Latin America is known for its agricultural lands that grow and harvest some of America’s favorite products: coffee and avocados. The region’s agricultural sector makes up a high percentage of the economy and its vast, rural lands are enriched with agrobiodiversity. Rural inhabitants, 18% of the overall population, make up 29% of the poor population. Investing in technology within the agricultural industry has proven that it can help reduce the high rates of rural poverty in Latin America, and here is how.
Poverty levels remain high in rural Latin America where agriculture is the dominant line of work. According to a recent study, about 77 million rural inhabitants in the region are confronted with a “connectivity gap.” This gap not only impedes their access to technology, but, according to The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), also creates “a barrier to health, education, social services, work, and the overall economy.” Providing rural inhabitants equal access to technology can potentially increase their food production and “break the vicious cycle generating insecurity, poverty and migration.”
Universally, as a result of rural farmers adopting technology in developed countries, it has boosted productivity within the agriculture sector leading to the creation of more jobs and rising incomes. According to the IICA, a 1% increase in wireless internet penetration would result in an overall 0.15% GDP increase, in comparison to the “fixed broadband penetration that would result in a 0.08% increase in GDP” for the region.
Recent reports from the World Bank demonstrate that Latin America’s role in the “agri-food system” is “technically inefficient, socially inequitable, fiscally irresponsible, and environmentally unsustainable.”
The IICA is designing technological tools suitable, equitable and inclusive to use to sustain and enhance Latin America’s agricultural development. Apart from creating these tech tools, the IICA is being mindful of the low-skilled workers and the rural connectivity gap, introducing them to information and communication technology (ICT), which, in turn, has proved to have helped rural living conditions in Latin America. Technological changes in the region’s agricultural sustainability can augment production growth and trade, create new jobs, raise incomes, preserve natural resources and reduce food and nutrition insecurity and rural poverty in Latin America.
In February 2022, the U.N.’s International Fund for Agricultural Development launched Innovatech. This type of agricultural technology is helping to alleviate rural poverty in five Latin American countries: Bolivia, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala and Mexico. This project is assisting rural development, small-scale farmers and rural inhabitants by ensuring that farmers have access to modern technology, tools and services to prosper in today’s agricultural economy. Innovatech has so far helped 9,000 rural households and is striving to improve more linkages with smallholder farmers across the region.
The lack of developing new technology is hindering the agricultural sector in Latin America. Specific numbers on productivity, job creation, income and poverty reduction as a result of technology adoption are excruciatingly scarce, yet tech projects like Innovatech are making an effort to take the first steps of documenting — and alleviating — rural poverty in Latin America.
– Amy Contreras