Four ways Latin America can tackle climate change while building back better from COVID-19

© K. Ewing

This post was originally published on LinkedIn

The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and Bayer Crop Science led the first independent dialogue of the upcoming Food Systems Summit, a United Nations initiative to achieve inclusive and sustainable food systems.

The diversity of languages (Spanish, Portuguese and English) and stakeholders drawn from across Latin America (including businesses, governments, NGOs, research institutions, producers’ associations and companies among others) was a pivotal factor in the success of our event, because it was about sharing experiences, understanding perspectives and proposing solutions to support the sustainable recovery of food systems in a post-COVID19 era.  

CCAFS shared its vision for how Latin America can align climate action with the need to build back better from COVID19. The coronavirus pandemic highlights the need for resilient, sustainable and evidence-based food systems in Latin America. By fostering these, we can help address poverty and help vulnerable groups—smallholder farmers, women and youth—recover from the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the climate crisis is fast advancing across Latin America, especially evident in its food systems, as evidenced by crop losses, reduced productivity and biodiversity loss.

For CCAFS and its partners, the current crisis presents an opportunity to speed up the transformation of food systems in Latin America. Food production must become more resilient, to support income of rural families and provide sufficient food for the general population. Similarly, measures to stimulate economic recovery must incorporate environmental, social and economic sustainability goals.

Taken together, these will be key factors to sustainable and successful recovery after the pandemic.

Actions to transform food systems

The recent ‘Actions to transform food systems under climate change’ report, led by CCAFS in collaboration with 100+ partners, sets out four action areas which are key to building back better, and aligned with the ‘Action Tracks’ of the Food Systems Summit:

  1. Reroute farming and rural livelihoods to new trajectories, so that radical and fast changes can occur to meet SDG goals;
  2. de-Risk: livelihoods, farms and value chains by decreasing negative effects of climate variability and promoting efficient agroclimatic services across scales;
  3. Reduce emissions through improving diets and efficiency along the value chains, as well as reducing food loss and waste;
  4. Realign policies, finance, innovation, and support to social movements, making special emphasis in subsidies reallocation to increase resilience, in promoting sustainable finance and transforming the way we do research to more inclusive approaches.

Power of partnerships

Participants and facilitators agreed this event exemplified the power of partnerships. Collaborative work between public and private sector, as well as civil society and value chain stakeholders was highlighted as essential in the closing remarks.

This is especially true in areas like climate finance, agricultural innovation, and policies focused on rural youth and gender inclusion. Consumers need the right information to make better decisions, and our value chains must be renewed and adapted to find a transformative path with positive impact on people and nature. Ultimately, we need science and development to occur in parallel, developing holistic pathways that address climate change.

The United Nations Food Systems Summit 2021 

The United Nations Food Systems Summit is a unique opportunity to trigger transformative processes and promote changes in behavior, norms and habits in Latin America.

Our region has the potential to use science and innovation to mobilize major changes by working together with private and public sector, research community and the civil society in order to transform food systems, and this needs to be highlighted at the summit.

Our dialogue called for alliances to transform Latin American food systems. We must build back better to alleviate poverty and hunger through low-emissions and inclusive growth that avoids habitat loss, but which is also underpinned by social justice.

This vision for Latin America—resilient and sustainable—is what we must showcase at the summit.