20 October 2022, Rome: With rural hunger at very high levels in Central America’s Dry Corridor region, the time has come to “turn this emergency corridor into a corridor of opportunities,” QU Dongyu, Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), said Tuesday during the World Food Forum.
“More than half of the 10 million people living in the area, which extends between Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Costa Rica and Nicaragua, are engaged in agricultural activities, and more than 73 percent of the rural population live in poverty, with 7.1 million severely food insecure and 1.3 million children under the age of 5 stunted,” Qu said.
He spoke at a special high-level event on the Dry Corridor Regional Initiative, part of the Hand-in-Hand Investment Forum taking place this week at FAO Headquarters.
Increasingly frequent and adverse climate impacts have exacerbated the situation, “causing many farmers to abandon their tools, their animals and their land, and forcing an increasing number of people to migrate,” the Director-General said.
“We need to create hope for those people who wish to stay and not move away from their home,” he added.
“The Hand-in-Hand Initiative supports the process, together with key regional partners. Hand-in-Hand joint efforts support the implementation of nationally and regionally led ambitious programmes, to accelerate agrifood systems transformation. It uses advanced geospatial modeling and analytics as well as a robust partnership-building approach to accelerate the market-based transformation of agrifood systems. To raise incomes, improve the nutritional status and well-being of poor and vulnerable populations, and strengthen adaptation and resilience to climate change,” the Director-General said.
Four investment plans for building resilience in the Dry Corridor region are being presented to potential partners during matchmaking sessions during the Investment Forum. They are focused on boosting access to markets, water supply systems, digital soil mapping and agricultural climate risk zoning, and were prepared under the leadership of the Central American Integration System (SICA), Central American Agricultural Council (CAC), Central American Commission for Environment and Development (CCAD) and the Central American Economic Integration Secretariat (SIECA).
Focus on outcomes
FAO Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol told those participating, who included government ministers, officers from multilateral development banks and representatives of the private sector, as well as other stakeholders, that donors have a very keen interest in this particular project due to its potential for demonstrable success as it is focused on outcomes as opposed to outputs.
The real issue is how many people can be pulled out of poverty, can stay on their farms and in their communities, and have their children stay in school, she added noting that collaboration from all stakeholders was critical, and that the Initiative’s comprehensive approach to assessing productivity opportunities is exactly the kind of starting point to draw in the private sector. It provides granular indications essential for investors who need to know how and where to act.
Some 20 countries have presented specific investment plans at the Investment Forum. Two other regional initiatives, one for the Sahel region and one for a Panama Food Hub, have also been showcased.
FAO Chief Economist Maximo Torero emphasized the need to start the change in the Dry Corridor region based on science and innovation that the Hand-in-Hand Initiative brings in order to achieve the needed agrifood systems transformation.
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