Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett has warned an Organisation of American States (OAS) forum that food insecurity poses scary problems for humanity, and could unfold more quickly than expected.
Rodrigues-Birkett made the remarks as member countries of the OAS meet in Cochabamba, Bolivia, where they underscored the need for action to improve food security in the Americas, including current and future proposals to provide their citizens with access to abundant, safe, and nutritious food.
The Guyanese minister said part of the problem is the gap between food production and demand due to the nature of international food trade and price volatility. She said her delegation had therefore urged the OAS to strengthen coordination with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to promote research and development, strengthen national capacities, and promote science, technology, and innovation.
The heads of delegation of Haiti, Nicaragua, United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Suriname, Honduras, Panama, St Kitts and Nevis, Dominican Republic, and Grenada gave an overview of existing obstacles to food security, noting steps taken by their countries to combat malnutrition and chronic hunger. The member state representatives also pledged to seek regional solutions, through the OAS.
Meanwhile, Haiti’s Prime Minister and Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Lamothe thanked the countries of the region for helping his country deal with the devastating effects of the earthquake that struck in January 2010. After a massive effort, he said, “We are now beginning to sense a new breath of life in Haiti. The government that I am honoured to lead has set itself a basic priority of fighting extreme poverty.”
The Haitian prime minister also spoke about his government’s plans to eradicate illiteracy, and, as regards food security, said “It is also undoubtedly one of the major goals we have set ourselves in our country, together with the elimination of poverty and inequalities that affect our population.”
Nicaragua Permanent Representative to the OAS, Ambassador Denis Moncada described the issue of food security as “especially important for the government of Nicaragua, given its impact on health, nutrition, and in the economic, social, political, and cultural arenas in our country, and on the protection of Mother Earth, which leads us to ‘living well’, the material and spiritual balance in harmony with nature, with itself, and with others.” Ambassador Moncada stressed the urgent need to confront the threat posed by food insecurity and the need for sovereignty in that area.
United States Permanent Representative to the OAS Ambassador Carmen spoke about her country’s efforts to tackle world hunger, the obstacles that this challenge presents, and possible avenues to solution in the Americas. She explained that the United States was deeply committed to food security, noting that, shortly after taking office, President Obama spoke about tackling global hunger and food security as one of the top priorities of his administration.
Real food security, explained Ambassador Lomellin, depends on eliminating barriers to trade in agricultural products. The United States representative concluded by expressing her hope that the Assembly would mark a turning point to guide member states to return to their core values and to work together.
Trinidad and Tobago Permanent Representative to the OAS Ambassador Neil Parsan said that food security was ultimately the responsibility of each national government, and should be reflected as a priority in the budgets of each country. He said the issue of food security, combined with the intrinsic vulnerability of the region, constitutes a serious threat to the wellbeing of its peoples. The Caribbean diplomat lamented his country’s high level of dependence on foreign food sources, but was optimistic about the future. Trinidad and Tobago remained optimistic that, with national, hemispheric, and international action, “We can ensure that our citizens have reliable access to the food they need,” Ambassador Parsan stated.
Suriname Permanent Representative to the OAS Niermala Hindori-Badrising said that the issue of food security and access to food should be a priority in national and international policies. In that regard, she said that food security in the region depended on prices and their impact on the accessibility to food, especially for the most vulnerable groups, which explains why the region was the most unequal in the world. The Surinamese diplomat added that one measure to solve this problem was regional and international cooperation, and an obvious need to invest in agricultural technology. According to Ambassador Hindori-Badrising, priority must be given to public-private partnership to promote these policies. She predicted that food security-related issues would continue to occupy the agenda of countries.
The Housing and Water Ministry has allocated some Gy$250 million for the establishment of an industrial complex in Eccles under the East Bank Development Project. Housing and Water Ministry Finance Director Taslim Baksh speaking to media operatives during a tour of various aspects of the project over the weekend, said Guyanese stand to benefit significantly from job creation, services and other developmental initiatives that will be undertaken by business entities that form part of the complex.
“So far we have allotted between 15 and 20 plots of land to businesses that meet the criteria we established for those entities that would fall part of the hallmark industrial complex,” he explained.
The Gy$250 million that was injected into the complex was for land clearing, drainage and irrigation services, water and electricity. The finance director said that Guyanese can look forward to the establishment of factories, a printery, warehouses, a furniture store, among other manufacturing entities.
“Employment would be created and industry strengthened,” he said, explaining that altogether, government expects that businesses would spend a whopping Gy$5 billion to set up shop, while pursuing their respective business goals in the first couple of years.
“We believe in enterprise and industry and will always extend a hand to our business partners to come on board when the opportunity presents itself,” Baksh said.
Homes for professionals
Meanwhile, Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) Operations Director Denise King-Tudor said significant progress has been made with the construction of homes under the East Bank Development Project, especially those which would see professionals’ benefiting immensely.
She said that more and more Guyanese wanted to own a home and land without having to deal with the burden of contractors, and the entire works. Tudor said the housing ministry has developed a package for professionals which would see teachers, nurses and other such category of employees, once they qualify, benefiting from “turn-key homes” which cost between $4.1 and $4 million in Eccles.
“This aspect of the project has been stimulating lots of interest and we have taken on board the feelings of many professionals and have designed this pilot especially for them,” she told media.
Tudor also announced that Housing Minister Irfaan Ali wanted to expand the project to various regions offering professionals an opportunity to cash in on the offer to own their own lands and homes, through a partnership that would see them receiving financing from the New Building Society. Some 80 homes are to be constructed but the ministry has received more than 500 applications.
Latin America and the Caribbean face annual damages in the order of US$ 100 billion by 2050 from diminishing agricultural yields, disappearing glaciers, flooding, droughts and other events triggered by a warming planet, according to the findings of a new report to be released at the Rio+20 summit.
On the positive side, the cost of investments in adaptation to address these impacts is much smaller, in the order of one 10th the physical damages, according to the study jointly produced by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB); the Economic Commission of Latin America; and the Caribbean (ECLAC); and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).
However, the study also notes that forceful reductions in global emissions of greenhouse gases are needed to avert some of the potentially catastrophic longer term consequences of climate change. The report estimates that countries would need to invest an additional US$ 110 billion per year over the next four decades to decrease per capita carbon emissions to levels consistent with global climate stabilisation goals.
“Many climate-related changes are irreversible and will continue to impact the region over the long term,” said Walter Vergara, the IDB’s division chief of climate change and sustainability and the lead researcher of the study, whose preliminary findings were presented in Washington on Tuesday at an event jointly hosted by the IDB and the Centre for American Progress (CAP). “To prevent further damages, adaptation is necessary but not enough. Bolder actions are needed to bend the emissions curve in the coming decades.”
Region especially vulnerable
Latin America and the Caribbean contribute only 11 per cent of the emissions that cause global warming.
However, countries are especially vulnerable to its effects, given the region’s dependence on natural resources, an infrastructure network that is susceptible to climate events, and the presence of bio-climate hotspots such as the Amazon basin, the Caribbean coral biome, coastal wetlands, and fragile mountain eco-systems.
Estimated yearly damages in Latin America and the Caribbean caused by the physical impacts associated with a rise of 2C degrees over pre-industrial levels are of the order of US$ 100 billion by 2050, or about two per cent of GDP at current values, according to the report titled “The Climate and Development Challenge for Latin America and the Caribbean: Options for Climate Resilient Low Carbon Development.”
The study cites climate impacts in areas such as agriculture, exposure to tropical diseases and changing rainfall patterns, among others. For instance, the report cites recent work estimating the loss of net agricultural exports in the region valued at between US$ 30 billion and US$ 52 billion in 2050.
Mexico and Brazil have the largest land distribution just above sea level, making those countries vulnerable to rising sea levels. A rise of one metre in the sea level could affect 6.700 kilometres of roads and cause extensive flooding and coastal damage. A 50 per cent loss of the coral cover in the Caribbean from coral bleaching would cost at least US$ 7 billion to the economies in the region.
The study notes that the adaptation costs are a small fraction of the costs of physical impacts, conservatively estimated at 0.2 per cent of GDP for the region, at current values.
In addition, adaptation efforts would have significant development benefits, from enhanced water and food security to improved air quality and less vehicular congestion, further reducing their net costs.
“Investments in adaptation are cost effective and have substantial co-benefits” said ECLAC Climate Change Unit Chief Luis Miguel Galindo, a key contributor to the study.