In response to Covid-19, Ibero-American countries, SEGIB and IICA are driving cooperation with a focus on food security
San Jose, 27 August 2020 (IICA) - Representatives of national cooperation agencies, other government entities and international organizations exchanged information and experiences regarding initiatives carried out in Ibero-American countries to respond to the crisis generated by Covid-19, with a view to strengthening food security in the region.
A total of 21 countries participated in the virtual meeting, sharing knowledge and good practices to strengthen synergies and achieve progress in building a powerful roadmap to further strengthen South-South cooperation in Ibero-America and, in turn, national responses to the crisis triggered by Covid-19.
The dialogue was organized by the Ibero-American General Secretariat (SEGIB), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Ibero-American Program for the Strengthening of South-South Cooperation (PIFCSS)—whose current Chair is Belén Bogado, Director of International Cooperation at the Foreign Ministry of Argentina. The main objective of the discussion was to identify ways to strengthen food security and well-being in rural areas.
“Cooperation is a tool that saves lives”, explained Rebeca Grynspan, Ibero-American Secretary General, who added that the current crisis can only be overcome through “greater multilateralism, coordination and integration”.
Jorge Neme, Secretary of International Economic Relations at the Foreign Ministry of Argentina, highlighted the multidimensional nature of the crisis, which has had health, economic and social effects, especially among the most vulnerable populations.
“Unless we engage in generous cooperation, we will struggle to find a way out of this crisis”, remarked Neme, who highlighted the role of organizations “like IICA and SEGIB, which play a very important role in strengthening those ties within the region”.
The Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero, stated that the Institute would make its experience available to the countries, describing IICA as “a bridge between different parties that can support South-South cooperation programs in the hemisphere, for the benefit of the countries”.
Otero also indicated that “Since the outbreak of the pandemic, food security has become a top priority, both at present and moving forward, as we build a better future. Agriculture and rural areas are part of the solution, not the problem”.
On the other hand, Julián Echazarreta, Secretary of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Argentina, made positive remarks about IICA’s work and stated that his country considers “dialogue and collaboration among all States, as well as multilateralism and international cooperation” to be “fundamental tools” for overcoming current challenges.
Participants in the dialogue highlighted several projects currently underway in their countries, including knowledge transfer related to the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), which IICA is implementing in coordination with Cornell University in the United States and several institutions.
More than 2,000 technical specialists, producers and students have received training through the initiative, which has also involved the development of materials, documents and courses that have been made available for use throughout the hemisphere.
IICA has also supported the sharing of experiences between countries such as Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Panama and Venezuela in this area.
Participants also highlighted the importance of Regional Agricultural Councils supported by IICA, which enable ministers of Agriculture to share strategies related to food and nutritional security, as well as the Central American Program for Integrated Coffee Rust Management (PROCAGICA), which is funded by the European Union.
Enio Marques Pereira, Secretary of Social and Productive Inclusion at the Ministry of Citizenship of Brazil, commended IICA on its work and described his country’s experience with the Cistern Program, which had allowed for mitigating drought conditions in large areas of the Northeast region.
The Undersecretary of Agriculture of Honduras, David Wainwright, highlighted the work carried out by IICA (via its Delegation in Honduras) and PROCAGICA within the context of the pandemic, which had allowed for transferring farming inputs to family coffee farmers.
“The fertilizer arrived just in time for the rainy season and was delivered directly to farmers. Producers are extremely satisfied because they can see their farms blooming with grains. IICA’s support has allowed for overcoming a looming issue for small-scale farmers who could not travel to other areas due to health restrictions”, explained Undersecretary Wainwright.
Another success story shared was that of the Food Bank of Mexico (BAMX), in the state of Quintana Roo. BAMX supports millions of vulnerable people who have been severely affected by the pandemic.
On the other hand, a joint project between BAMX and IICA has allowed for capitalizing on food surpluses to support the nutrition of those who need it most.
“Thanks to this program, which draws on IICA’s broad experience, we have successfully delivered food to more than two million people affected by the decline in commercial and tourism activities”, stated María Teresa García Plata, Director of BAMX.
As part of this project, pantries containing products such as beans and rice have been delivered, training courses will be held, additional cereals and grains will be purchased, and crowdfunding and food donation campaigns will be carried out.
With respect to the Food Bank, Ana María Portales, Head of the Policy and Planning Department of the Chilean Agency for International Development Cooperation, and Belén Bogado expressed their interest in assessing the possibility of replicating the initiative in their respective countries.
Ruy Pereira, Director of the Brazilian Cooperation Agency (ABC), expressed his support for the initiative, noting its similarities to Brazil’s project to support vulnerable families during the pandemic through State purchases.
On behalf of her country’s government, Astrid Miranda, of the Directorate of Partnerships for Development of the Planning and Programming Secretariat of the Presidency of Guatemala (SEGEPLAN), congratulated IICA on its presentation and remarked that “the topics addressed have been of great interest to Guatemala and will allow for identifying ways to collaborate within the framework of South-South cooperation”.
Grynspan and Otero also agreed that SEGIB and IICA would work together to develop a report on food security from the perspective of South-South cooperation.
Institutional Communication Division of IICA