Remarks by CARDI Executive Director at Caribbean Week of Agriculture Opening

CARDI Executive Director, Mr. Ansari Hosein, addresses the opening of the 17th Caribbean Week of Agriculture

Executive Director of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Mr. Ansari Hosein, made remarks at the opening ceremony of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture in Nassau, The Bahamas, 10 October 2023.

Please read his remarks below:

Good morning!
The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) is pleased to join with the other agencies of the Secretariat of The Alliance and the Government of the Bahamas to host the 17th edition of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA).

The theme ‘Accelerating vision 25 by 2025’ is indeed very relevant to the Regional context, as it succinctly underpins the urgency with which our food systems must be transformed.
Why? Because:
1) Our food import bill is estimated at 6 billion USD annually.
2) In early 2023, food price increase varied between 66.7% and 4.2% for countries in CARICOM, impacting the affordability of food among citizens especially those with low incomes.
3) 52% of the English-speaking Caribbean is reported to be moderately to severely food insecure

The lingering impacts of the fallout from the COVID -19 pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine conflict in particular, coupled with our vulnerability to climate-related hazards have negatively impacted the sector’s contribution to food and nutrition security, wealth creation and employment.

With a population of over 16 million, an abundance of natural resources, a favourable climate and human capital which directly supports the production of healthy, wholesome food, it is unacceptable that the Region remains one of the most food-dependent in the world with a very high prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases (CNCDs). The burden of non-communicable diseases is not only inextricably linked to the food we eat but has been responsible for hindering our progress towards achieving sustainable development.

And this is why we need to support and advance the 25 x 2025 agenda, to produce our own healthy wholesome food. And this agenda can only be successful if we adopt a whole of community approach. We need to remove this notion about insularity. Yes, there are some national interests and this is understandable, but we must keep an eye and our focus on the macro regional interests. You know the saying, united we stand and divided we fall.

Vision 25 x 2025 recognises investment in research and development as a critical area of focus and we urge Member States, both public and private sectors, to bear this in mind. Continuous R and D is a necessity to increase production and productivity. It is not something to be seen as “by the way”. If anyone is thinking it, this is not the time to be holding back funding for R&D. As a matter of fact, now is the time for increasing the funding.

Rubenstein et al 2011 pointed out that nearly all productivity improvements are the result of research and development (R&D), whether they be mechanical (eg farm equipment), biological (eg plant and animal varieties) or management related (eg integrated pest management) and that individual agricultural producers are unlikely to reach the scale of production needed to recover R&D costs, which means most of the science applied to agriculture is developed by public research institutions or private companies.

In spite of a challenging environment, CARDI is committed to providing the science-based solutions needed to transform and reposition agriculture.
In this regard, we have aligned our research programmes and resource mobilization initiatives to contribute to achieving vision 25 by 2025. We continue to address production gaps and develop the value chains of key priority commodities identified by the Ministerial Task Force for import replacement.

During this week we will update you on the progress and results of our
ongoing research and development initiatives which target the development of some of these commodities. You will hear about our interventions in coconuts, incorporating digital technologies in agriculture, livestock feeding systems, plant breeding and so on. We will also be holding our 36th BoG Meeting.

As I mentioned earlier, it is obvious that no one agency, no one member state, on their own, can do all that is required. Our collective endeavors is needed to achieve vision 25 x 2025.

Therefore, this week is more than sharing and highlighting the results of our work and listening to feedback. This week is also about hearing and listening to our partners and other stakeholders and the work that they do. It is about networking and pursuing strategic partnerships to get the much-needed resources and investments to scale up innovative solutions and implement large-scale projects that will have the transformative impact needed to drive socio-economic growth and economic resilience.

We look forward to your active participation in the webinars hosted by CARDI. Likewise, our team looks forward to contributing and participating in the various events hosted by our partner agencies.

It is good to be back – face to face, to constructively dialogue, share experiences, network and develop clear strategies towards vision 25 x 2025. Nothing beats face-to-face interactions.

In closing, I wish to thank the Government and People of the Bahamas for being a most gracious host and members of the various planning committees for bringing this week to life. The results of your hard work is clear and appreciated.

I wish all participants an engaging and rewarding CWA 2023.

Thank you.


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