Latin America is an agricultural power, and yet it has suffered a sharp increase in hunger in recent years, which highlights the need to transform its agri-food systems to make them more efficient, more inclusive, resilient and sustainable, said this Tuesday QU Dongyu, Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
“The increase in hunger, poverty and malnutrition is a paradox for a region that contributes significantly to the world's food supply and that produces enough food to feed its entire population,” said the director general of that agency of the UN in an event organized by the Development Bank of Latin America on the sidelines of the 77th session of the General Assembly, which brings together world leaders in New York.
No region of the world was more affected by the COVID-19 pandemic than Latin America and the Caribbean, where economies shrank twice as fast as the world average, poverty rose to its highest level since 2006 as employment was devastated and 65.6 million people went hungry, with almost five times that number, or more than 40% of the population, facing moderate or severe food insecurity, according to data from that UN agency.
The war in Ukraine, along with other conflicts, have exacerbated the blow of the pandemic and have added more unpredictable challenges, especially for the region's net importers of wheat, corn, and vegetable oils, all of which have been subject to price shocks in the past year.
Even the region's ability as a net food exporter is in jeopardy due to rising fertilizer costs, which could affect the production and yield of staple foods and trigger a crisis of food availability and affordability, added the Director General of the FAO.
Qu pointed to four priority areas that need accelerated action:
- Provide immediate support to vulnerable people through social protection systems, especially in rural areas and among vulnerable groups
- 2) boost agricultural production by ensuring that family farmers have affordable access to seeds and fertilizers, working capital and technical assistance, and linkages to markets
- 3) facilitate the trade of agricultural products and inputs to avoid further interruptions in food production
- 4) invest in climate-resilient agriculture to tackle and reverse the effects of the climate crisis
He also assured that FAO is committed to working with members in the region and beyond to achieve “long-term inclusive and sustainable development.”
Qu's intervention took place within the framework of a conference organized by the Development Bank of Latin America to identify the challenges, strategies and urgent coordination actions necessary to promote food security in Latin America and the Caribbean.
Qu spoke together with Sergio Díaz-Granados, Executive President of CAF-Development Bank of Latin America; David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Programand Manuel Otero, Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.
The Development Bank of Latin America, made up of 18 countries in the region, as well as Spain, Portugal and 13 private Latin American banks, is in the process of increasing capital worth 7 billion dollars to expand its development promotion activities sustainability and regional integration in a number of sectors.