Americas food crisis can be overcome with agri investment

–IICA Director General
The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) says the current food crisis can be overcome through “creative and innovative ways” of ensuring that farmers stay in business.

According to a press release IICA Director General Dr Chelston Brathwaite made these comments during a meeting with US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “We see the need for research, extension and teaching. This powerful combination is critical to developing the agriculture sector. And without agriculture we cannot overcome poverty,” he said at the first meeting.

The leaders also agreed that food security is a global concern and organisations such as the IICA play an important role in this hemisphere. In addition to devising ways for farmers to “stay in business” they agreed that there is a need to continue to invest in science, research and development. The release said the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research funding for international research has not increased in real terms since 1976. “In fact, despite the significant and growing need for agriculture investment and development, it has been reported that official development and assistance to agriculture declined by about 66% in real dollar terms between 1985 and 2002,” it said.

Vilsack said the challenges of climate change intensify the need to address food security. Estimates of the total number of people living in hunger are more than 900 million and the World Food Programme identifies 923 million people as food insecure. The release said too a preliminary report  published by the FAO on the Outlook of Hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2008, said by 2015 there will be close to 41 million undernourished people in the region, despite the goal of an equivalent 30 million set at the World Food Summit.

During the meeting Dr Brathwaite invited Vilsack to join the Agriculture Ministers of the Hemisphere to attend the Fifth Ministerial Meeting, “Agriculture and Rural Life in the Americas” in the context of the Summit of the Americas Process. The meeting will focus on the theme “Building Capacity for Enhancing Food Security and Rural Life in the Americas.”

According to the release Dr Brathwaite was in Washington DC to present IICA’s 2008 Annual Report on Contributions to Agriculture and Rural Life in the Hemisphere. The presentation was expected to be directed at the Members of the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS). In continued efforts to underscore the importance of agriculture and improve rural life in the Americas, the IICA focused its efforts on strengthening rural communities by contributing new technologies and innovation, promoting agri-business, agricultural health and food safety and management of natural resources. The director general is also expected to meet with the US Department of State, the Permanent Mission of Jamaica to the OAS and the Permanent Mission of Barbados to the OAS.

Through IICA’s involvement as an international partner in the Summit of the Americas Process, food security has been included by the 34 member states of the OAS in the Draft Declaration of Commitment of Port of Spain.  And, in response to mandates issued at the 2007

Hemispheric Meeting in Guatemala, IICA will continue working to ensure agriculture is considered a key issue for national, regional and hemispheric development.

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