La FAO en Amérique latine et aux Caraïbes

Latin America and the Caribbean map pathway to transform agrifood systems

Ministers of world’s largest agrifood net exporting region meet in Ecuador for FAO Regional Conference focused on healthy diets, inclusive rural societies and sustainable agriculture.

Photo: ©FAO/Max Valencia

30/03/2022 Quito/Rome – Ministers from Latin America and the Caribbean met today to foster healthy diets, galvanize inclusive rural development and promote sustainable and resilient agriculture in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as to discuss ways to mitigate the impact of rising food and fertilizer prices on the region, the world’s largest net food exporter.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 37th Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean, which is hosted by the Government of Ecuador, continues through 1 April 2022.

The conference is “an opportunity for us to coordinate in a concerted fashion the protection of the resources of social capital and the economy that depend on agricultural production,” said President Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador.

“The food you produce and export will influence the nutrition of hundreds of millions of men, women and children within and beyond the shores of this prodigious land,” FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said in his opening remarks to an audience including President Guillermo Lasso of Ecuador and ministers from 33 countries in the region.

He praised the region’s ministers, and all the public and private actors in its agrifood systems for their work to keep food production and trade flowing during the pandemic.

“You must maintain this same effort across your agrifood systems, to the benefit of global food security,” he added.

Regional Conferences are governing bodies of FAO that meet every two years. They offer a forum for Members to identify key priority areas of work with FAO and provide guidance on the effective implementation of the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31, in line with the regional specificities  of Latin America and the Caribbean.

The Director-General emphasized that the FAO Strategic Framework 2022-31 offers a “clear roadmap” to move towards more efficient, more inclusive, more resilient and more sustainable agrifood systems for  better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life for all, leaving no one behind.

Pedro Álava, Minister of Agriculture of Ecuador and Chairperson of the Regional Conference, outlined his country’s aim to prepare agriculture to face climate challenges, including by the use of genomic editing technologies to keep plant disease from destroying the country’s banana production.

The Four Betters in regional context

The priority themes for this Regional Conference are sustainable agrifood systems for healthy diets for all; prosperous and inclusive rural societies; and sustainable and resilient agriculture.
A new urgency debated by Members during the Regional Conference is the rise in food and fertilizer prices, exacerbated by the war in Ukraine; which Director-General Qu recognized as of critical importance to the region, as it poses risks to producers, consumers and economic recovery.

“Peace is fundamental to protect people from hunger!” he said. “I call on you to identify the key multilateral actions that can be taken to reduce the impact of the crisis,” he added: “No single country is big enough, or powerful enough, to address this problem on its own.” Qu noted that FAO has issued a call for all countries to keep global food and fertilizer trade open.

Accelerating innovations and policies in response to the rapid rise in the price of fertilizers and other inputs is part of what is meant by “better production”, which can help the region consolidate its role as the world’s foremost net exporter of food. Latin America and the Caribbean produces enough calories to feed 1.3 billion people, Qu noted, calling it an enormous achievement and yet it will not be sufficient to feed the almost 10 billion people expected to live on the planet in 2050.

Better nutrition is an important issue given the alarming rise in hunger as well as the rising tide of obesity in the region, the FAO Director-General added, calling for more robust school feeding and other social protection programmes while noting that 23 countries in the region have already promulgated laws and regulations to discourage the consumption of highly-processed foods.

Achieving a better environment will entail adapting and increasing the resilience of agrifood systems to the impacts of the climate crisis and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions, which today account for 45 percent of the total anthropogenic emissions of the region.

The fourth better, a better life for all, requires protecting the many families impacted the most by the pandemic, and a concerted effort to reduce territorial, gender, ethnic and rural-urban inequalities, Qu said.

He added that digitalization is a powerful tool able to help progress towards all four betters, one that should be incorporated— together with science and innovation — at all levels of agrifood systems, and complemented by fair and rule-based international trade.

What FAO is doing

The Director-General emphasized that he has initiated institutional reforms to give FAO’s regional and subregional offices more agility to help them deliver on flagship initiatives and support the translation of global strategic aims into impact on the ground.

As examples of this enhanced delivery, he cited that six countries in the region are already participating in the Hand-in-Hand Initiative, which aims at increasing agricultural production in areas with the highest rates of poverty and hunger, and is underway in six countries of the region. He also pointed to 14 countries participating in the 1,000 Digital Villages Initiative, which seeks to reduce the digital gap faced by smallholders and rural dwellers, and the new One Country One Priority Product initiative, focuses on products with unique qualities. FAO has also established a new Technical Platform for Family Farming to promote innovations in their productive systems, as well as an innovative Territorial Digital Hub in Ecuador that will be extended to other countries soon

These initiatives all require greater investment, which is an area where FAO can help, Qu said, noting that in the past two years FAO supported 43 investment projects in 19 countries, totaling $3.8 billion.