Caribbean agriculture ministers meeting to discuss food challenges and security

Caribbean agriculture ministers meeting to discuss food challenges and security

Monday, October 19, 2020

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MANAGUA, Nicaragua (CMC) — Agriculture ministers from the Caribbean Community (Caricom) today joined their counterparts from Latin America for a three-day meeting aimed at finding solutions to the challenges of food and agriculture in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The meeting, organised by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has also brought together representatives of the private sector, the academic and scientific world and civil society to discuss how to transform food systems, generate prosperous rural societies and a sustainable and resilient agriculture post-COVID19 climate.

The 36th FAO Regional Conference, taking place virtually with Nicaragua as the host country, is the highest governing body of FAO in the region with the UN body reporting on its actions and the countries establishing FAO's priorities for the next two years.

“This conference is a unique opportunity for all countries to promote a great transformation of their food, agriculture, fishing, livestock and forestry. It is time to promote innovation, and to trace the path that will help us rebuild and transform to face the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic”, said FAO Regional Representative, Julio Berdegué.

According to FAO, before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, hunger in the region affected 47 million people; overweight and obesity affected 60 per cent of adults, and 50 per cent of the rural population lived in poverty. This situation can be drastically worsened by the pandemic, and requires transforming food systems in order to provide healthy diets for all.

“We must improve the way we produce, distribute and consume food so that everyone can have access to healthy diets,” Berdegué added.

The FAO said that advancing hand in hand to achieve prosperous and inclusive rural societies requires encouraging and supporting the emergence of new economic activities in the countryside, which offer greater and better development opportunities to rural communities, reducing the current gaps in wellbeing with regard to cities.

This implies making agriculture more efficient and productive and improving trade and access to markets. In addition, FAO emphasises the need to accelerate the digitisation of agriculture and the rural world, taking steps to make this an inclusive process, leaving no one behind.

“With better Internet services, information and telecommunications technologies, a transition to digital agriculture and digital rural societies can be achieved, one that stimulates the development of new economic opportunities in our region's lagging territories,” said Berdegué.

Through interventions such as FAO's Hand in Hand Initiative, rural development, rural non-agricultural employment can be promoted, and private investment, basic infrastructure and greater links between the agricultural sector and markets can be stimulated.

The FAO said that Latin America and the Caribbean must carry out a transformation towards sustainable and climate-resilient agriculture, fisheries, livestock, and forestry, which can be a source of growth, but with a much smaller environmental footprint and a better balance with ecosystems and biodiversity.

It said reducing greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture and the food system requires combating deforestation, boosting low-emission livestock, recarbonising soils, and reducing food loss and waste.

The region must also invest in disaster risk prevention, improve risk information and monitoring systems, and implement productive practices that are resilient to climate change, said the FAO, which has assumed the commitment to promote digital and technological innovation as a priority that informs all its action in Latin America and the Caribbean.

To this end, the organisation will support countries to rapidly develop a regional innovation and digitisation roadmap for their food and agriculture, and drive innovation in all areas of agriculture and food.

“The region must digitise its agriculture and its food trade, improving the connectivity of rural areas and the capacities of small, medium and large rural producers and entrepreneurs to take advantage of the ongoing technological revolution,” said Berdegué.

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