MEDA has taken a major step towards building new partnerships in Central America, by hosting a dialogue related to the upcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit.
Forty-three people attended the online event, which was held May 31 in Spanish. They included representatives from the Nicaraguan government, financial institutions, non-governmental organizations, a grocery store chain, cooperatives, and business development service providers.
“It was great in terms having of these different perspectives in attendance, said Jessica Villaneuva, MEDA’s technical director, impact investments.
While most participants were from Nicaragua, people from Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Brazil also took part.
The event was the first time MEDA has convened a dialogue on a regional scale. “For me, that was so great,” said Cony Peralta, country director for MEDA’s TechnoLinks + project in Nicaragua.
“Now everyone (in the region) knows who MEDA is and what MEDA does.”
The UN summit is sparking a series of meetings over the next few months. A pre-summit is taking place in Rome, Italy in July. Representatives of various governments will gather in New York in September.
About four million small farmers, with farms of five hectares (12.35 acres) or less, live in rural areas of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Peru.
As many as 700 million people in rural areas remain very poor.
A dialogue was one of the best ways MEDA could contribute to ideas and actions to bring about transformation of food systems, said Jennifer King, MEDA’s technical director, agricultural market systems.
MEDA wants to bring people together from different backgrounds, including voices that might not normally be heard, she said. It does this “to have honest and fruitful conversations about what about what the future looks like, and how can we all contribute to creating that future together.”
The UN Food and Agriculture Organization, which was represented at the dialogue, says food production must increase by 60 percent by 2050 to feed 7.5 billion people.
While demand for food is growing, there is also increasing competition for natural resources, worsening deforestation and soil degradation. Climate chance is compromising crop and livestock production, fish stocks and fisheries, presenters noted.
The Institute for Financing Small Farmers suggests that Latin American farmers face a $12.5 billion financing gap. Part of the dialogue centered around capital required to build resilience and improve livelihoods for small producers in Central America, Villaneuva said.
Micro-finance institutions can play a critical role in helping small producers build resilience, she said.
MEDA will write a summary report on the event and provide the UN secretariat with steps that could be taken to improve farmers situation.
The event provides several alliances and partnerships for MEDA to build on, Peralta said.
Participating companies will support MEDA’s efforts to build a larger group of suppliers for the technologies it helps farmers to adopt.
Other non-governmental organizations are now interested in submitting joint proposals with MEDA for new projects. Rikolto, which was co-convenor of the dialogue, already has offices in every country in the region, Peralta said.
Some private companies, such as regional supermarket chain La Colonia, have expressed interest in working with some MEDA partners.
“For me, it was a huge event in terms of what MEDA is doing,” she said. “It would be so amazing to have this kind of event in other regions where MEDA is working,”