Agriculture is a major economic driver in the Caribbean Development Agenda, particularly with respect to provision of rural livelihoods, income earning – both national and foreign exchange – food supply and food and nutrition sovereignty and poverty and hunger reduction. Achieving the objectives of this agenda requires a “New” Agriculture that:
The “New” agriculture will expand the boundaries of traditional agriculture and thus provide a larger platform and greater opportunities and benefits to society from the agri-food sector. As the only regional agricultural institution identified in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (Chapter 2, Article 21) of the Caribbean Community, CARDI has a key role in developing and promoting the “New” agriculture in the Region. In response to the concept of the “New” agriculture, CARDI has identified a number of Emerging Issues, which have the potential to improve food and nutrition security, increase investment opportunities for stakeholders along the value chain and strengthen cross-sectoral linkages. These Emerging Issues include Protected Agriculture, Herbals, Organic Agriculture and Agro-energy and this programme seeks to generate and validate technologies that facilitate the development of sustainable and competitive industries. Research and development interventions are mainly focused on Undercover / Protected agriculture, Organic agriculture and Herbals at this time.
During the past three years CARDI has intensified its research and development efforts to develop, and demonstrate and transfer organic agriculture production technologies. The demand for organic products have increased within the Caribbean Region, as consumers become more health conscious and concerned about environmental sustainability.
There continues to be an increased demand for large quantities of traditional herbs such as lemon grass (Cymbopogan spp.), shado beni (Eryngium foetidum L.) and cerasse (Momordica charantia L.), both in the pharmaceutical and culinary sectors, and the volumes required by the growing markets cannot be met. In some cases, very little is known on the cultivation of these plant species at commercial levels. Our current efforts in herbals production are geared towards the determination of suitable agronomic practices for the commercial production of herbals.
At present CARDI is not actively engaged in research and development on Agroenergy. However, in preparation for the inclusion of this area of “New” agriculture in our programme portfolio compilation of literature has started on the agroenergy capacity of key biomass, such as from switchgrass, castor oil and jatropha. The documentation includes the awareness of the initiatives of both the private and public sector in such countries as Barbados and Jamaica. We have also taken cognisance of several Regional initiatives and the Institute is also involved in mobilising resources for supporting projects in the area of agro-energy.