It may be hard for some of us to understand what it means to be hungry. This is especially true if you have the means to purchase groceries to make meals or go into a restaurant to order something to eat. Unfortunately, there are people in the Caribbean who are hungry and battling food insecurity. Figures released by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reveal that between 2019 and 2021, thirteen million people in Latin America and the Caribbean fell into hunger.
These figures, which are sad to see, reveal that many people in the region need access to healthy food. They also introduce us to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and its mandate. The FAO is an agency of the United Nations that fights global hunger and provides solutions to food issues around the globe. It aims to achieve food security and help people access nutritious food. Over the years, the agency has undertaken several activities to address challenges with food security, assess food risks, monitor the prices of specific food commodities, and provide access to quality data and statistics.
FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
The FAO has an office that supports efforts in the Caribbean and Latin America. The FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean supports 34 countries in the region and thus works towards guaranteeing food security for all residents. FAO member countries in Latin America and the Caribbean are:
Antigua and Barbuda; Argentina; Barbados; Belize; Bolivia; Brazil; Chile; Colombia; Costa Rica; Cuba; Dominica; Dominican Republic; Ecuador; El Salvador; Grenada; Guatemala; Guyana; Haiti; Honduras; Jamaica; Mexico; Nicaragua; Panamá; Paraguay; Peru; Saint Lucia; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines; Suriname; Trinidad and Tobago; Uruguay; and Venezuela.
The FAO’s headquarters are in Santiago, Chile and there are sub-regional offices for the Caribbean and Mesoamerica as well as a Technical Support Unit for the Southern Cone in Chile. The Caribbean sub-regional office was founded in 1996 and is located in Barbados. It aims to carry out the FAO’s mandate in the region by:
- “Putting available and accessible information within reach of all concerned stakeholders;
- Providing policy and strategic advice and sharing expertise;
- Providing a meeting place for nations;
- Bringing knowledge to the field, especially international best practices”
In a recent regional conference, the member countries in Latin America and the Caribbean agreed on three priorities for the region. They are:
- Sustainable agri-food systems
- Prosperous and inclusive rural societies
- Sustainable and resilient agriculture
To achieve these priorities, there has to be a collective effort by FAO staff and team members, residents and citizens of the Caribbean and Latin America and volunteers.
Volunteering at the FAO
By volunteering at the FAO you will make a valuable contribution to the food against food insecurity in the Caribbean. There are three volunteer programmes – the Internship Programme, the Fellows Programme and the Regular Volunteer Programme. The Regular Volunteer Programme provides specific opportunities for volunteers in member countries. It is an unpaid programme that mobilises volunteers from FAO member countries. Volunteers are assigned to supervisors and will be required to work in a field that is relevant to the work of the agency.
All volunteers must meet the specific eligibility criteria as outlined below:
- Nationality: Must be a national of an FAO members countries
- Education: Volunteers must have completed secondary school education.
- Languages: Working knowledge of at least one FAO official language. These languages are English, French, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese and Russian. Knowledge of a second FAO official language is an asset.
- Age: Volunteers must be aged 18 or older.
- Skills: Volunteers should be able to function in a multicultural environment, be able to communicate well with others and be knowledgeable in the use of basic computer programmes.
- Residence/Visa Status: Volunteers should have legal residency or immigration status in the country of assignment.
- Family Relation: Applicants with immediate family members (i.e. brother, sister, mother, father, son or daughter) employed by FAO under any type of contractual arrangement are not eligible for the programme.
Additionally, applicants should possess these core competencies:
- Results Focus
- Building Effective Relationships
- Knowledge Sharing and Continuous Improvement
Volunteer intakes are published as a “Call for Expression of Interest” on the FAO’s career portal. Applicants interested in volunteering at the FAO should apply through the portal and include a motivation letter in their application.