Agriculture Is Key to the Development of The Americas
1. Which specific areas do you believe should be addressed in the short-term, and how?
Agricultural development and rural well-being in our hemisphere are very well positioned to take advantage of favorable circumstances in the global scenario. This will enable us to position the Americas as a key stakeholder, not only for the food and nutritional security of the entire planet, but also for the world’s environmental sustainability. One third of the countries within our hemisphere are major food exporters; this includes Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and other countries of the Southern Cone, which are true examples of both temperate and tropical agriculture.
There are certainly some outstanding issues in the hemispheric agenda. We must figure out how to reduce rural poverty, how to make family farming work in a viable manner, how to face the consequences of climate change and how to continue to increase productivity levels through rational use of technology. These are the challenges that we must overcome so that our hemisphere can guarantee our food supply and preserve the natural resources that our region is privileged to possess.
We can accomplish this through technical cooperation programs that must focus on agricultural chains and their productivity and insertion at the international level; as well as trade, integration, bioeconomy, agricultural health, territorial development and family farming.
Director General of the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)
2. What is your vision for the role that agriculture must play in the countries of the region? What limitations do you foresee? What is required to achieve progress?
I have an optimistic vision for agriculture’s role. I believe that we are presented with a great opportunity that we cannot afford to waste. The world needs food. It needs our hemisphere to foster sustainable development. It needs us to care for our natural resources, which are essential—and this is all up to us. I like to say that this is agriculture’s time to shine; we must transmit an optimistic vision for agriculture.
Clearly, there are some limitations. I would emphasize the need for our authorities to become convinced of the fact that this sector is not only strategic, but also absolutely critical to the future of all countries of the region. While a few Southern countries seem to understand this, like Argentina, this idea is not as clear for some Central American and Caribbean countries. Agriculture must be seen as a priority sector for the future of the countries; that is the first step.
3. What is your opinion of the impact of climate change on agricultural and livestock production in our region?
Climate change is here to stay and real data confirms the fact that we are experiencing more frequent and intense climatic events. For this reason, I believe that climate change is the number one topic of the agricultural agendas of countries, where climate change is not only affecting traditional agricultural production maps, but also the manner in which production is carried out. Based on these events, IICA has internalized the importance of climate change in its work agenda.
Regarding this topic, I wish to emphasize that, although the agriculture sector is deemed responsible for 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, very serious studies currently underway in Argentina have determined that, in the case of livestock farming, we are responsible for a much smaller percentage, as proven when calculating the effect of carbon sequestration on our pastures. In any case, what we must be certain of is the importance of developing our own statistics and metrics and not to be subject to whatever experts in other counties tell us, given frequent discrepancies with respect to research approaches and methodologies.
4. As a veterinarian, how would you describe the role of this profession in food production in the future, and what additional responsibilities or training opportunities must be assumed in order to meet these goals?
I believe that the work carried out by veterinarians will become increasingly tied to the new “One Health” vision proposed by the World Health Organization. Veterinarians must be aware of the fact that, in working for the benefit of animal health, they must also think about human health and the health of our planet. I believe that veterinarians must have that broad, comprehensive and systematic view of their profession, which is not limited to simply caring for small animals and maximizing the production of animal protein; more and more, they must think about the health of our planet. This will guarantee an auspicious future for veterinarians.