San Jose, 6 September 2021 (IICA) – The ministers and secretaries of 33 countries of the Americas called for improved food security, environmental sustainability and the creation of more and better opportunities for rural communities, pinpointing the agriculture sector and agrifood systems as strategic assets in achieving these objectives.
During two days of deliberations at the and the meeting of the Inter-American Board of Agriculture (IABA), the ministers endorsed the unanimous regional position, which defines agriculture as an essential activity for food security and the engine of development of rural areas.
This consensus position—sanctioned by the ministers and achieved through national, regional and hemispheric dialogues, organized with the support of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)—will be presented at the UN Food Systems Summit in New York on 23 September.
“Food Systems: we agreed on a joint position among the countries of the Americas to defend our agriculture sector, the environment and food security. Our message advocates for the elimination of agricultural protectionism; creation of fair working conditions and income; and innovation in the field”, said Tereza Cristina, the Minister of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply of Brazil, and Chair of the meeting, in summarizing the discussions.
The American hemisphere will be the only region that will come to the Summit with a joint position, defined in a document containing 16 messages that were agreed on among the 34 Member States of IICA, under the coordination of the Institute.
The ministers of Agriculture of the Americas also committed to engage in national and hemispheric initiatives in a coordinated manner to tackle African swine fever. The recent detection of the disease in the Dominican Republic has set off warning bells throughout the region, due to its potential impact on a vitally important industry and the risk to food security.
The commitment was made at the ministerial Conference, where Limber Cruz, the Minister of Agriculture of the Dominican Republic, reported on the current situation and actions that are being undertaken since the country issued an official notification in July regarding the appearance of the disease.
African swine fever has not been seen in the hemisphere for the last 40 years and was last detected in Cuba in 1971 and 1980; in Brazil and the Dominican Republic in 1978; and in Haiti in 1979.
According to the ministers, “The virus could affect the stability of the hemisphere’s pork industry, particularly, medium- and small-scale farmers, and therefore, collaborative efforts between official veterinary services and the private sector are imperative”.
To address this concern, the ministers asked the IICA Director General, Manuel Otero—who was re-elected as the head of the specialized agency in agricultural and rural development for 2022-2026—to support the development and execution of binational projects and actions and to implement work plans at the subregional level to eradicate the source of the outbreak and to prevent and contain the spread of the virus.
Food Systems Summit and emphasis on sustainability
UN Deputy Secretary-General, Amina J. Mohammed, and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Food Systems Summit, Agnes Kalibata, who both participated in the meeting, referred to the challenges and opportunities in the current climate in the areas of food security, production, consumption and sustainability.
“We are now in the final stages of preparation for the Food Systems Summit. These have taken place under the unprecedented pressure of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has stolen lives and livelihoods, reversing progress on the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs”, stated Mohammed. She defined the upcoming Summit as an exercise characterized by “effective multilateralism in action” and considered it “a reason for shared hope during this Covid-19 crisis”.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution for all the challenges faced by food systems, but in every context, there are opportunities to innovate and to accelerate action together towards the 2030 Agenda”, said Mohammed.
The UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Food Systems Summit 2021, confirmed that the global event, scheduled to begin on 23 September in New York, will be an opportunity to set the course of action for achieving the global Zero Hunger goal.
Following her presentation at the Conference, Kalibata, who chairs the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), signed an agreement with the Director General of IICA aimed at the institutions working together to promote the recovery of soil fertility, combatting of poverty and hunger, and agrifood system transformation in their respective regions.
“This summit is a call to action. We must undertake concrete actions to continue strengthening agrifood systems”, remarked Otero, who presented reports on the Institute’s work in preparation for the Food Systems Summit and on his management since taking office in 2018, which focused on strengthening the Institute based on an innovative and modern agenda.
“Agricultural producers are the central component of food systems, and we must develop differentiated public policies for these stakeholders, who bring rural areas to life”, remarked the Argentinian veterinarian.
During the meeting, the Secretary of Agriculture of the United States, Tom Vilsack, indicated that, “It is crucial that we continue to work together, that we make science-based decisions, and that we jointly promote innovative tools and technologies to build a more sustainable and resilient agricultural production system”. Ecuadorian minister Tanlly Vera Mendoza, in turn, underscored the “need for a family farming sector in which rural women play a key role”, and called for formalizing the Forum of Female Ministers and Secretaries of Agriculture of the Americas, recently launched by IICA and governments of the region.
Speaking from Mexico, the Secretary of Agriculture and Rural Development, Víctor Villalobos, highlighted the importance of producing in a sustainable manner.
“We cannot continue producing the way we have over the past 60 years. We have paid a very high price from an environmental standpoint; social exclusion has also increased greatly, and we must pay our debt in this regard. We face the challenge of continuing to produce food for a population that is continuously growing, but we must do so in a more sustainable manner”, he explained.
Renato Alvarado, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Costa Rica, who participated in the Conference alongside the President of his country, Carlos Alvarado, stated that “farmers have undertaken significant efforts to continue adopting climate resilient actions, with a view to ensuring that agriculture is sustainable not only from an environmental standpoint, but also economically and socially”.
However, he acknowledged that “we have asked our farmers to continue producing in the countryside, but, in many ways, we have forgotten them, especially in terms of giving value to their products. And we have failed to provide them with sufficient connectivity to achieve the effective transformation of agriculture. This is a pending task”.
During the Conference, in addition to the discussions among ministers, the Interpretive Center for Tomorrow’s Agriculture (CIMAG) was also inaugurated at IICA Headquarters. An initiative that links agriculture, education and technology, CIMAG is promoted by Microsoft, Bayer and Lego, among other companies.
Additionally, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) and IICA signed an agreement to support climate adaptation and resilience initiatives for agriculture and rural areas in the countries of the Americas, among other initiatives.
Institutional Communication Division