CIS students show Peruvian coffee farmers how to use cost model software as part of a previous project to evaluate production costs and negotiate fair prices with international buyers.

Partnership aims to improve food security in Latin America

Cornell University and the Core Foundation have signed a Memorandum of Agreement to explore new ways to promote food security and agricultural innovation in Peru and across Latin America. 

The five-year agreement signed June 12 will enhance research collaboration and academic exchange and accelerate Cornell’s scientific involvement in food issues in the region.

“Threats to food security in Latin America are on the rise as climate change disrupts food production and imperils the livelihoods of farmers,” said K.V. Raman, associate director of International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (IP-CALS). “Cornell expertise in international agriculture and development can have a real and sustainable impact as we work together to confront challenges felt throughout the hemisphere.”

CALS has a history of involvement in food security issues in Latin America. The Core Foundation was founded in 2015 to work on world economic development challenges, especially those faced by the Americas. Cornell and Core will collaborate on international academic exchange, develop academic and scientific relationships, and support new research activities. The parties said the agreement has significant potential to confront challenges facing the region and initially will focus on improving Peru’s agricultural industry. 

Ricardo Torreblanca, president of Core, said the project will spur economic growth and agricultural production in Peru and will expand across both South and North America. He said Cornell is positioned to play a leading role with them in helping countries achieve zero hunger goals set by the United Nations.

“Tackling the problem of food security by 2030 is a huge undertaking,” Torreblanca said. “To be successful, we need partners and top universities to get involved, and Cornell is one of the best universities in the world and well known in agriculture and international development. We see strong opportunities for science and technology to spur agricultural growth for the people of the Americas.”

Political instability and lack of resources have hampered Peru’s agriculture sector for the past four decades, Torreblanca said. He pointed to modern technologies such as satellite mapping and soil testing that have not been widely adopted in Peru but could benefit that country. 

Approximately 22% of the country’s population lives below the poverty line and struggles to access nutritional food, according to the World Food Program. 

Organizational clusters focused on specific products have emerged in Latin America in recent years. High-value agricultural clusters, such as wine in Chile or avocados in Mexico, connect farmers and food businesses. Bolstering these clusters with research expertise can make these networks more competitive, according to Torreblanca.

“Collaborations with Cornell scientists will help expand technology in the agricultural sector and address food insecurity while making farming more profitable and productive. Core Foundation wants the Americas to feed the world by 2030, and this collaboration will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills,” he said.

Cornell has been active promoting food security across Latin America for decades, from economists studying coffee production to scientists promoting food safety in manufacturing; to plant breeders who are developing new, improved high-yielding pest- and disease-resistant cultivars; to sustainability experts exploring the impacts of climate change. The new agreement furthers those gains, Raman said.

“Skyrocketing population growth makes it imperative that agricultural production keep pace,” Raman said. “We see tremendous potential for growth and prosperity. This agreement positions us to make sure all Latin Americans can access the nutritional food they will need in the decades ahead.”

Maina Dhital is a communications specialist in International Programs in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

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Lindsey Knewstub