FAO Director General: Latin America and the Caribbean is on track to eradicate hunger and poverty

Graziano da Silva highlighted political commitment as the main factor that will allow the region to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals

Mexico City, March 1, 2016 - "The world has entered a new era: the era of the Sustainable Development Goals," said FAO’s Director General before representatives of the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean gathered in FAO’s Regional Conference in Mexico City.

José Graziano da Silva said that the first two Sustainable Development Goals –eradicating hunger and poverty by the year 2030– are "the most ambitious and important in the history of the United Nations commitments", and that Latin America and the Caribbean can be the first region to achieve them.

In 1990, 14.7% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean suffered hunger. More than 66 million people were unable to obtain the food needed for a healthy life.

“Today, the situation is different: the total number of hungry people has fallen to 34 million and the percentage has been reduced to 5%, although the total population has increased by 130 million since 1990," Graziano da Silva said.

Latin America and the Caribbean ups the ante

According to FAO, Latin America and the Caribbean is the only region in the world that reached the hunger reduction targets of the Millennium Development Goals and the World Food Summit.

Based on this success, governments have committed to end hunger by 2025, five years before the target proposed by the Sustainable Development Goals.

To achieve this, governments are implementing major regional agreements such as the Hunger Free Latin America and the Caribbean Initiative and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean’s States (CELAC, in Spanish) Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication Plan. Many governments also implement their own national programs to combat hunger.

In his speech before the Regional Conference, Graziano da Silva stressed that FAO will continue to strongly support the countries of the region in their implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, with special emphasis on the three that relate to the eradication of poverty and hunger and the need to adapt to climate change.

"Our main collaboration could be in the field of statistics, as it is essential to establish basic milestones for each country to facilitate subsequent monitoring," said Graziano da Silva.

Hunger decreases but obesity increases

Although hunger and poverty have declined in the region, overweight affects 7.1% of children under 5 years and 22% of adults are obese.

"The situation of women is particularly worrying as their average obesity rate reaches 29%, compared to 18% for men," said Graziano da Silva.

FAO’s Director General called upon countries to generate virtuous circles linking sustainable agriculture with better nutrition, connecting school feeding programs and nutritional education with family farming through public procurement.

"The rescue of the region’s traditional crops and food products will allow to promote better diets and face the double burden of malnutrition," he said.

A new development approach

According to Graziano da Silva, the close relationship between rural poverty and food insecurity in the region demands a new approach to socioeconomic and environmental development.

"Eradicating hunger not only requires strengthening family farming, but also developing inclusive, efficient and sustainable food systems," he said.

The key to this is to coordinate agricultural development policies with social protection, risk management and agricultural employment policies, the Director General said.

This approach should also consider access to productive resources and services, social protection policies and rural employment, particularly for young people, rural women and indigenous peoples.

Climate change

"The climate is changing. Not in the future, but today, "said Graziano da Silva, and called on governments to promote the sustainable use of natural resources, disaster risk management and adaptation to climate change.

The Director General noted that the recent Paris Agreement is a historic landmark that the region should adopt as a framework to encourage farmers resilience to the impacts of climate change.

In the region, just the agricultural sector lost 11 billion dollars due to natural disasters between 2003 and 2013, and a third of the population lives in areas at high risk from natural disasters.

Family farmers are particularly vulnerable. "Their livelihoods are highly dependent on the climate and they have a low ability to recover from natural disasters," said Graziano da Silva, so it is necessary to implement holistic disaster risk management.

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