MANAGUA, Nicaragua (CMC) — Caribbean Community (Caricom) agriculture ministers have joined their Latin American counterparts in approving three priorities for development in the region.
The ministers gave the nod to sustainable food systems to provide healthy diets for all; hand in hand to achieve prosperous and inclusive rural societies and sustainable and resilient agriculture during the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean that ended here earlier this week.
“The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has exposed the weaknesses of the world’s food systems, but it has given us the opportunity to rebuild better,” said FAO’s Director-General Qu Dongyu, during a side event of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS)
“We will continue to support all of our members in their efforts to transform their food systems by making them more efficient, healthy and sustainable,” said Qu.
Member states fully supported FAO’s COVID-19 Response and Recovery Programme and the Hand in Hand Initiative, highlighting the importance of innovation, digital technologies, data-driven agriculture, investment, and public-private partnerships.
They also valued positively the results of FAO’s work in the region during the 2018-2019 biennium, presented in the report to the conference, and agreed that Ecuador will host the next Regional Conference.
FAO’s first regional initiative will focus on creating sustainable food systems, in order to ensure greater supply and physical access to diversified and nutritious diets for all.
“FAO will work with countries to improve consumer information and consumption habits to promote healthy diets, and will support producers to sustainably increase healthy food production. It will do so by facilitating access to productive assets, financing and training for small and medium producers, and promoting technological and digital innovation”, said FAO’s Regional Representative Julio Berdegué.
The FAO said it will also seek to reduce food loss and waste, improve food distribution systems, stimulate short supply chains and trade policies that promote greater food security, along with better food quality and safety.
The second initiative approved by the countries during the conference seeks to eradicate hunger and poverty in rural areas and stimulate the development of new economic opportunities in lagging territories.
“We will help countries increase investment in public goods and infrastructure, strengthen secure access to land, extend the coverage and quality of rural services, and generate greater market links for the agricultural sector,” said Berdegué.
FAO will also promote the global Hand in Hand Initiative, rural non-farm employment, private investment, and access to the Internet, information services and telecommunications, essential elements for the transition to digital agriculture and digital rural societies.
The third initiative approved by the Conference seeks to create a sustainable and resilient agriculture that can produce food in a more sustainable way, with less environmental impacts and with greater adaptation to climate change.
“Achieving this requires better disaster risk management, restoring soils, making efficient use of water, promoting low-emission livestock and the sustainable management of forests, fisheries and aquaculture,” said Berdegué.
FAO will help countries to implement productive practices that are resilient to climate change, integrate biodiversity conservation into production policies, combat illegal fishing, and promote initiatives related to the region’s natural and cultural heritage, such as environmental services and products with geographical indications.
The FAO said that the virtual conference had the highest political participation in its history with 436 participants from the government, 50 ministers, 40 vice ministers and 103 observers from civil society, the scientific and academic world, the private sector, government agencies, the United Nations and regional multilateral organisations.
In addition, it was followed by more than 30,000 people throughout its three days, and over 50,000 people visited the conference webpage.
“This conference — the first that had to be fully digital due to the pandemic — has been more open, more inclusive and more transparent than any other. And it had an unprecedented level of participation. This shows the power of innovation and digitisation. Innovation makes the impossible become possible,” said Qu Dongyu in his closing remarks to delegates.
“Innovation will be a cross-cutting priority of FAO’s work in the region, including agricultural, food, technological, and digital innovation.”