In opening the regional meeting, IICA Director General, Manuel Otero, remarked that the biggest mistake would be to place the agriculture sector on trial.
San Jose, 22 September 2022 (IICA) – Given the daunting crisis scenario that has increased hunger and malnutrition in the region and around the world, it is the responsibility of the agriculture sector of the Americas to bring a common position to the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 27).
This was the consensus reached by senior officials and leaders at the opening session of a meeting of ministers, secretaries and high-level officials of Agriculture of the Americas, which is aimed at discussing the strategic role of the region’s agriculture sector in addressing climate change.
The opening ceremony of the high-level meeting, organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), was attended by 2020 World Food Prize winner Rattan Lal, IICA’s Special Envoy to COP 27 and the world’s leading authority on soil science; Lydia Peralta, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Costa Rica; Victor Carvajal Porras, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Costa Rica; Laura Suazo, Secretary of Agriculture of Honduras and Chair of IICA’s Executive Committee; and Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA.
“Climate change is not something that will happen in the future; it is already happening. We can see how climate events are affecting Latin America and the Caribbean. Between 1998 and 2020, these events resulted in the loss of 312,000 lives”, said Rattan Lal.
“We must convey a very clear and strong message at COP 27, to ensure that the importance of agriculture will not be overlooked, as it was at COP 26. Food production is at risk in South America and in developing countries in other parts of the world because the growing season has become shorter and water stress has increased”, he added.
Professor Lal, Director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center (CMASC) at The Ohio State University, considered that discussions at COP 27 should focus on how to produce more food with fewer resources. “We must capitalize on agriculture as a solution to food and nutritional security and as a means of mitigating climate change”, he remarked.
Foreign Affairs Minister Peralta Cordero commended IICA’s efforts to assist the region to arrive at a common position regarding the transformation of the agriculture sector in the context of international climate change negotiations.
In reference to COP 27 that will take place in November, Peralta insisted that, “We must increase the participation and leadership of our countries in promoting collective action to enhance the role of the agriculture sector in global discussions and negotiations in this monumental global event”.
“Food security, the adaptation of livelihoods, protection of water and soil resources and the improvement of the socioeconomic conditions of communities must play a leading role in the national strategies of governments”, said Carvajal Porras.
“As a hemisphere, we must be ambitious in how we position ourselves and thus we must improve the balance between food production and environmental protection, with a view to COP 27”, stressed the Minister.
The Honduran Secretary of Agriculture, Suazo, underscored the close relationship between agriculture and the environment, warning that, “The impact of climate change is very important in Central America. We are a region that is extremely vulnerable to cyclical events such as extreme drought or excessive rain and flooding. That is why we have work extensively on the issue of risk management and climate change vulnerability”.
Suazo also underscored the need to create a synergy between climate change mitigation and adaptation, since although countries such as Honduras make only an insignificant contribution to greenhouse gas emissions, they are also highly vulnerable.
Food security and environmental sustainability
Manuel Otero highlighted the fact that the region of the Americas is the guarantor of the planet’s food and nutritional security, as well as of its environmental sustainability, given its production capacity and wealth of natural resources.
“There can be no environmental sustainability without first achieving food security for our people and we must respect the fact that it must take place in this order”, he said.
Otero revealed that, “My aim is to arrive at a hemispheric consensus for these climate negotiations, presenting a common voice of the Americas, with respect to this extraordinary situation in the world”.
He spoke about what would be at stake at COP 27, remarking that, “They say that it will be the COP of the agriculture sector and the COP for implementation. I would also add that is must be the COP meeting where the voice of sustainable agriculture plays a very special role”.
The IICA Director General stressed that it is imperative that the hemisphere demonstrate to the world at COP 27 all the transformations that the agriculture sector has undergone to improve its sustainability. For example, he mentioned direct seeding, natural pasture management, bioeconomy efforts to reduce waste, the system of rice intensification and the progress being made in the Caribbean.
“Our food systems can be improved, but they are not failed systems”, he said. “We have many things to improve, but they cannot criticize us for everything. The worst mistake it so place agriculture on trial”.
Institutional Communication Division