Ministers and secretaries of Agriculture of the Americas met prior to next week’s Summit of Heads of State and Government in Los Angeles, to chart a course of action to strengthen the agriculture sector in global climate negotiations.
San Jose, June 2 2022 (IICA) – Having resolved to raise the profile of the agriculture sector in global climate change discussions, the ministers and secretaries of Agriculture of the Americas asked the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to coordinate the process. The aim is to highlight the benefits of greater climate action for ensuring food and nutritional security, sustainability, as well as water conservation and management.
Approximately twenty ministers and secretaries, along with high-level authorities, representing 32 countries, gathered at the Meeting of the Americas on Climate Change and Agriculture, and approved a declaration entitled “On the Road to the 2022 Summit of the Americas and Beyond”.
The Declaration stated that current global conditions have heightened awareness about the fragility of global food and nutritional security and the need to boost sustainable agricultural production, particularly in view of growing climate risks.
The ministerial meeting was held in the lead-up to the Summit of the Americas, which will bring together heads of state and government from the region next week in Los Angeles.
The participating ministers and secretaries agreed that the current scenario of multiple crises—the COVID-19 pandemic, the war in Europe and climate change—poses a threat to food security. In the declaration, they expressed the need for support and international technical cooperation, through IICA.
IICA was also tasked with preparing messages on behalf of the ministers and secretaries of Agriculture, to be presented prior to the Conference of the Parties 27 (COP27) of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Egypt. The messages will be based on the regional consensus achieved on the road to the United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021.
On that occasion, the hemisphere presented a unified position—arrived at through extensive debates coordinated by IICA—that indicated that farmers and food system workers are a vital and central link and that without agricultural production there would be no raw materials to prepare food.
It was agreed that the messages to be presented at COP27 would be approved at a ministerial conference slated for September, where an appeal would also be made for greater public and private support for innovation, financing and capacity development to boost the resilience of production to climate change.
Participating in the meeting were Thomas Vilsack, United States Secretary of Agriculture, along with the following ministers of Agriculture – Julián Domínguez of Argentina; Esteban Valenzuela of Chile; José Ángel López Camposeco of Guatemala; Zulfikar Mustapha of Guyana; Augusto Valderrama of Panama and Javier Fernando Arce of Peru. They were also joined by Edgar Mata, Vice-Minister of Agriculture of Costa Rica.
The meeting was opened by Jean Marcel Fernandes, Secretary of Trade and International Relations of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply of Brazil—the country that currently presides over the Inter-American Board of Agriculture (IABA)—and by the IICA Director General, Manuel Otero.
“Limiting the adverse effects of climate change is vital to ensuring food security in the future. Innovation and science will allow us to demonstrate that agriculture can help to mitigate climate change and to boost farmers’ incomes. Research and development must continue in order to find solutions and effective policies should be shared”, Vilsack remarked. “We must unite our voices to defend agriculture. In Egypt we would like to highlight our progress thus far in addressing climate change”, he added.
Mustapha pointed out that agriculture in Guyana and the Caribbean is feeling the onslaught of climate change, particularly in terms of water-related impacts. “In some countries”, he said, “we are experiencing drought and in others, flooding. There are many actions that we can take to increase resilience, but for this we require financing”.
“Joining forces will be the only way that we can transform the agriculture sector to tackle climate change”, said López from Guatemala, who revealed that calculations of the losses from climate variation in the Central American country were in the region of 3.4% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Domínguez, the minister from Argentina, focused on the many transformations that have been undertaken in the region’s agriculture sector to protect the environment. “Much has been done to produce more with less. We still have a lot to do and agree that we have a long road ahead, but we do not share some sectors’ belief that the system has failed. We endorse the principle of common but differentiated responsibilities and are prioritizing climate change adaptation”.
Domínguez also stated that the developed countries have failed to honor their commitment to provide 100,000 dollars each year to fund climate action in the developing countries.
Chile’s minister, Valenzuela, stressed the need to develop broad agreements for sustainability. “Chile is a country that has certain strengths, but we also depend on trade with other countries of the Americas. Food security hinges on sustainable trade, without artificial barriers and without discrimination”.
The Peruvian minister, Arce, highlighted the difficulties in food production due to the shortage of basic goods, such as fertilizers, and indicated that a state of emergency had been called for his country’s agriculture sector, as a means of ensuring continued production activities to maintain the food supply.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and now Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine have produced a volatile situation, given the spike in the costs of fuel, food and maritime transportation. We are just emerging from almost three years in which rurality has been seriously affected, so we must now pluck up our courage and act wisely. Food is life; food is peace”, argued Panama’s minister, Valderrama.
Mata, the Costa Rican vice-minister, while stating that the agriculture sector had done a great deal, admitted that there was more to be done. “We have not successfully communicated our achievements in the area of climate change”, he said.
Jean Marcel Fernades, Brazil’s Secretary of Trade and International Relations at the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Food Supply, remarked that, “We have multiple global crises all at once. Therefore, it is more important than ever that our region build a future of social inclusion, resilience and environmental protection. The UN Food Systems Summit has strongly positioned agriculture as part of the solution for sustainable development, while also recognizing the multiplicity of paths available to achieve sustainability. We are faced with an increasingly challenging situation and COP27 will provide another opportunity to discuss the true state of agriculture”.
Marcelo González Ferreira, the vice-minister from Paraguay, underscored the South American country’s success in reducing deforestation and implementing good agricultural practices, indicating that, “We want to continue advancing and positioning Paraguay, providing greater visibility for what we are doing”.
Andrés Pareja, Under-Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock of Ecuador, called on countries to safeguard the livelihood of producers, stating that, “In Ecuador, we have seen the importance of a strong agriculture sector, because it was the sector that kept the economy afloat during the pandemic”.
Sol Ortiz, Mexico’s Director General of Climate Change, emphasized the achievements of the agriculture sector. “If we want to produce more with less and in a more environmentally-friendly way, we must drive innovation, technology and climate financing”.
Ángelo Quintero Palacio, Director of Innovation of Colombia, applauded the joint work of the countries of the region and stressed that, “IICA should spearhead discussions so that we can develop clear proposals to take to COP 27”.
“We are in a critical time for agriculture and food security, which have become priorities in the global agenda, due to the multiple crises of different forms that are taking place all at once”, said Manuel Otero. “Our producers and other relevant agrifood system stakeholders are on the frontline and are facing increasing risks, the most important being climate-related issues, which no one on the planet can ignore”.
In closing, he said that, “We now need to work and to do so collectively to pave the way for greater transformation of our agrifood systems in a sustainable manner over the next few years. IICA is here to accompany, facilitate and support you in this journey, always recognizing that we are accountable to the countries and that times of crises are also the time for cooperation”.
Institutional Communication Division