The ministers noted that agriculture in the Americas has been strengthening its sustainability for years, incorporating practices and technologies aimed at sustainably increasing food production and reducing its environmental footprint.
Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt, 11 November 2022 (IICA) – Mounting food insecurity and the global climate situation are two interrelated crises that pose an enormous threat for the planet and that should be tackled jointly and as a matter of urgency. This was the view expressed by ministers of Agriculture of the Americas in an unprecedented consensus position presented at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP27), which also sought to strongly position the sector in climate negotiations.
The consensus position was outlined in a document launched at the event, entitled “Tackling the Climate Crisis through Agricultural Innovation and Leadership in the Americas”. The venue was the Home of Sustainable Agriculture of the Americas pavilion in Sharm El-Sheikh, the Egyptian resort town where COP27 is being held. The Summit has enjoyed the participation of ministers, deputy ministers and senior representatives from 20 countries.
During the event, senior officials, Rattan Lal—the world’s leading authority on soil sciences and Special Envoy of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to COP27—and the Institute’s Director General, Manuel Otero, sounded a warning about initiatives and proposals that disregard agriculture’s contributions to food security and sustainable development, which could result not only in missed opportunities, but could further aggravate the food crisis and the vulnerability of the world’s poorest.
“Together, let us merge this vast agrifood agenda across the hemisphere into one sole voice. We all made a great effort and were able to reach this consensus. Let us insist that there can be no environmental sustainability without food security. Farmers cannot pay the price for these transformations. We must create prosperous rural areas, because without them, there will be an unbalanced equation”. As a region, we are displaying great maturity, given that, amidst our heterogeneity, we have a common vision”, said Otero.
The ministers and senior officials had endorsed the document at a meeting organized by IICA at its headquarters in San Jose, Costa Rica, where they had discussed the strategic role of the region’s sector in tackling climate change. The countries of the Americas agreed that COP—the annual summit that brings together technical experts, ministers, heads of State and Government and representatives from non-governmental organizations—is a prime opportunity to underscore the relevance, contributions and needs of the agriculture sector of the Americas.
Fernando Mattos, Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries of Uruguay, fervently declared that, “I applaud IICA. We have been able to occupy the space in climate discussions that the agriculture sector deserves. This should have happened long ago, because without food security, there can be no political or social stability and because agriculture is fundamental for the countries of the region. For some time, we have recognized the need to be a part of these discussions, which often raise public opinion views that run counter to our interests. We must preserve the rights of the production sector; we are not just food suppliers. We have a lifestyle and we must defend rural producers. Global neo-protectionism is on the rise, under the guise of environmental protection. Science must be the basis for discussions. We maintain our right to use our natural resources in a sustainable way”.
In the same vein, the countries committed to continue increasing the presence of ministers and secretaries of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries in national, hemispheric and global climate discussions.
Laura Suazo, Secretary of Agriculture and Livestock of Honduras, remarked that her country “reflects the situation in various countries that are experiencing poverty”. Thus, she stressed that, “I congratulate IICA for bringing us together in this space. Today, more Agriculture ministers than ever before are attending COP. There are many actions that cannot afford to wait. Climate change affects production and food security. It should be a key issue for policies, given that we are being hammered by droughts and flooding. We need science and technology to provide an adequate response, because our farmers do not know if they will be able to continue cultivating coffee in the future”.
Santiago Bertoni, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of Paraguay, indicated that, “The document prepared by IICA and endorsed by all the countries shows that we are part of the solution, although agriculture has been pinpointed as the major source of environmental problems, for which, may I repeat, we are not responsible. What we are responsible for is global food security. Paraguay, my country, has 7 million inhabitants and we are producing food for almost 80 million. What we need are clear rules to ensure predictable and science-based trade. We need this”.
Limber Cruz, Minister of Agriculture of the Dominican Republic, stressed the need to fund agriculture and to expand insurance coverage for the sector, to minimize risks. He commented that, “Agriculture needs resources. Following the example of my country, we must offer soft loans to producers, expand agricultural insurance coverage, train our people, provide technical assistance in the field, make the sector attractive to young people, and care for and protect certain areas”.
Enrique Parada Rivas, Minister of Agriculture and Livestock of El Salvador, also applauded IICA for facilitating the participation of the ministers of the Americas in COP27, saying, “Thank you IICA for arranging this meeting. We recognize that this is a precarious time, when we are experiencing sociopolitical tensions, as well as increases in the price of inputs and food. We need young people to become interested in taking part in a sector that is not very profitable. And for all of these challenges, we need to work together”.
William Hohenstein, Director of the Office of Energy and Environmental Policy of the United States Department of Agriculture, congratulated IICA on “raising the voice of agriculture in the region” and called for working to expand transformations in the sector through greater funding, innovation and private sector participation to capitalize on opportunities.
“This is a historic moment, because integration has been a long-held dream. We are sharing this consensus at COP, a remarkable and tremendously impactful platform that is making room for agriculture, recognizing our role in global food security”, said Luis Villegas, Deputy Minister of Agriculture of Colombia.
Ariel Martínez of the Secretariat of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Argentina, highlighted his country’s climate ambition and recalled that, although it produces 4% of the world’s agrifood supply, it accounts for just 0.3% of CO2 emissions. “Based on that data, how can we be questioning the agriculture sector? We must come together to defend the sector, make our voices heard and overcome these challenges”.
Also in attendance at the event was Cary Fowler, U.S. Department of State Special Envoy for Global Food Security. “I thank IICA for its leadership in the region. We are facing issues of great magnitude. Food production, industrialization, transportation and distribution are being challenged, affecting food quantity, quality and availability, which, in turn, impacts the most vulnerable populations. We cannot meet the demand for food unless we adapt crops to climate change”, he remarked.
Cleber Oliveira Soares, Secretary for Innovation, Rural Development and Irrigation of Brazil, also congratulated IICA and underscored “agriculture’s crucial contribution to climate, energy and food security”.
The consensus document also expresses support for the global climate negotiation process—which has a crucial chapter in Egypt—and notes that it should drive a fair transition towards agriculture that is more adapted and resilient to climate change, low in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and capable of sequestering greater amounts of carbon.
The speakers explained that the achievement of these objectives must be facilitated by greater climate investment, effective levels of funding, capacity building and recognition of the fact that there is no one-size-fits-all production model.
The countries of the Americas comprise a region that is one of the world’s leading food producers and exporters, but whose agriculture sector is highly vulnerable to climate change, particularly in the Caribbean and Central America, but also in the south of the continent.
In this regard, the document expresses concern over the fact that production, livelihoods and lifestyles, and natural resources have been affected, which has exacerbated poverty and hunger and increased global food insecurity.
The ministers noted that agriculture in the Americas has been strengthening its sustainability for years, incorporating practices and technologies aimed at sustainably increasing food production and reducing its environmental footprint. “For this reason, we affirm that agriculture is part of the solution to the climate crisis”, reads the document.
They also pointed out that the ongoing transition of agrifood systems towards greater sustainability requires dynamic and effective science, technology and agricultural innovation schemes that foster the participation of family farmers and youth, as well as greater gender equity in agrifood systems.
Science must also serve as the basis for trade rules, they said, and measures adopted to combat climate change must not constitute a disguised restriction on international trade.
The ministers noted that farmers alone cannot shoulder the costs and risks associated with the impact of climate change on agriculture, or the sole responsibility for the investment required to transform the agriculture sector. It is therefore necessary to implement funding programs that take into account public budgets, international development funding, banking systems and capital markets.
In the document, the countries of the Americas also express their commitment to strengthen the development of good agricultural and fishing practices aimed at improving water management; boosting soil health and recarbonization; reducing food loss and waste; promoting the bioeconomy and the circular economy; ensuring optimal and precise use of fertilizers; and fostering agrosilvopastoral systems, among other measures that can yield shared benefits.
Institutional Communication Division.