How intercultural communication helps eradicate Latin America’s food insecurity.

Globally, 815 million people are undernourished, and as many as 2 billion suffer from nutrient deficiencies. If that number seems large, take into consideration that 3.7 million people (about twice the population of Cali, Colombia) in Guatemala continue to face elevated levels of acute food insecurity in regions such as Alta Verapaz, Baja Verapaz, Chimaltenango, Chiquimula, El Progreso, Huehuetenango, Jalapa, Jutiapa, Quetzaltenango, Quiché, San Marcos, Santa Rosa, Sololá, Suchitepéquez, Totonicapán and Zacapa. These regions have been classified by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) as being in Crisis (IPC Phase 3). According to the U.N., Latin America and the Caribbean are some of the world’s leading food-producing and exporting regions. It has enormous natural wealth, a flourishing agricultural industry, and a family farming sector that is fundamental for the food security of its population. The region produces sufficient food to meet the needs of all its inhabitants. The central problem concerning hunger in the region is not a lack of food, but the problems that the poorest members of society face in gaining access to that food.

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Communication is cultural, which means we share patterns with members of the same groups to which we belong (Martin & Nakayama). With the arrival of technology, what once separated us by vast oceans, has been effectively reduced by mobile devices and social networks.

As we plunge ourselves into a mobile world, communication becomes an integral part of our daily lives from business to politics, to social factors (Dzenowagis, A. (2008). Telecommunications reach has allowed for greater dissemination of information (i.e., social media, news, or pop culture, etc.), however, what has become increasingly important is how the recipient of the message decodes the communication. This is where misunderstandings of specific words, phrases, and humor online can often be misunderstood — thus inhibiting intercultural communication (Martin & Nakayama). This certain level of miscommunication can grow into skepticism and mutual suspicion among individuals, businesses, institutions such as schools, charities, and governments if left unresolved. (Communication: A Path to End Hunger, 2013). If you are still unsure how this relates to ending food insecurity, picture how miscommunication can lead to ineffective projects or coalitions that are designed to end hunger.

“The asynchronicity of some online communication allows nonnative speakers more time to compose a message and to decode and respond than is true to face-to-face interaction — thus facilitating communication. However, at the same time, language differences can lead to possible misunderstandings of specific words and phrases and humor online can often be misunderstood — thus inhibiting intercultural communication.” — Martin, J. and Nakayama, T. 2013. Chapter 10: Culture, Communication, and Intercultural Relationships. Intercultural Communication in Contexts: 7th Edition. Pp. 283.

There is no question about it, the ability to end hunger does not lie in one simple solution, and no single organization can actively end hunger. This will take the collective work of various sectors from businesses, non-profit organizations, individuals, and governments. The ability to communicate interculturally and effectively is key as this can create a path that increases cross-sector engagement and channels between the governments and their constituents. The type of collaboration described is certainly possible to execute, and it has made an impact in the effort to end hunger as described in a 2015 report by the U.N. Thanks to the global efforts, effective communication, and planning it displayed how the overall percentage of undernourished people in the world had declined from 15 percent in 2000–2004 to 8.9 percent in 2019.

Here are some key points to enhance our communication and ensure that the delivery of the message is coherent and understood by the recipient, we must keep the following items in mind:

First, we must understand the difference in culture and language. To achieve this there must be a deep understanding of our target audience.

Should a conflict occur, address it immediately. Conflict is inevitable in any communication sphere. If tension arises, address it quickly so that a small conflict does not balloon into something impossible to manage.

Finally, treat intercultural communications as relationships. Recognizing individuals and respecting their differences.

Technology is a great tool that will allow the continuation of intercultural communications. To be able to help those within the poorest countries we must improve our communication efforts to allow those in need to be heard. The stronger the communication between different sectors the greater the impact to end hunger.

Customer care professional completing an MA in Global Strategic Communications at UF. Adept at building brand trust and loyalty, seeking to connect and expand.

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