BY RAÚL BENÍTEZ —This year marks a turning point in the global fight against hunger: 2015 is the deadline that world governments set to achieve the Millennium Development Goals and the goal of the World Food Summit, which seek to halve the percentage and total number of people suffering from hunger, respectively.

Beginning in 2016, the world will adopt the Sustainable Development Goals. In the coming months, the international community will discuss successful policies and programmes in order to face the new challenges with the renewed strength of the countries and regions that have shown the greatest progress in hunger reduction.

Regional progress

According to the FAO, Latin America and the Caribbean is the region that has made the most progress in the reduction of hunger, becoming a prominent actor and an example for the rest of the world. It is the only developing region that achieved the hunger target of the MDGs, reducing its undernourishment rate from 15.3% in 1990-92 to 6.1% in 2012-14.

Furthermore, it is the only region that could still achieve the World Food Summit goal if only 2.7 million people overcome hunger during 2015, adding to the more than thirty million people that have already done so in the last two decades.

Prioritising food security

The region’s distinguishing factor is its “political approach” to the fight against hunger, a decades-long process during which food security has become a central priority for governments.

The culmination of this process occurred in January of this year at the Costa Rica Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), where presidents and heads of state from all countries of the region approved a plan for Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication, which seeks to end hunger in the entire region by the year 2025. As a result, food security tops the regional policy agenda.

FAO has accompanied this plan since its inception. Together with the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA) and the Economic Commission for Latin America and Caribbean (ECLAC), FAO drafted the Food Security Plan and will continue to support countries to improve its implementation, monitor its progress and find as many synergies between CELAC’s and FAO’s agendas in the region.

Pillars for food security

Four pillars support the plan. The first seeks to create coordinated food security strategies through national and regional plans and public policy. This pillar will strengthen the legal and institutional frameworks for food security, facilitate trade, avoid food loss and waste and promote food supply programs.

The second pillar seeks to ensure sustainable access to safe and nutritious food for all people, through conditional cash transfer programmes and through the strengthening of the labour market and family farming projects. The third pillar seeks nutritional well-being for all vulnerable groups through initiatives such as school feeding, promotion of healthy habits and combating the twin burden of malnutrition: obesity and under-nutrition. And finally, the fourth pillar seeks to ensure the stability of food production and timely care for natural and man-made disasters.

Home-grown solutions

Latin America and the Caribbean have built their own path towards the goal of zero hunger. The region no longer mimics experiences or follows economic and social policy guidelines coming from other realities. On the contrary, it has become a source of successful and innovative policies that are being closely followed by the international community.

Ten years ago, the region pioneered the proposal to not only decrease hunger, but fully eradicate it, a commitment that laid the foundation for the Hunger Free Latin America and Caribbean 2025 Initiative, endorsed by all countries. This year, CELAC has joined this effort, and all governments have said “no more hunger” with one voice, giving a signal of hope to the 37 million men, women and children that still suffer from hunger daily in the region.

The road ahead is riddled with great challenges. However, there is room for optimism thanks to the huge steps that the region has already undertaken and the regional political commitment to eradicate hunger, which is embodied in the CELAC Plan for Food Security, Nutrition and Hunger Eradication.

I am sure that our region will continue to demonstrate that a world without hunger is possible.

Image credit: Matthias Ripp

How Latin America and the Caribbean is ending hunger

Raúl Benítez

Raúl Benítez is the Regional Representative for the Latin America and Caribbean Office of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

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