Latin America and the Caribbean on track to eradicate hunger and poverty

FAO Director-General highlights political commitment in the region as key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals

1 March 2016, Mexico City - "The world has entered a new era: the era of the Sustainable Development Goals," said FAO’s Director General before representatives of the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean gathered here for the agency's biennial regional conference.

The first two Sustainable Development Goals –eradicating hunger and poverty by the year 2030– are "the most ambitious and important in the history of the United Nations commitments", José Graziano da Silva said, adding that Latin America and the Caribbean can be the first region to achieve them.

In 1990, 14.7 percent of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean suffered hunger with more than 66 million people unable to obtain sufficient food to live a healthy life.

But “today, the situation is different, Graziano da Silva. "The total number of hungry people has fallen to 34 million and the percentage has been reduced to 5 percent, although the total population has increased by 130 million since 1990,"he pointed out..

Latin America and the Caribbean up the ante

Latin America and the Caribbean represents the only region in the world that has reached the hunger reduction targets previously established under the Millennium Development Goals and at the 1996 World Food Summit.

Building on this success, governments in the region have committed to end hunger by 2025, five years before the target proposed by the recently approved UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

To achieve this, they are implementing major regional agreements such as the Hunger Free Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean’s States' (CELAC, in Spanish) Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication Plan. Many governments also implement their own national programs to combat hunger.

Graziano da Silva stressed that FAO will continue to strongly support the countries of the region in their implementation of the SDGs, with special emphasis on the three that relate to the eradication of poverty and hunger and the need to adapt to climate change.

"Our main collaboration could be in the field of statistics, as it is essential to establish basic milestones for each country to facilitate subsequent monitoring," said Graziano da Silva.

Hunger decreases but obesity increases

Although hunger and poverty have declined in the region, 7.1 percent of its children under give are overweight, while 22 percent of its adults are obese.

"The situation of women is particularly worrying as their average obesity rate reaches 29 percent, compared to 18 percent for men," said Graziano da Silva.

FAO’s Director General called upon countries to generate "virtuous cycles" linking sustainable agriculture with better nutrition, connecting school feeding programs and nutritional education with family farming through public procurement.

"Rescuing the region’s traditional crops and food products will allow us to promote better diets and face the double burden of malnutrition," he said.

A new development approach

The close relationship between rural poverty and food insecurity in the region demands a new approach to socioeconomic and environmental development, according to Graziano da Silva.

"Eradicating hunger not only requires strengthening family farming, but also developing inclusive, efficient and sustainable food systems," he said.

The key to this is to coordinate agricultural development policies with social protection, risk management and agricultural employment policies, the Director-General said.

This approach should also consider access to productive resources and services, social protection policies and rural employment, particularly for young people, rural women and indigenous peoples.

Climate change

Noting that "the climate is changing. Not in the future, but today," Graziano da Silva called on governments to promote the sustainable use of natural resources, disaster risk management and adaptation to climate change.

He called the recent Paris Agreement a historic landmark that the region should adopt as a framework to encourage farmers' resilience to the impacts of climate change.

The region's agricultural sector lost 11 billion dollars due to natural disasters between 2003 and 2013, and a third of its population lives in areas at high risk from natural disasters.

Family farmers are particularly vulnerable, the FAO Director-General reflected. "Their livelihoods are highly dependent on the climate and they have a low ability to recover from natural disasters," he said, making it necessary to implement holistic disaster risk management.

Photo: ©FAO/...
FAO Director-General opens the conference with Mexican President Peña Nieto