Photo Contribution: Wasan Ritthawon/ shutterstock.com
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) reached an agreement to prioritize their joint actions in this region, with a view to strengthening the food and nutrition security of the population and the climate resilience of the agricultural sector.
The agreement was signed during a visit by Carla Barnett, Secretary-General of CARICOM, to the IICA Headquarters in San José, Costa Rica, where she met with Manuel Otero, Director General of this hemispheric organization specialized in agriculture and rural development.
The agreement proposes joint advances in the areas of policymaking for agricultural and rural development, production systems, promotion of value chains, resilience of the agricultural sector and improvement of land use in the Caribbean countries.
“The Caribbean is a valuable pillar for the development of agriculture, and we must work together to improve living conditions in our nations; this requires focus and attention. CARICOM is celebrating 50 years of existence with its eyes open and with the vision of what we must do better, which is to work together with the citizens”, stated Barnett.
In this region, most countries are net importers of food and at least seven states import more than 80% of their food, according to the Secretary-General, who was accompanied by the Agricultural and Agro-Industry Development Programme Manager at CARICOM, Shaun Baugh; and the President of the Board of Directors of CATIE and Honorary Consul of Belize in Guyana, Gale Garnett.
The import food bill in the Caribbean is estimated at USD 6 billion, Barnett added, while acknowledging that the humanitarian situation in Haiti is critical and requires urgent support to address the food and nutritional insecurity of its inhabitants.
“In Caribbean agriculture, digital technologies must be incorporated to increase productivity and remove trade barriers, as well as to improve transportation services for agri-food products among the island states of the region,” she added.
“We signed this agreement as a renewal of our commitment to work closely with IICA, and to show our appreciation for what we have done together in the past and our desire to move forward,” said Barnett.
A Belizean national, Carla Barnett is the first woman to serve as Secretary-General of CARICOM, whose headquarters are in Georgetown, Guyana.
This constituted the first visit by the highest ranking official of CARICOM to IICA Headquarters.
As immediate agreements of the meeting, the Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero, explained that the Institute will strengthen capacities for the biofortification of agricultural products in the Caribbean and will work on a proposal to strengthen the implementation of best agricultural health practices in this region. .
“Our Observatory of Public Policies for Agrifood Systems is ready to work with CARICOM and offer more robust information for decision-making on regional agriculture. We will also promote stronger ties with international scientific and research centers, since agriculture in the Caribbean and the Americas must be knowledge-intensive to face the major current challenges” stated Otero.
The meeting was also attended by directors and managers from IICA’s administrative, project and technical cooperation areas, who informed the CARICOM Secretary-General about the Institute’s hemispheric initiatives that involve the Caribbean countries, such as promoting alliances for food security and sustainable water management which mobilize collective actions by all the countries of the Americas.
In the Caribbean, IICA has nearly 90 professionals in the agricultural sector, whose work priorities in these nations are the development and strengthening of climate resilience, water management for agriculture, the promotion of intraregional trade, inclusion and empowerment of youth and women, policy formulation, promotion of agrotourism and the integration of new technologies, among other areas.
CARICOM and IICA recognized the importance of working in an integrated manner on regional initiatives such as the Alliance for the Sustainable Development of Agriculture and the Rural Milieu in the Caribbean, the Special Ministerial Taskforce on Food Production and Food Security, and the Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Cluster. Also important is the Caribbean Week of Agriculture, the main event of the agricultural sector in this region.