Guyana is leading the way in addressing the pressing issues of malnutrition, food insecurity, and climate change that affect the Latin American and Caribbean region (LARC). The country will host the 38th regional conference of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in March 2024, where representatives from 33 countries will discuss policies and strategies to transform the agri-food system and ensure the well-being of the population.
The conference was launched on Wednesday, February 8, at the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, Liliendaal, by Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, who highlighted the urgent need to improve the production and consumption of nutritious food, especially in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the economy and society.
Mustapha, who also chairs the special ministerial task force for food production and food security in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), said that the region has shown political will and targeted action to strengthen the agri-food system and make it more resilient to external shocks. He cited Guyana’s school feeding program as an example of providing healthy meals to all children in the country.
However, he also acknowledged the challenges and gaps that remain, such as the vulnerability to climate change, the high rates of obesity and chronic diseases, the lack of access to markets and finance, and the need for technological innovation and capacity building. He said that the conference will be an opportunity to create a regional framework and a roadmap to address these challenges and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
Bringing together leaders, experts, and stakeholders
The conference, which will take place from March 18 to 21, will feature the participation of Guyana’s President, Dr. Irfaan Ali, along with several other heads of state and government, agriculture ministers, experts, and stakeholders from the LARC region. The conference will also have the presence of FAO’s Director-General, Qu Dongyu, and other senior officials from the organization.
The conference will cover a range of topics and themes related to the transformation of the agri-food system, such as:
- Investing in rural development and social protection
- Reducing food loss and waste
- Promoting sustainable agriculture and natural resource management
- Enhancing food safety and quality
- Fostering regional and international cooperation and trade
- Supporting the empowerment of women, youth, and indigenous peoples in the agri-food sector
The conference will also review the progress and challenges of the region in implementing the FAO’s strategic framework and regional initiatives, as well as the recommendations and resolutions of the previous conference held in Jamaica in 2022.
The conference will adopt a declaration and a plan of action that will guide the FAO’s work and support to the region for the next biennium. The conference will also elect the new chairperson and vice-chairpersons of the regional conference, as well as the members of the regional conference bureau.
Setting a precedent and a model for the region and the world
The conference is expected to have significant implications and benefits for the region and the world, as it will showcase the achievements and potential of the LARC region in transforming the agri-food system and ensuring food security and nutrition for all.
The conference will also demonstrate the leadership and commitment of Guyana in hosting such a high-level event, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic and the logistics involved. Guyana will be the first country in the region to host the FAO regional conference in a hybrid format, combining physical and virtual participation.
The conference will also highlight the opportunities and challenges that Guyana faces as a middle-income country with a rich natural and cultural diversity, a growing oil and gas sector, and a strong commitment to sustainable development and regional integration.
The conference will be an occasion to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the FAO and the 40th anniversary of Guyana’s membership in the organization. It will also be an opportunity to strengthen the partnership and cooperation between the FAO and Guyana, as well as between the FAO and the other countries and organizations in the region.