Central American ministers of agriculture endorse IICA’s push for regional dialogue on food systems

San Jose, 15 February 2021 (IICA). The ministers of agriculture of Central America and the Dominican Republic expressed support for undertaking an extensive regional discussion on the topic of food systems, spearheaded by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).

The agriculture sector of the Americas will be encouraged to actively participate in the process, leading up to the UN summit on this issue.

The Central American Agricultural Council (CAC), comprised of the ministers of agriculture of Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama and the Dominican Republic, met virtually and tasked the Executive Secretariat (SECAC) with coordinating the countries’ participation in the discussions that are being promoted by IICA.

The first meeting in this series of political discussions will take place on 17 March, on the occasion of the visit of the President of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernández, to IICA Headquarters in Costa Rica.

Mauricio Guevara, Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock of Honduras, felt that these discussions on the fundamental role of agriculture in feeding the world and in sustainable development are vital, in view of the current Covid-19 pandemic, climate change, social polarization and ideological divisions.

“In this context, work has not been easy, but I recognize the enormous sacrifice that the ministers have made to revive the agriculture sector of the region”, said Guevara.

Renato Alvarado, Minister of Agriculture of Costa Rica and President Pro Tempore of the CAC, cautioned that, “If farmers are not in the field producing food, large cities will face problems. We need to turn up the volume on this issue both in Central America and South America, as the matter of fair prices for farmers is something that must be discussed. If not, food will only be available to a few”.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food of Guatemala, represented by Minister José Ángel López, highlighted at the meeting his work to strengthen family farming through food production with technical, technological and innovation assistance.

IICA welcomes and supports as the Executive Secretariat of the CAC. During the virtual meeting, the ministers and representatives of the Central American ministries of agriculture also supported the continuation of that relationship.

In addition to Ministers Renato Alvarado of Costa Rica; Mauricio Guevara of Honduras; and José Angel López of Guatemala, also in attendance were vice-ministers and other ministerial representatives of other CAC countries, as well as authorities from IICA.

In his discussions with the agricultural authorities of Central America and the Dominican Republic, the Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero, underscored the importance of the process of dialogue leading up to the Food Systems Summit that the UN has convened for this year.

“IICA is providing a platform that will allow the voice of the Americas to be heard at this forum, at least in terms of three main issues: farmers should be the key actors in any agrifood system; policy decisionswith respect to these systems should be science-based; and their sustainability should be increased. Agriculture is part of the solutions and not of the problems”, maintained Otero.

“CAC is the logical ambit to promote this discussion within Central America; and the Inter-American Board of Agriculture (IABA), which will meet at the start of September, is the sounding board that will enable us to develop a common position for this important Summit”, he added.

The IABA is the highest governing body of IICA and it will meet on 1 and 2 September 2021, almost one month before the UN meeting.

At the invitation of the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy to the 2021 Food Systems Summit, Agnes Kalibata, Otero joined the Summit Champions Network, one of the four main support structures of the meeting, which is seeking to lay the groundwork for the positive transformation of the way food is produced and consumed.

Otero informed the Ministers at the CAC meeting about his first attendance at a Summit Champions’ meeting this week, as part of the consultation process leading up to the meeting of the Heads of State and of Government.

Speaking at this forum, he had advocated for agricultural activity and rural life, and issued a warning about rural flight and mass migration, as a result of the low prices paid to farmers. He also urged the participants to reflect on the key role of farmers and their activities in food systems.

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