Transforming agriculture…

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The power of the spoken words “building agri-food value chain in attempts to achieve sustainability” from the recent Agri-Investment Forum and Expo should be transformational for regional food and nutrition security.

The unification of Caricom in this current era of global disruptive changes is vital to buffer the Caribbean region from supply chain challenges. The confluence of the three concurrent global crises – the challenges brought about by climate change events, the pandemic and the Russo-Ukrainian war – must propel a realistic agenda for the region to achieve food and nutrition security.

Sir Arthur Lewis must not be forgotten for his legendary contribution in the 1950s, some 70 years ago, that agricultural development must continue alongside industrial development and that neither can go very far unless the other is occurring at the same time.

We now find ourselves in a situation of “catch-up” brought on by these global challenges threatening the region’s supply of food, and haunted by Lewis’s words.

The current cost of living is attributed to higher food prices making the supply and access to food difficult.

The threat of urbanisation and limited land space also compromises the amount of food which can be produced on arable land. We need to find solutions to improve sustainable agricultural productivity. This will require innovative ways to produce more food on less land using contemporary farming methods.

In the developing world, because of poor technological infrastructure, much of the food produced is lost. Agriculture systems worldwide must become productive and less wasteful, There is need to ensure, as we move forward with an agenda for regional food and nutrition security, that post-harvest technological practices are adopted. It is all well and good to increase production, but protecting the nutritional quality of the food produced is just as important.

The Agro-Investment Forum and Expo has cleansed the lens for a new vision and future outlook for food and nutrition security, but we need to “walk the walk” and not just “talk the talk.” We need to co-ordinate, as a region, an agenda to ensure that we buffer the negative extra-regional impacts on our food supply system.

This can be achieved by embracing contemporary farming practices within an agro-ecological context and through attracting more young people into food production activities.

The Government should be commended for the introduction of the Youth Agriculture Homestead Programme (YAHP), which is providing training and incentives to safeguard future food producers and to increase the overall agricultural output from new farming spaces.

“Whether it’s chicken curry or curry chicken we will curry, it is important to eat what we grow and grow what we eat!”

JESSE HARRIPERSAD