The 16th edition of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) was virtually launched by the CARICOM Secretariat and partner organisations – the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) on 15th September 2021. The CWA will be held from 4th – 8th October 2021 under the theme “Transforming our food systems.” It is the first time the event will be held virtually.
During the week, the main partners, as well as other regional and international agencies, will host webinars on various topics geared towards finding solutions to the challenges affecting regional agriculture. A Special Meeting of the Agriculture Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) will also be convened. Additionally, a Virtual Marketplace will feature the products and services of more than 50 exhibitors over the course of the week.
The feature address was delivered by the Minister of Agriculture for Guyana, Zulfikar Mustapha. The Minister stated that “Notwithstanding the obvious challenges posed by the pandemic, the fact that CWA 2021 is being launched today, is indicative of the commitment, determination, innovativeness and the acknowledgement of the importance and the crucial role and place, that agriculture occupies in this region, be it in food and nutrition security or employment and income generation. The message is clear, not even a pandemic will stop us from doing what is necessary for the advancement of regional agriculture.”
Ignatius Jean, Chairman of CARDI Board of Directors, reiterated the need for Caribbean countries to “rethink the way we produce and consume food.” He emphasised that CARDI is committed to partnering with stakeholders to provide science-based solutions to lead the transformation of regional food systems.
Dr Julio Antonio Berdegue, FAO Assistant Director-General, in bringing remarks noted that the Region’s US$ 5B food import bill, creates a dependence that leads to “enormous risks”. He warned that “we cannot deal with these big challenges in a piecemeal way,” pointing out that the issues were inter-connected and interdependent and had to be addressed in a cohesive and strategic way.
Speaking on behalf of the Agriculture Alliance for the Caribbean, Mr Errington Thompson noted that the access to data, land, markets, insurance, technology, training, incentives and funding will allow us to adapt and mitigate climate change and solve problems of praedial larceny and income inequality among other areas.