CWA 2021 allows process of strategic dialogue, information sharing to continue on specific needs of Caribbean Agri-Food sector – IICA Deputy Director General
Remarks by Mr. Lloyd Day, Deputy Director General, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)
I bring you greetings from IICA Director General, Dr. Manuel Otero, who cannot be with us today.
It is indeed an honour and pleasure for IICA to partner once again with the CARICOM Secretariat, FAO, CARDI and other regional partners to host the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA).
The theme for this 16th edition of CWA – ‘Transforming our Food Systems’ is indeed highly relevant for our Region. The Americas and the Caribbean is a diverse region as it relates to the state of its food systems. On one hand, the region contributes to global food and nutritional security by being the main food exporting region and the largest ecosystem service provider and source of biodiversity. On the other, there are countries, particularly in the Caribbean, that are heavily dependent on food imports which makes them vulnerable to potential disruptions in food supplies, and to food and nutrition insecurity. The region is also critical to environmental sustainability and the mitigation of climate change effects at the global level.
The theme is also timely as this CWA comes on the heels of the historic UN Food Systems Summit (UNFSS) held on 23 September, which sought to empower all people to leverage the power of food systems to drive our recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and get us back on track to achieve all 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.
IICA was pleased to lead a process of dialogue with the countries of the Americas and the Caribbean in developing and presenting 16 Key Messages to the Summit. Central to these messages were three themes: (1) that farmers must be part of the discussion; (2) that science must be the foundation for policy formulation; and (3) that agriculture must be part of the solution to address our environmental challenges.
During 2020, Caribbean Agriculture, local food systems and rural communities were hard hit by COVID-19, experiencing food supply chain disruptions, higher freight costs, job layoffs and price inflation in inputs and supplies. The pandemic has resulted in declines of up to 50% in export of goods and services, 80% in tourism, a projected 10% in GDP, and on average 7% in overall employment.
IICA acted with flexibility, adjusting our approach to support member country COVID-19 responses while simultaneously delivering technical cooperation. Among our first actions was to facilitate dialogue, with Ministers of Agriculture, Rural women, Youth and Private sector, resulting in a better appreciation of macro and micro level COVID-19 impacts, identification of priorities for technical assistance, and agreements to pursue joint responses to mitigate impacts and secure livelihoods.
IICA consolidated its technical cooperation resources into a US$550,000 dollar Special COVID-19 Caribbean Response Fund to support food and nutrition security. We also launched a successful Crowd Funding campaign to enhance access of vulnerable communities in Antigua & Barbuda and Haiti to obtain basic agricultural inputs, including seeds and irrigation equipment
Productivity in the traditional crop sectors was enhanced with IICA facilitating hands-on training for farmers and extension staff in Grenada and St. Kitts & Nevis for banana farmers; and with Piloting of zinc-biofortified and iron-biofortified rice and red bean and black bean advanced breeding lines in Guyana and Belize through the CARICOM BioFortification Network. This is a GREAT PROJECT!
Two major achievements in 2020 strengthened IICA’s capacity to support countries to build the groundwork for a climate resilient, productive and low emissions agriculture. IICA’s first-time partnership with the Green Climate Fund will deliver a regional readiness project in 9 CARICOM countries; and with the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund, we are implementing an ecosystem-based adaptation project in 4 CARICOM countries using vetiver grass.
Agriculture climate resilience support also included improving soil health to create and sustain healthy agri-food systems in the Region; and promoting the bioeconomy through an organic waste management programme that hosted 20 composting training events, involved over 400 stakeholders and 79 partner organizations and which resulted in 30 small scale pilot projects in 6 countries.
IICA continues to facilitate the transition to digital agriculture supporting the development of Apps for information sharing, marketing and trade. At the regional level, a Government-to-Government Cari-Agri Trade trading portal developed by IICA is being piloted in collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat in 7 CARICOM countries, and an Agricultural Extension APP, also developed by IICA, is currently being installed in CARICOM countries.
IICA and its partners have always been sympathetic in emergencies. Their solidarity and support have made a decisive impact on agricultural rehabilitation, the re-establishment of the affected population and on the strengthening of capacities to address future emergencies. In 2021, we gave priority to St. Vincent & the Grenadines in the aftermath of the eruption of the Soufriere volcano, through the provision of 11,000 packets of seeds from Brazil, and the acquisition of greenhouses for production of vegetable seedlings. We were also able to respond to the flooding crises in Guyana and Suriname.
The Republic of Haiti experienced the effects of an earthquake on August 14 in the country’s southern peninsula, resulting in the regrettable loss of at least 2,000 lives and extensive material damage, including the destruction of more than 61,000 homes, and affecting close to 137,000 families, particularly in rural areas. Among other serious consequences, the damage to agricultural production, rural infrastructure and food supply channels has further endangered the food security of that country’s inhabitants. Moreover, the agriculture sector and food security in Haiti have been further debilitated by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the recent passage of Tropical Storm Grace.
I am pleased to report that a key resolution of the IICA ministerial meeting, the IABA, held in September has resolved to instruct IICA to collaborate with its strategic partners to provide technical cooperation services and to coordinate the necessary assistance to mitigate the impact on the agriculture and rural sector of Haiti, particularly to support family farmers with seeds and inputs, given the upcoming planting season for corn and beans.
The IABA also resolved that IICA work as part of an integrated global response to the outbreak of African Swine Fever. We will address this issue later this week in a specific session for the CWA discussion of ASF. But we are in close collaboration with the OIE, FAO, and regional sanitary authorities as well as those of other member states such as the United States and Canada to develop a strategic response and international assistance.
The CWA allows us to continue the process of strategic dialogue and information sharing, and to address the recommendations of the Global Summit and the specific expressed needs of the Agri-Food sector here in the Caribbean Region.
The Director General wishes to extend his profound gratitude to the Ministers of Agriculture of the Caribbean for their vote of confidence in installing him once more at the helm of the Institute, and pledges to continue to develop IICA as a ‘Bridge’ for technical cooperation and an open door to the future of Agriculture.
Finally, on behalf of IICA let me wish all of the organisers and participants, a successful CWA 2021.