Could Panama solve the global food crisis?
By: Carolina Proaño Wexman, Dead of DEI, Gender and Environmental Communications
Globally, it has been demonstrated that ‘agroparques’ (or farms) promote community-managed agroforestry and agroecology initiatives. In turn, these can serve as a catalyst for landscape restoration, income, food and nutrition security both for communities at the local level, especially for rural women and youth, as well as at regional and national levels.
Taking advantage of its strategic position, as well as various banking and legal advantages, Panama is developing its own Agroparque and is currently seeking investments in technology to expand and enhance the impact of this project. It is expected to attract $700million of investment over the next decade, with 20,000 planted hectares and yearly exports worth $1billion. More than 100,000 direct jobs will also be created over that period.
This type of project would give the country the opportunity for the country to become a “food hub” for the region; a compelling and relevant proposition given the current environmental and economic crisis which, according to experts, is not going to improve in the short or medium term.
Droughts, floods and pollution are some of the problems that farmers are increasingly facing, affecting soils, economies and communities in general.
Panama is betting on Agroparks because projects like these guarantee the sustainability of production processes and can amplify their reach, thanks to investment in technology, as well as help communities by creating jobs, including women, and empowering farming communities to adapt to the new climate reality.
However, for the objective of these initiatives (sustainability, efficient production and market amplification) to be truly achieved and maintained, all aspects involved in the implementation of such projects should be considered.
In Latin America, there are agricultural production farms, financed by investors from Europe and the USA, which operate with cutting edge green technology and the latest cultivation, irrigation and extraction techniques. The interesting thing about these farms is that they produce while respecting the environment, the native flora and fauna and even taking advantage of the resources of the area where they are located. The products they harvest are native to the area.
But the most important impact is in human investment: decent wages and adequate working hours, promotion of parity and female leadership, as well as the creation of health programmes, free transport to the workplace and support in the construction of schools for the working community, as well as the integration of the community’s customs and culture into the labour culture and policies.
These types of initiatives are currently generating as many or more jobs and economic returns than the Panamanian Agroparque project.
And sustainability is real, because it is not based on the business and production model alone, but on the care and protection of the main actors for that sustainability to occur: the environment and the labour force that works it.
Considering these aspects when investing in this type of project could help to solve the food problem that is affecting the region. Panama can position itself as the Food Hub of Latin America and for European and US firms with technology and capital is the opportunity to make a positive impact.