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Circular economy + bioeconomy: Latin America and the Caribbean presented a formula to boost productivity and increase sustainability in front of a large audience at COP28 in Dubai

Del evento participaron Lloyd Day, Subdirector General del IICA; Silvia Naishtat, periodista senior y editora del diario Clarín; Marcello Britto, secretario ejecutivo del Consorcio Amazonía Legal; y Rattan Lal, máxima autoridad mundial en ciencias del suelo y Premio Mundial de la Alimentación en 2020, quien lo hizo vía videoconferencia.
Participating in the event were Lloyd Day, Deputy Director General of IICA; Silvia Naishtat , senior journalist and editor of Clarín newspaper; Marcello Brito, executive secretary of the Amazon Legal Consortium; and Rattan Lal, the world’s leading authority on soil sciences and World Food Prize winner in 2020, who joined via videoconference.

Dubai, United Arab Emirates, 8 December 2023 (IICA) - The circular economy and the bioeconomy are complementary concepts through which the region of Latin America and the Caribbean has been able to increase its productivity and sustainability in recent years, as demonstrated by key actors in the agricultural sector at COP28, the most important global environmental negotiation and discussion forum taking place in the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

The setting for this motivating presentation was the Home of Sustainable Agriculture of the Americas, a pavilion that the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) installed together with its 34 Member States and other strategic partners from the private sector at the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

The event demonstrated with concrete data that the countries of the region have reached consensus on multiple issues in recent years to strengthen their agri-food systems in the face of the challenges posed by the environmental crisis, which requires stronger adaptation to the increasingly extreme and frequent weather events while contributing to global mitigation objectives.

Scientist Rattan Lal, the world’s leading authority on soil sciences and World Food Prize winner in 2020; Marcello Brito, executive secretary of the Amazon Legal Consortium; and Lloyd Day, Deputy Director General of IICA, all agreed that the region, with the new frontier of science, technology and information, has an extraordinary opportunity to leverage the wealth of natural resources to produce goods and services, as is already being demonstrated.

The moderator of the discussion was Silvia Naishtat, senior journalist and editor of Clarín, the largest newspaper in Argentina and one of the most influential Spanish-speaking media outlets.

Rattan Lal underscored the importance of soils for food and agriculture and pointed out that their health is essential for the fulfillment of a good part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which the international community established as part of the 2030 Agenda. He also explained that without healthy soils it is impossible to envision the end of poverty, universal access to clean water or the protection of terrestrial ecosystems.

“All of these objectives depend directly or indirectly on the health of soils, which must be given the attention they require; this is essential for human life”, said Professor Lal , who warned that, “like every living entity, the soil has rights”.

Professor Lal, together with IICA, leads the Living Soils of the Americas Program, which since 2020 has articulated the efforts of governments and the private sector aimed at fighting against erosion. He explained that there are various tools, such as regenerative agriculture, digital agriculture and artificial intelligence that can be used to protect the health of the soil.

“The link between soil health and human health is crucial, as food comes from healthy soils. The land is like a bank account with a return cycle. If we sequester carbon, the gains outweigh the losses. On the other hand, if the soil loses carbon, the opposite happens”, explained the award-winning scientist.

Lal also referred to the need to recognize the carbon sequestered in soils by farmers who apply good practices as a commodity that can be put into markets, in the same way as grains or meat.

“This is a way –he claimed– to empower farmers to produce more with fewer natural resources. If we make changes in our modes of production and consumption, it is possible to put a stop to climate change, and agriculture must be a solution”.

Marcello Brito expressed optimism due to the considerable number of debates on regenerative agriculture and transformation of production patterns, including circularity, which take place at the COP, but considered that the priority should be the participation of farmers.

“We need scientists to do science and producers to produce. The greatest power of farmers is demonstration. Today much progress has been made in regenerative agriculture”, he explained.

Brito is the head of the Amazon Legal Consortium, made up of the nine states of the Brazilian Amazon and whose mission is to promote the sustainable development of this vital ecosystem for the world, in an integrated and cooperative manner, considering regional opportunities and challenges.

Brito explained how Brazil went from being a food importer in the 1960s to currently being an agricultural world power by bringing together the government, the private sector and civil society, with a very important role by the financial sector.

“We have 70 million hectares dedicated to agriculture and 140 million hectares of grasslands. The livestock average is less than one cow per hectare, which shows inefficiency. As livestock technology improves and productivity increases, more space becomes available for crops. In the last 5 years, the agricultural area grew by 6 million hectares”, Brito said.

The Amazon representative also said he hopes that COP30, which will take place in 2025 in Belém, capital of the Amazonian state of Pará, will leave a lasting legacy. “We must not only discuss finances, but also nature”, he noted.

On this topic, the Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero, pointed out that “the bioeconomy is an ideal tool for Latin America and the Caribbean to tap into the potential of its extraordinary natural resources, by moving away from its primary production matrix, and boosting development in harmony with nature”.

For his part, Lloyd Day presented a series of successful cases in which the combination of bioeconomy and circular economy in Latin America and the Caribbean has helped leverage the complete life cycle of crops and produce goods and services in harmony with the environment.

“We are reducing greenhouse gas emissions –he stated– and sequestering more carbon in the soil, which demonstrates that agriculture in our region is aligned with global climate change mitigation efforts and is part of the solution to the challenges we face”.

More information:
Institutional Communication Division.