The AgroLAC 2025 Story
Ginya Truitt Nakata, AgroLAC 2025 coordinator
As the IDB officer responsible for agriculture-related partnerships, let me begin by raising a question that has frustrated me for years. If the goal is to sustainably #feedthe9 by 2050, why isn’t Latin America and Caribbean front-and-center as a way to achieve it? Why haven’t international donors been clamoring to help the region realize its enormous potential to greatly increase its agricultural output – sustainably and without new net loss of habitat – and help feed a rapidly growing global population?
I have looked at the statistics and the projections for some time now. And there is a great story here. The FAO says we must raise overall food production by 70 percent, and nearly three-quarters of that increase needs to come from developing countries. Why then wouldn’t we focus on Latin America, which is already the largest net food exporting region on the planet? Brazil already exports to Africa and Asia. Argentina, Mexico, Colombia and Peru are sending their farm products abroad. Could LAC be at least a short-to-medium term solution? After all, people need to eat now.
But for the long haul we cannot rely on the region without taking aggressive measures to ensure scaling up of production is done sustainably, both environmentally and socio-economically. The region has already lost an estimated 40 percent of its original forests, critical to preserving biodiversity and slowing the advance of climate change. And, it is projected that in the absence of climate smart agriculture and risk management, climate change could cost the region up to 137 percent of current GDP by the end of the century. Meanwhile, family farming accounts for 80 percent of all farms in LAC, contributes 40 percent of production, and generates 64 percent of employment.
So in addition to all the potential there has been a clear need to act. Yet this message was not reaching the donor community. With this in mind, I set out a couple of years ago to try to use my good offices in the IDB to get critical data into the public sphere and on that effort build some kind of mechanism that could generate the visibility and funding upon which we could bring together interests from across the region to boost sustainable agricultural development.
What I soon discovered is that LAC’s tremendous agricultural productivity and potential was not lost on the private sector, which already had a vast network of supply chains throughout the region. Nor was it lost on the NGO community, where dedicated people were working hard to ensure a broad range of critical issues—from conservation to fair trade—were part of the equation.
What was eye-opening for me was how many multinational companies wanted to do the right thing, and support smallholders to enter into their supply chain, but could not alone help them overcome significant barriers that were keeping them from becoming reliable partners. It became clear to me that the development focus and years of agricultural experience of the IDB, coupled with the supply chain expertise of the private sector, and the commitment and reach of the NGO’s, was something to be celebrated and supported.
Thus AgroLAC 2025 was born to fill a yawning need for a platform that could bring together all of these interests and get them working together to support, promote and scale up the types of innovations that can really make a difference in the region’s agricultural future. With initial support from Dow and The Nature Conservancy, and interest growing every day among companies, NGOs and governments, we are adapting the food security conversation from only access to healthy and nutritious food, and toward inclusively supplying that food, in very real ways, to a growing global population. AgroLAC 2025 is about sustainably growing LAC’s farms and agribusinesses into a global powerhouse, and making the region a breadbasket for the world. Working together, more than 30 organizations embraced this message, and delivered it, including our traditional public sector donors.
Today, based on the interest and the activity that AgroLAC 2025 has generated since it launched in 2015, I am more optimistic than ever about the region’s agricultural future. And for that reason, I am doubly-optimistic that together our global community is going to be able to meet the critical food security challenges we now face. #feedthe9