Ibero-American South-South and Triangular Cooperation in food and nutritional security

The prevalence of hunger and poverty in the Latin-American and Caribbean region is a priority challenge on the regional development agenda.

According to the 2022 “Regional Overview of Food Security and Nutrition”, 22.5% of people living in Latin-American and the Caribbean do not have enough means to access a healthy diet. In the Caribbean, 52% of the population has been affected by this situation; in Meso-America, this number reaches 27.8% and, in South-America, it climbs to 18.4% (FAO et al., 2022, p.35).

Intense efforts are being made, at the national and local levels, to address this challenge and international cooperation in general, and South-South Cooperation (SSC) and Triangular Cooperation (TC) in particular, can be effective instruments to tackle it. Indeed, between 2015 and 2021, Ibero-American countries have implemented 726 SSC and TC initiatives which objective is directly linked to Food and Nutritional Security (FNS): 9 programs, 597 projects and 120 specific actions. More than 80% correspond to Bilateral SSC, projects being the most common instrument. Projects on FNS represent more than one-fifth (22.3%) of Ibero-American SSC and TC projects in the analyzed period.

Seventy-two percent (72%) are associated with the Agriculture and livestock and Fisheries sectors; however, other 14 sectors have also been identified (for example Industry, Health, etc.), which confirms FNS is indeed a cross-cutting issue. Graph 1 shows that, since 2015, SSC and TC initiatives on FNS have been declining, following the trend of all SSC and TC in Ibero-America (SEGIB, 2023). Nevertheless, the percentage of projects on FNS over the total number of projects remained almost stable throughout the period, at around 20%. In addition, the percentage of projects on FNS that explicitly have a climate change or sustainability (CCS) approach has nearly doubled between 2015 and 2021, a trend that follows that of the Environment sector and that is in line with the sustainable development approach on which the 2030 Agenda focuses.

Graph 1. Evolution of Ibero-American SSC and TC initiatives on FNS by type of instrument, percentage of projects on FNS overall Ibero-American SSC and TC, and percentage of projects on FNS with a climate change or sustainability approach. 2015-2021.

In units and percentage.

Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates-General for Cooperation.

In terms of the topics addressed, projects on FNS were organized into 4 different categories covering the entire food cycle: production, distribution and consumption, in addition to a general category . As Graph 2 shows, 72% of SSC and TC projects on FNS in Ibero-America correspond to Production. Those associated with the Agriculture and livestock topic stand out (53% of projects on FNS), followed by those related to Food industry (9%), Aquaculture and fisheries (8%) and Apiculture (2%).

Graph 2. Ibero-American SSC and TC projects on FNS by category and subcategory. 2015-2021.

In percentage.

Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates General for Cooperation.

In the Agriculture and Livestock subcategory, projects aimed at family farming and subsistence, for small-scale producers’ productivity and competitiveness stood out. Initiatives which addressed the recovery of degraded soils, the development of silvopastoral systems, the efficient use of water for agricultural production and irrigation technology are also frequent. Projects related to animal and plant health, which support the integrated management of pests, livestock diseases and phyto and zoosanitary control, should also be mentioned. Finally, the genetic improvement of agricultural products and livestock stands out in terms of biotechnology, in order to increase productivity and resistance to adverse weather conditions.

With respect to food industry, projects mainly focus on the dairy chain and the processing of products such as cocoa and coffee. In turn, initiatives related to Aquaculture and Fisheries tackled sanitary aspects and the sustainable management of marine resources, among other issues.

On the other hand, 16% of the projects were categorized under Consumption, which is almost equally divided between Safety and Nutrition. Initiatives related to food safety, in turn, address various aspects that are necessary to make food and water safe for human consumption. Among these topics, pesticide residues and microplastics, and the monitoring and prevention of health risks, should be highlighted. The Nutrition subcategory includes matters such as breastfeeding, nutritious food during childhood, obesity prevention, food labeling, etc.

The remaining initiatives are divided into Distribution (5%) and FNS in general (6%). Most of the projects associated with the former are trade-related, mainly focused on the facilitation of trade in agriculture and livestock, aquaculture and fishery products. On the other hand, those related to FNS in general address the different aspects of a comprehensive strategy on the subject (including hunger reduction), and are also related to rural development.

In addition, Graph 3 shows the most active countries in terms of Bilateral SSC and TC projects in Ibero-America on FNS. The list is led by Argentina and Mexico with 177 and 169 projects, respectively. Both countries mainly participate as providers, or even “bidirectionally” (as provider and recipient), the latter being more frequent in Mexico’s case.

Graph 3. Most active countries in Ibero-American Bilateral SSC and TC projects on FNS by role. 2015-2021.

In units

Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates General for Cooperation.

Argentina’s commitment to provide knowledge and transfer experiences to other partners is related to long-standing institutional strengthening at the national level through the work of the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA by its Spanish acronym). Between 2010 and 2022, INTA has carried out 158 projects involving more than 450 missions that resulted in technical exchanges between more than 1,100 professionals (Barreto and Torres, 2022, p. 13).

Mexico, in turn, has shared its experience in FNS on a wide range of topics. An example of this is the Program Sembrando vida, which seeks to address rural problems – one of the causes of irregular migration – in a multidimensional manner (UNDP, 2022, p. 19). This Program has been carried out in El Salvador and Honduras, and will soon be replicated in Guatemala, Belize and Cuba.

Brazil, the fourth largest agricultural producer in the world (IFAD, 2023), also stands out for its contribution to regional FNS. It ranks third as Bilateral SSC and TC provider and, in addition to its active cooperation in terms of Production, it makes a special contribution to Nutrition and the reduction of neonatal mortality by transferring the experience of Human Milk Banks.

Colombia, which participates in the same number of Bilateral SSC and TC projects on FNS as Brazil, is characterized by its strictly bidirectional profile. For example, as provider, it was able to technically assist Paraguay in the creation of its National Food and Nutrition Survey, a key instrument to diagnose the nutritional status of a society and facilitate better targeting of public policies and budgets (University of Antioquia – UDEA by its Spanish acronym -, 2016).

On the other hand, Chile, which prioritized the roles of provider or “both” (provider and recipient), stands out for its cooperation in aquaculture and fisheries, for example, through initiatives related to technological development, the management of hydrobiological resources, the prevention of illegal fishing and the development of a circular economy in aquaculture. Finally, Bolivia, Peru, Honduras, El Salvador and Cuba were also very active Bilateral SSC and TC projects on FNS between 2015 and 2021, almost always as recipients, except in Peru’s case.

May 2024


Source: SEGIB based on Agencies and Directorates General for Cooperation, Barreto and Torres (2022), FAO et al (2023, p.35), IFAD (2023), UNDP (2022), SEGIB (2023) and UDEA (2016).

Photos: Image bank on South-South and Triangular Cooperation in Ibero-America. SEGIB-PIFCSS. 2021-2024.