Tourism as a source of opportunity. Developing alliances is essential for small farmers
At a time when Latin American nations continue to be buffeted by social and environmental events, agriculture offers an alternative means to incorporate the most disadvantaged groups into development processes, thereby mitigating this problem.
Isolated efforts will not provide enduring and sustainable solutions. Generating chains and building alliances between various civil society actors and public-private partners is the only way to improve the prospects of those faced with the option of abandoning the countryside to seek their fortune in urban areas or even in other countries.
Undoubtedly, migration has a significant impact on the agriculture sector and this is markedly so when small farmers are not part of any networking process, have minimal access to technology and credit and do not own land.
As migration increases and the effects of climate change intensify, opportunities decline for those who are ill-equipped to tackle this dilemma and to escape poverty.
The agriculture sector has great potential to curb the phenomenon of migration through the creation of production chains, proper training, the development of local markets and exports.
In the Caribbean, which is one of the regions most affected by these phenomena, the tourism industry attracts an average of 30 million visitors each year, with an annual growth rate of close to 4.4%. However, most of the food that it consumes is imported, rather than produced locally, since small farmers lack the requisite tools and conditions to supply this industry.
We need to continue to develop strategies in which we incorporate these elements as focal points for development. Although it may only be part of the solution, training rural populations is key to ensuring that national development strategies are sustainable over the long term.
At IICA, we generate a variety of technical cooperation instruments, for example, export platforms that train producers and agricultural SMEs, in order to equip them to access new markets and also to improve the quality of products in local markets.
As such, we have trained producers in areas ranging from agronomic soil management to transformation processes, value added and finally to market access and sanitary measures for the export market.
We can point to several practical examples in a number of countries in the Central American, Andean and Caribbean region. In terms of self-sufficiency, Belize is a particularly outstanding case, given that 100 percent of the food consumed in its local market is locally produced, and the increase in production has now prompted efforts to implement a process of transformation and value added, for the purpose of exportation.
Much remains to be done in terms of developing partnerships, resilience and markets. At the Institute, we firmly believe that though this type of initiative, we can encourage rural populations to view agriculture as an opportunity to improve the quality of their lives, generate employment and transform their communities from being the most vulnerable ones into those that will drive the development of Latin America’s nations.
Gabriel Rodríguez Marqués, Coordinator, IICA Project Unit.