Experts analyze innovative research program linking food security, climate change and trade

A joint effort involving IICA, the SEGIB and the LATN will assist the countries of Central America and the Andean Region in the implementation of policies and measures that will contribute to the food security of their inhabitants and will enable agriculture and trade to contribute to reducing the impacts of climate change.


The opening of the workshop was attended by Adriana Campos and Rafael Trejos (IICA), Juan Manuel Villasuso (RED LATN), Ana Lorena Guevara (Deputy Minister of Environment of Costa Rica), Victor M. Villalobos (Director General of IICA), Doris Osterlof (SEGIB), Diego Montenegro (IICA Representantive in Costa Rica) and Martin Piñeiro, former Director General of IICA.

San Jose, Costa Rica, September 14, 2011 (IICA). A team supported by IICA, the Office for Central America and Haiti of the Iberoamerican General Secretariat (SEGIB) and the LATN, will analyze for the first time how food security, the impacts of climate and trade are interrelated in the countries of Central America and the Andean Region, as support for the formulation of coordinated policies in these areas.

The results of this initiative will be made available to the countries of the tropical regions of Latin America, which can incorporate them into their strategies for adapting agriculture to climate change, ensuring the availability of food for their population, reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and promoting agrifood trade.

According to the Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Victor M. Villalobos, the impossibility of expanding the agricultural frontier makes it necessary to find ways to increase crop productivity which, at the same time, will guarantee access to food and make efficient use of water and soil.

He stated “At IICA, we are convinced of the potential of innovation, and this workshop will provide us with an innovative proposal that incorporates trade into two topics that are already ranked very high on the international agenda: climate change and food security.

Villalobos, representatives of IICA, the SEGIB and the Latin American Trade Network (LATN), the Deputy Minister for the Environment of Costa Rica, Ana Lorena Guevara, and some 40 experts recently participated in a workshop held at IICA Headquarters to analyze the research program.

“To ensure the availability of food, it is also necessary to ensure the incomes of producers. It is important to facilitate trade, but this must not get in the way of meeting the food needs of our peoples,” said Deputy Minister Guevara.

In the judgment of the Director of the SEGIB Office for Central America, Doris Osterlof, and the Coordinator of the Central American node of the LATN, Juan Manuel Villasuso, this is the first time the way climate change, food security and trade are interrelated is being researched in the region.

Villasuso stated that new areas of work are emerging as a result of the “green growth” required to meet the challenges of climate change and inclusive development.

Osterlof pointed out that the objective is to increased interaction between the policies of national and regional organizations responsible for agriculture, trade and climate change.

Global distortions

Former IICA Director General, Martin Piñeiro, noted “Trade and agriculture, rather than objectives, are instruments for resolving the problems of food security.”

In his opinion, climate change destabilizes that relationship because agriculture is one of the activities that emits the most GHG and, at the same time, must adapt to changes in climate.

In an effort to reduce gas emissions, countries have imposed limits on industrial growth, which has affected the international distribution of income, a cost paid mostly by the least developed countries.

In addition, the volatility of food prices at the international level has led nations to implement defensive trade measures that hinder consumers’ access to these basic goods.

The prices of commodities (rice, soy, wheat, etc.), which hit a high point was in 2008, will remain high. This will benefit the largest exporters worldwide such as Brazil, Argentina and the United States, and hurt large importers such as Mexico and the European Union.

“Trade is beginning to be governed by 'elephants' or 'major players' and whatever they o will have an impact on prices and food security,” added Piñeiro.

To tap biodiversity

David Williams, Coordinator of the Genetic Resources Program of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), noted that the research proposed by IICA, the SEGIB and the LATN is so important because the negative effects of climate change on agriculture and food security are being felt earlier than predicted.

In his opinion, climate change will increase the interdependence of countries and the need for them to supply one another with the genetic resources of their biodiversity, which will be used to adapt agriculture to changing conditions.

“The biodiversity of the Americas is like none other in the world. It is a shared strength and its genetic resources must be at the heart of the new paradigm of agriculture,” he added.

He went on to say that the new technologies that make it possible to tap genetic diversity must be available to small-scale farmers, which means that institutions must have greater capacity to support agricultural and rural sectors.

He also said it was necessary to explore alternative mechanisms for improving the exchange of seeds and knowledge, which the markets used to do.

During the workshop, representatives of organizations such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), FAO, ECLAC, IFPRI and the German (GTZ) and Spanish (AECID) cooperation agencies offered their views on the topic and referred to initiatives they are already supporting in the region.

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