Amidst the Crisis and Fear, a Passport to the Future

Manuel Otero

The following is an OpEd by Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and its Goodwill Ambassadors (full names at end).

​​​​In many countries, it has been the only sector that has continued to operate without interruption during the pandemic. Despite the decline in global trade and the difficulties imposed by the virus, it has been able to increase its exports and to reaffirm its strategic role.

We are celebrating World Agriculture Day during one of the worst crises in memory. The pandemic has created and will continue to create more poverty, inequality and social despair, and yet it has not halted production or the supply of food. 

During these past months, many Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) nations have produced entire harvests that will feed the world and will keep the wheels churning in an activity that is vital for life. It is clear that this is not the time for complacency, but a time when we must insist that this sector that offers structural solutions for the most serious problems of human civilization should be accorded the greatest priority in public agendas.

Poverty, inequality, unemployment, food and nutritional insecurity, family disintegration, mass migration and environmental challenges: the resolution or mitigation of all these issues may have a common denominator: agriculture.

This sector is transformational and, along with education, is the most efficient option to tackle structural poverty in rural areas. Moreover, coupled with production processes or territorial development plans, reflected in modern technical cooperation, it may also be seen as an effective social policy.

It is also an essential engine for development, due to its significant interaction with science and its intensive use of technology. Furthermore, it enhances the position of LAC nations in the global market, based on the region’s unparalleled wealth of natural resources.

This dramatic period is also a fitting moment to once again look to rural territories as areas of opportunity and social progress, which will call for appropriate institutional structures, a new generation of public policies for family farming and the facilitation of access to digital technologies.

With its production linkages, agriculture is the activity that can most rapidly guarantee improved living conditions and fuel the expansion of services related to education, justice, telecommunications and infrastructure for rural inhabitants, in order to resolve problems as migration moves to urban centers. 

These objectives are key aspects of the new technical cooperation agenda, which will also include the facilitation of producers’ access to commercial chains and the promotion of the bioeconomy, based on the use of biological resources, which together have the potential to convert rural territories into a vast green factory, producing food, bioenergy, biomaterial and probiotics.

Let us celebrate and recognize the value of agriculture. 

Manuel Otero, Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and IICA Goodwill Ambassadors Susana Balbo, Dennis McClung, Jens Mesa, Rattan Lal, Alysson Paolinelli, Hugo Sigman.

Source: Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture


The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) is the specialized agency for agriculture of the Inter-American System that supports the efforts of Member States to achieve agricultural development and rural well-being.

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