Potatoes. (AdobeStock)



Viewpoint: Building Innovative Solutions for Latin American Agriculture

By Paula Santilli, CEO of PepsiCo Latin America

Sponsored: PepsiCo is turning to nature-based solutions to regenerate agriculture, but we need public and private partners to unlock their full potential.

Nature-based solutions (NBS) are revolutionizing farming practices across the world. However, there are still significant barriers to farmers’ adoption of regenerative practices, including implementation costs, technology access, and lack of technical education and training. In this sponsored content, learn how the private sector is helping to adopt innovative and scalable solutions in Latin America.

If there is one thing I enjoy, it is visiting the fields where we grow our key ingredients throughout Latin America. It is something I have done since I was a child. Today, the difference is that, like many, I see in agriculture one of the greatest opportunities to address climate change and build sustainable food systems.

In a scenario where agriculture is responsible for roughly 24 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions; where 70 percent of the world's freshwater is used for agriculture; and where women farmers in Latin America earn 24 percent less than men, taking actions that contribute to building a sustainable, resilient, and more equitable food system is imperative.

That is why PepsiCo strives to spread regenerative farming practices across 7 million acres—an area about the size of Ecuador—and sustainably source 100 percent of key crops and ingredients. In Latin America, a region that produces enough food to meet the needs of 1.3 billion people around the world, this is an even more pressing demand. Specifically, we are working toward building soil health, sequestering carbon, and reducing emissions, restoring watersheds, enhancing biodiversity, and improving farmer livelihoods.

How can we address these critical challenges in our region? Here’s where nature-based solutions (NBS) come into the scene. NBS are actions to protect, sustainably manage, or restore natural ecosystems that address societal challenges such as climate change; human health; and food and water security. Estimates suggest that NBS can provide 37 percent of the mitigation needed until 2030 to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. The private sector—together with governments, multilateral development banks, NGOs, and others has a key role to play when considering how to drive solutions that accelerate sustainable agricultural practices in the region.

Across the globe we have demonstration farms—30 percent of which are in Latin America—a flagship program that allows us to support farmers within our supply chain in their transition to more sustainable approaches, leading to economic benefits, improved food security, and climate resilience. As a result, 100 percent of the potatoes we purchase are certified for Sustainable Farming Practices. Our demonstration farms have also had a documented impact on water savings: in 2022, farmers in Mexico saw reduced water use in more than 35 percent on average and increased potato yields by more than two tons per hectare.

More recently, we began taking a landscape approach to advancing positive and regenerative agriculture, marked by collaboration between stakeholders within a designated region—often spanning multiple crops, sectors, and land uses— to advance shared sustainability goals. In Latin America, we launched a flagship landscape initiative in Southeastern Mexico called Agrovita, and plan to expand into new priority landscapes as we progress on our Positive Agriculture journey. The program aims to support more than 37,000 farmers and drive regenerative practices to produce cacao, plantain, and palm oil on more than 29,000 acres, or an area about the size of Manhattan in Southeastern Mexico.

While PepsiCo has been working on a nature-positive approach for many years, we are accelerating our efforts to further build our capabilities in this space, including investing in on-the-ground impact programs, new tools, and technology, and fostering partnerships with our supply chain, industry peers and conservation experts.

There is much we can do to mobilize resources, drive innovation, and scale-up sustainable agricultural practices through nature-based solutions. However, there are key unlocks public and private actors need to work on to remove barriers to farmers’ adoption of regenerative practices such as: land formalization and proper functioning of the land register that secures legal certainty; science-based policy and public investments to improve productivity and competitiveness; co-investment in infrastructure, research, and development, as well as educational programs to support farmers in adopting new technologies.

For now, the positive impact of NBS we have observed first-hand within our supply chain inspires us to accelerate our pep+ journey—the end-to-end transformation of our business to bring sustainability to every point along the way—and to deepen and broaden the scope of our strategic partnerships. Our goal? Increase the scale of our programs and amplify their outcomes, while working towards a more sustainable and resilient agricultural sector in Latin America. It's a long road, but we're confident in our direction. 

Paula Santilli is the CEO of PepsiCo Latin America.