World 07-08-2018

Haiti Guatemala and Colombia key to reducing hunger in Latin America

Three UN agencies have come together to develop joint actions in these countries to eradicate poverty and hunger, promote rural and agricultural development, and prevent and manage natural disasters.

The UN Fund for Food and Agriculture (FAO), the World Food Program (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) announced that they will deepen their collaboration in Latin America and the Caribbean, with a special emphasis on Haiti, Guatemala and Colombia.

The regional agreement responds to a global agreement among the agencies to multiply efforts to intensify actions to overcome poverty and hunger within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals . The alliance seeks to improve the efficiency in the work of the three agencies, giving a higher quality response to the countries and saving the scarce resources that are often applied in duplicated expenses.

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"An important issue of work is rural poverty and climate change. Unfortunately, the communities hardest hit by the consequences of climate change such as floods, droughts, hurricanes or fires are in the poorest areas, mountain areas or coastal communities. So we need to redouble our efforts, channel more resources and territories, rethink public policies, rethink the institutions and generate new alliances to reach these territories with more intensity ", explains Adoniram Sanches, regional program coordinator of FAO.

¿ Why Haiti, Guatemala and Colombia?

"There is a theme that unifies the three countries. Although Haiti is the nation with the highest rates of hunger and poverty in the region, like Guatemala and Colombia, it has some territories where there is a hard core of hunger that predominates, "says Sanches.

A report from the FAO and the World Health Organization revealed last year that after several years of progressive improvement, hunger in Latin America increased by 6%.

The worst situation in terms of prevalence of undernourishment is represented by Haiti, where almost 47% of the population, that is to say five million people, suffer from hunger . That is why the country is an important focus of the UN agencies, which seek to strengthen social protection systems, agriculture and resistance to natural disasters.

Although the number of people with food insecurity is half that in Haiti (2.5 million), Guatemala is also one of the 44 countries worldwide that are on the "serious" scale of hunger , according to the latest index study global

In the Central American country there are structural causes that affect food security, such as the increase in poverty, land tenure problems and climate change, which has impacted more than 300.000 families since 2014 .

Last year, the country passed a School Feeding Law that currently benefits more than 2.2 million children in 33,000 schools. The legislation promotes the purchase of food from local producers and promotes family farming. The new agreement seeks to reinforce support in its implementation.

"FAO comes in with all the technical assistance to produce food, WFP with all the logistics, IFAD financing projects, and short circuits of fresh and healthy foods are created, promoting economic growth", explains Sanches.

For its part, Colombia, although not part of the "critical" list of countries with serious food insecurity , also presents several challenges, especially in the framework of the peace process between the Government and the FARC-EP.

"Colombia is different from Guatemala and Haiti, in terms of its political profile and the so-called peace territories. The families that were involved in the guerrillas were and are farmers . Then it is about retaking productive processes to the territories that were lagging behind for a long time, a challenge that is quite interesting both for the Government and for the three agencies of the agreement ", assures the FAO program coordinator, adding that Heads of State of the region have committed on several occasions to support with all possible measures the peace agreement of Colombia. " Peace is a global value. Colombia is on the radar of the UN and is a priority country . "

Adoniram Sanches explains that there is another element that unites the three countries besides the hunger centers. It is about the lack of institutional coordination.

" It is insufficient. The ministries, the foundations, the institutes work in an isolated, fragmented way. When, for example, climate change is mixed with hunger, an inter-institutional approach is necessary. That the Ministry of Agriculture speak with the Ministry of Food, and with the Ministry of Social Development and the Environment, and may coordinate a focused response, "he says.

The advances that are expected

The agreement between FAO, IFAD and PMA seeks to achieve specific advances on three fronts. The first is about maintaining a social protection system "powerful and functional in favor of the poorest," says Sanches.

"If we manage to reduce hunger for so many consecutive years, it is because the State worked well, policies were focused and public spending increased, reaching the hard core of poverty. Despite the economic issues, you can not lower your guard and you must keep the focus on poverty, "he explains.

A second front is the aforementioned institutionality: "it has to be redesigned, the challenges are new and different, some functional structures that we have in the governments nowadays come from the 70s and 80s and need to be revised , taking into account the factors environmental, economic and social ".

Finally, assures the representative of the FAO, emphasis must be placed on creating more resilient production systems in rural areas.

"We must be more prepared to absorb the external shocks of climate change that will be present in the region for a long time . We must create a new perspective to manage natural resources. The crisis is not temporary, it is permanent and lasting and we have to adapt families to coexist with these phenomena while maintaining growth and productivity ".

If all these objectives are achieved, and poverty and hunger are reduced in Guatemala, Haiti and Colombia, a step forward will be taken in Latin America

" If we try that group of three countries we will be able to reduce again that 6% of people with food insecurity in the region."

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