Towards Sustainable and Competitive Agriculture in the Americas

Americas (English Edition), November-December 2010 | Go to article overview

Towards Sustainable and Competitive Agriculture in the Americas


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One morning this March, a column of tractors crossed into Haiti from the neighboring country of the Dominican Republic in an operation coordinated by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and as part of a collective effort by many of its member states. With the rainy season almost upon them, 2,000 Haitian producers were In urgent need of this support so they could prepare their small fields for the vital spring planting. The whole country was anxious to begin producing food once again.

The governments of the United States and Brazil provided equal amounts of funding for this operation, and the tractors were provided by the Dominican government. This initiative is just one example of the way in which IICA is fulfilling our commitment to the government of Haiti--a commitment to work hand in hand with the Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Rural Development (MARNDR) to rebuild the agricultural sector that was devastated by the 2008 hurricanes and then by the January 12 earthquake.

In Haiti we have been involved in many joint efforts, creating synergies as we have worked with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, the European Union, the World Food Program, the World Bank, and other international and regional organizations. In addition to the countries already mentioned above, we have worked with Canada through its international development agency, with Argentina, and with Barbados, among others.

This way of working with the people and the government of Haiti is similar to the way In which IICA works in the 34 member states of the Organization of American States (OAS).

IICA has a long tradition of supporting agriculture and rural development in the Americas. Our 70 years of experience--one of the longest records in the history of multilateralism--enables our current administration to put forth a strategic vision that will help to build a competitive, sustainable, and equitable agricultural system for the Americas.

We are continuing to work hard to meet our commitment to strengthen the capacity of the Institute to provide the highest quality technical cooperation services. As OAS Secretary General Jose Miguel Insulza has said, our times demand a "modern multilateralism" based on a common agenda and on the commitment of "our countries to common standards in the areas of democracy, human rights, security, and development."

Along these same lines, in the 2009 Annual Report IICA asked the members of the OAS Permanent Council for their governments' commitment to the objectives of rural and agricultural development because in this work, responsibility goes beyond the ministries of agriculture. We have shown the importance of this sector for overcoming the most pressing problems of this century: poverty, hunger, inequality, and climate change. We have also seen that, sadly, a society that suffers from hunger can easily fall into conditions of instability.

The agricultural sector performed well during the recent economic crisis and it is clear that investments in food, raw materials, and agriculture-related production chains will pay off for those who make them. But we cannot forget that the agricultural sector has an undeniable social role that must be supported. The poverty and inequality that plague most of our countries are more evident in rural life. The challenge for our governments and for the international institutions that support them is very clear: we must produce more and in better ways, and we must incorporate increasingly large sectors of the population in the value chains. With all of our accumulated experience, we can respond together to the question of how to do this.

International technical cooperation seeks to turn knowledge into a common asset. It is a public good that should be offered to all without conditions of any kind, and it must be delivered in a timely and effective manner. …

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