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Manuel Otero, an agriculture and international cooperation enthusiast

The Director General-elect of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) for the period 2018-2022, Manuel Otero, is certain that renovated technical cooperation has the capacity and duty to contribute better to the strengthening of agriculture and rural well-being in the Americas, as well as to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved by the United Nations.

Otero has stated, on several occasions, that agriculture is at the very heart of the SDGs included in the 2030 Agenda. He does not mean any agriculture, however; he means agriculture that brings people together and overcomes the triple challenge of being equitable, sustainable and competitive.

According to Otero, 12 of the 17 SDGs are clearly related to agriculture, although the second goal, in particular, shows a direct correlation: it calls for ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition, as well as promoting sustainable agriculture.

He admits that agriculture has been part of the problem, and must therefore contribute to solving the difficulties that afflict the world today: the explosive growth of the global demand for food, the depletion of the non-renewable energy model, the loss of biodiversity, and the impact of climate change.

Cautiously optimistic, Otero believes that America can position itself as a key stakeholder in facing the challenges of global food security and environmental sustainability. However, he also acknowledges the urgency of redesigning traditional cooperation strategies in order to address these monumental challenges.

A veterinarian with a humanist vision. A citizen of Argentina, Otero graduated as a veterinarian from the University of Buenos Aires. He holds a Master’s degree in Agricultural Sciences from the Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center (CATIE), in Turrialba, Costa Rica. He also holds a Master’s degree in Agricultural Development Sciences from the University of London in England.

His broad experience covers a number of topics including science and technology, agricultural trade and health, institutional strengthening and international cooperation. He has displayed great interest in projects related to area-based development and family farming, which demonstrates his profound commitment to development based on social inclusion.

Extensive and rich international experience. Otero was employed in Argentina’s public sector for 10 years, serving as an agricultural attaché in Washington D.C., and subsequently as vice-president of the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA).

His career at IICA spans 25 years, during which he held a number of distinguished positions. He believes that now is the time to give back all of his experience and knowledge to this international organization, while guiding it toward new hemispheric leadership after 75 years of history.

In addition to Spanish, his native language, Otero speaks English and Portuguese. He has lived in five countries of the hemisphere and is familiar with virtually all 34 Member States of the Institute. As a result, he is aware of the heterogeneous nature of the agricultural and rural sector of the Americas.

His vision for IICA. Based on his knowledge, Otero proposes an institutional transformation.

He believes it is important to strengthen the Institute’s policy on partnerships and development cooperation, to ensure that it is innovative and participatory. The Institute must work through networks with public and private, national and international entities, ranging from universities, companies and business chambers, to social organizations and, most importantly, local governments that promote rural and area-based development.

Given the heterogeneous nature of agriculture in our countries, more timely technical cooperation actions that are better aligned with national development plans are also necessary, as are differentiated strategies within the framework of subregional and regional integration processes.

Otero is also deeply concerned about Central American and Caribbean nations. He hopes to contribute to improving the quality of life of families living in rural areas, especially in less developed countries or countries that are more exposed to climate change.

Otero will also strive to foster strategic partnerships with international agencies such as the OAS and the WTO, as well as to establish joint work agendas with multilateral, bilateral and national entities, such as the Central American Integration System, CARICOM, MERCOSUR and the Southern Agricultural Council.

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