inter-Secretarial Commission for Sustainable Rural Development (CIDRS), responsible for coordinating and monitoring rural development programmes. The Agricultural State Councils are responsible for planning and monitoring rural development and comprise the State and federal authorities and diverse organizations. Functions, responsibilities and resources have been transferred to State governments, although further consolidation is needed in some areas. Participatory bodies have also been established. The National Agreement for the Countryside features commitments agreed between the public sector and producer organizations. As regards rural development, a body has been set up grouping the Secretariats in the CIDRS, farmers' associations, research institutes and NGOs.

Caribbean Community

31. International trade and new development strategy: EU preferential tariffs have been the historical mainstay of the international trade of the Caribbean countries. Approximately 70% of their exports used to enter markets under preferential arrangements, but for a variety of reasons this preferential regime is beginning to be dismantled.

32. Key efforts are now focusing on converting tourism into the engine of future development in closely conceptual alignment with rural development. Physical characteristics and spatial organization now constitute a virtual "continuum" of rural and tourist areas. These represent a market for food and agriculture and offer tourism-based opportunities related to ecotourism and agrotourism.

33. Another priority is to identify other productive opportunities, focusing on agroindustrial development and the processing of raw materials or the adding of value to goods that currently undergo limited processing.

34. Policy and strategy formulation and institutional changes: policy instruments have recently been designed to promote rural development and enhance food security. Joint efforts are under way in most countries with the ministries of finance, trade and agriculture formulating strategies, policies and programmes for trade, rural development, food security and poverty.

Spanish and French-speaking Caribbean

35. Poverty: recent actions in Cuba have focused on individuals and families with below-average standards of living. The Dominican Republic has issued a number of documents to combat poverty: Strategy for Poverty Reduction (2003); Social Policy of the Dominican Government (2002-2004); and the National Social Development Plan. There are also plans to introduce a poverty reduction programme accompanied by actions on health, sanitation, food and clean water. No updated poverty data are available for Haiti, but the level of poverty is thought to be very high and there is no information on poverty reduction instruments.

36. Food security: broad-based food security initiatives have been developed in Cuba, including the Food Security Strategy and other complementary actions such as the National Plan of Action for Nutrition (1994); the Food and Nutrition Surveillance System, Programme of Municipal Self-Supply (1995); and the National Programme of Urban Agriculture. The SPFS has initiated operations in the country with a project in support of staple grain production.

37. The Dominican Republic has a National Food and Nutrition Plan 1998-2005, which centres on food production, agricultural services and better access for vulnerable groups.

38. Agricultural and rural development: Cuba's agriculture strategy is being revised to reflect the restructuring of the sugar industry. Current agricultural production fails to meet domestic food needs and the sector has performed poorly in generating exports and substituting imports.

39. The Dominican Republic has a ten-year strategic plan (2000-2010) with four rural development thrusts: growth and productivity; social equity in the rural sector; institutional restructuring; and agro-ecological sustainability. Progress has been made in modernizing the country's institutions and in strengthening research, but there is a lack of consensus on the programme of sectoral reform.

40. Subregional trade and integration: Cuba's main economic constraint is the external dimension and the blockade of a potentially major agricultural export market.

41. The Dominican Republic is a member of WTO. Its main trading partner is the United States with whom it has a free-trade treaty. It has also become an associate member of the Central American Integration System (SICA) and has entered into trade agreements with CARICOM.

42. Haiti's external trade is in crisis and deficit. In 2001, its exports were equivalent to 12.5% of GDP and its imports to 33.4%. There are no known initiatives to strengthen its external relations or to promote processes of economic integration.

43. Institutional reform and change, decentralization and participation: Cuba has a centralized administration that extends to the economic sphere, and a human resource base highly trained in public management. The process of economic adjustment and change has not yet been completed, and corresponding institutional changes are still required for both management and planning.

44. The Dominican Republic has implemented institutional changes through its Institutional Reform in Agriculture and the Rural Sector. This led to the creation of the Secretariat of State for the Environment and Natural Resources (2000), the Dominican Institute of Agricultural Research (2000) and the Regional Development Councils to whom national resources are devolved.

Salient formulation features

45. Major trends in strategy and policy formulation include:

In approach:

  1. There is a tendency to adopt an integrated approach as opposed to the traditional sectoral approach. Thus, in many cases, poverty, rural development and food security are dealt with in an integrated manner and are even complemented with social policy components. Although sectoral plans and policies continue to exist, these are generally linked to one of the three multisectoral issues, placing emphasis on the creation of coordinating bodies for the different ministries and agencies.
  2. A territorial perspective is taking over from the exclusively sectoral approach. This constitutes an advance as territory is integrative element of actions, enhancing their effectiveness.
  3. There is a trend towards strategic planning to replace the traditional formulation of annual or multi-year plans.

In participation:

  1. Participation is a serious challenge for the formulation process. Integrated approaches require the greater involvement of diverse government agencies, and hence the establishment of committees, commissions and interministerial groups.
  2. One modality gaining ground is the creation of focus groups with representatives from the State, corporate and labour organizations and civil society associations. The "agricultural committee" initiatives launched in Chile and Honduras are successful examples of this. Although open to criticism, this modality presents the advantage of grouping all stakeholders and determining policy orientations in the case of a general document or actions in the case of specific programmes.
  3. Grassroots participation is an unresolved challenge. The constitution of large assemblies does not seem to be appropriate. On the other hand grassroots participation exists not only in the formulation but also in the monitoring and evaluation of activities, as in the SPFS projects.

Institutional change:

  1. Almost all the countries have introduced institutional change. In many cases, this has been limited to the creation, elimination or merging of agencies. In other cases, reform has taken place within a broader process of comprehensive State modernization.

Forms of programming:

  1. Until February 2003, the country programming process, which includes the Common Country Assessment (CCA) and the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF), had been carried out in a total of 20 countries. For diverse reasons, four countries had not carried out a CCA and a further nine had not established the UNDAF. FAO actively supported these activities.

III. Problems/limitations of policy/strategy formulation and assistance needs expressed by countries

Problems and limitations

46. CAN: the problems lie in institutional inadequacies for policy implementation, monitoring and evaluation. The main causes have been identified as the lack of financial resources; the limited capacity of executive bodies; institutional instability and lack of coordination; and the absence of effective impact monitoring and evaluation systems.

47. MERCOSUR: the major problems are in the poor functioning of certain key programmes and the lack of coordination in policy design and execution. The underlying causes are inadequate funding; a prevalence of macroeconomic policy; inadequate design or lack of updating of certain programmes; institutional weakness; and reduced capacity for policy and programme design.

48. CAC: the main problems are the insufficient results of key strategies and programmes; difficulties in the design, execution and monitoring of strategies and policies; a lack of policy integration at different levels; and conflict between State authorities and civil society. The causes of these situations are basically institutional weakness; difficulties in inter-institutional coordination; lack of effective monitoring and evaluation systems; inappropriate strategy, policy and programme design; and poor participation of sectoral organizations.

49. Mexico: there are three types of difficulty affecting strategy and policy formulation: differing capacities of state governments; lack of coordination and complementarity with private organizations and agents; and absence of a productive solution to communal (ejido) lands. The main causes are the unequal institutional development of state governments; the lack of mechanisms to steer private-sector resources towards rural development; the absence of programmes of support to ejido members and land co-owners; obstacles to the association of ejido members with other economic players; complex transfer of farming rights; and unprofitable scales of production on ejido smallholdings.

50. CARICOM: the difficulties are those of economies in the process of revising their development strategies to reflect changes needed into their strategic lines of production.

51. Spanish and French-speaking Caribbean: the main problems for Cuba stem from the distortions and failure to exploit existing potential which is typical of an economy moving from central command to a more flexible regime with new forms of organization of production and international integration; and the inadequate allocation of resources to the sector, resulting from the fiscal and external deficits. The Dominican Republic's problems are institutional: discontinuity of plans and programmes; poor delivery and implementation of programmes; no programme monitoring or evaluation; programmes without adequate funding.

Technical assistance needs

52. Expressed technical assistance requirements cover a wide selection of areas, many applying to some or all of the subregional groups. To summarize, the main demands are directed towards:

53. The technical assistance demands expressed by the countries are detailed in Table 1.

FAO activities in support of national strategy and policy formulation

54. Acting through its Regional Office, FAO fielded technical cooperation programming missions in Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua and Paraguay. It supported the preparation of 15 projects currently under implementation and a portfolio of 12 project proposals. It provided technical advisory and supervisory services during implementation of agrarian policy, rural development and food security projects in Brazil, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico and Paraguay, as well as at the regional level.

55. Preparation for the technical cooperation programming missions included country-level seminars on the state and future of agricultural and rural development in Brazil, Central America and Panama, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay and Argentina.

56. In view of the state of food insecurity in the region, and in the framework of initiatives for regional strategies and food security programmes to follow up the World Food Summit, support was given to the member countries of CAN, CAC, expanded MERCOSUR and CARICOM in preparing the following strategic papers and a draft project proposal:

Table 1

Group of countries

Support required for:


  • Institutional reorganization and strengthening.
  • Design and installation of impact monitoring and evaluation systems.
  • Design of sectoral and food security strategies and policies.


  • Strengthening of agricultural institutional framework.
  • Strengthening of modern trade associations.
  • Design and operation of impact monitoring and evaluation systems.
  • Design and implementation of strategies, policies and programmes.
  • Processes of decentralization and regionalization.


  • Design, implementation, monitoring and evaluation of strategies, policies and programmes.
  • Expansion of the SPFS programme in the subregion.
  • Design and operation of monitoring and evaluation systems.
  • Policy integration at macroeconomic and subsector level.


  • Institutional strengthening of state governments.
  • Replication of successful strategic programme experiences.
  • Design of policies to strengthen priority productive chains.
  • Evaluation of federal programmes.


  • Design and implementation of food security and rural development strategies.
  • Identification of international and national niche markets.
  • Planning of tourism aligned with rural development, including the identification of projects.
  • Identification of projects for the processing of fishery products.

speaking Caribbean


  • Updating of strategies: agricultural; rural development; food security; poverty reduction.
  • Formulation of specific policies.

Dominican Republic

  • Design and implementation of a monitoring and evaluation system.
  • Design and implementation of a medium-term agricultural and rural development strategy.

57. These documents were presented and discussed at the WFS:fyl. On the basis of the strategic papers and the concerns expressed at the Summit, five subregional technical cooperation projects were formulated and approved, and are currently under implementation. At the same time, in collaboration with the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), support was given to organizing the Meeting on Regional Initiatives for Food Security and Rural Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (Washington, 2002) and the Workshop on the Importance of the Territorial Approach to Rural Development in Latin America and the Caribbean (Milan, 2003).

58. FAO supported the organization and realization of a workshop on multilateral trade negotiations in agriculture for the countries of Central America, Belize, Panama and the Dominican Republic (Panama, 2003); it drafted a document on trends and challenges for agriculture, forestry and fisheries in Latin America and the Caribbean for LARC; it continued to update information on the political, socioeconomic and food and agriculture situation as input for the preparation of country information notes; it supported FAO representatives in country programming processes such as the Country Common Assessment (CCA), the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) and the Country Development Framework (CDF).

IV. A policy assistance approach tailored to country needs

Key issues arising in discussions on policy management

59. Policy substance: although policy design is a problem in certain countries, there is growing concern over effective policy implementation.

60. Policy process: policy delivery is increasingly affected by reforms in the organizational decision-making structure. Consultative and coordinating bodies will need to be set up, in addition to participatory entities at different levels.

61. Policy implementation and monitoring: most countries face problems of policy implementation due to institutional inadequacies, insufficient coordination among executive agencies, a lack of resources and the absence of political will.

62. Monitoring is a major shortcoming of most countries, extending beyond the control of expenditure which is more related more to auditing. Monitoring in this case refers to the information base required to assess impact and systematically apply "good practices".

63. Most public rural development programmes lack a process of impact assessment, which makes it difficult to learn from experience and to adjust strategy and policy implementation accordingly.

Agricultural growth, access and dimensions of food security

64. One explanation for the continuing existence of hunger is the lack of political will to undertake more determined action and the resulting insufficiency of resources. Strategies require the support of broad coalitions of stakeholders to foster the political will needed to act against undernourishment. That is the rationale behind the International Alliance Against Hunger.1

65. Hunger is both a cause and effect of poverty and the "rural element" prevails as most of the poor and undernourished live in rural areas. This "hunger-poverty" nexus needs to be the point of departure for the conceptual framework of food security strategies and policies. Experience shows that a strategy against hunger can be sustainable if based on rural development that creates economic opportunities for the poor and the undernourished.

66. Such an observation reaffirms the need to use a twin-track approach that addresses all aspects of food security in an integrated manner, combining:

67. The constituent strands of food security: the concept covers four strands that need to be considered when formulating strategies:

Table 2 shows the linkage between the twin-track approach and the four strands of food security. It also describes possible measures and policies for each track.


68. Virtually all the countries of the region have specific programmes and actions to reduce poverty. These may take the form of welfare actions accompanied or not by other social services, and linked or not to other spheres, such as employment or direct food aid.

69. Agricultural development policies and programmes are being pursued in the region, often acquiring characteristics of rural development programmes. But only a few have touched upon the topic of food security in addressing the magnitude of the undernourished population.

70. The three cited factors of poverty, agricultural and rural development and food security are an inseparable trio. Countries might usefully reflect on the advisability of considering all three as one single "problem area" and envisage the adoption of approaches that consider the interlinkages that exist among the three, not only on relation to small farmers, but also to the non-agricultural rural workers and producers, women, youths and children, and the disabled living in rural areas.

71. FAO should act as the promoter and exponent of these ideas, not only at country level but also among the subregional groups, as these problems are acute in many subregions and do not recognize political or administrative borders. FAO could contribute to the training of human resources at all levels: farmers, settlers, women, government employees, group leaders and others.

Table 2. The twin-track approach and dimensions of food security

Twin-track approach





Rural development and increased productivity

Increase in production capacity and productivity of small farmers

Investment in markets and rural infrastructure

Improved supply in urban areas

Improved functioning of input and product markets

Promotion of income-generating opportunities

Increased access to assets

Facilitated establishment of off-farm enterprises in rural areas

Improved functioning of financial systems and labour markets in rural areas

Improved transition and phasing of relief, rehabilitation and development activities

Facilitated diversification of production

Reduced variability of output (irrigation, water harvesting, pest control, etc.)

Monitoring the deficit in production and consumption

Improved access to saving and lending facilities

Infrastructure for food storage

Food safety standards

Clean water and sanitation

Direct and immediate access to food

Food aid

Market information

Transport and communications

School feeding and food-for-work programmes

Cash transfers

Community structures, extended families

Emergency food relief

Safety nets

Nutritional education programmes

(continued ...)

(... continued)

Table 2. The twin-track approach and dimensions of food security

Intersectoral conditions

Growth, trade, macroeconomic stability, government institutions, participation, secure access to natural resources





Normative framework

International Trade

Agricultural price policy

Macroeconomic stability

Integration of labour markets

Redistribution of productive assets (including land reform)

Food price policy

Credit policy

Administration of food stocks

Food safety policy and standards


1 Conference, 32nd Session: Strengthening Coherence in FAO Initiatives to Fight Hunger (Item 10), Rome, 2003.