The Caribbean is one of the most food dependent regions in the world. With an annual food import bill estimated at USD 5 billion and climbing, much of the data is pointing to the fact that the Region is operating below its potential to feed itself. The global economic downturn, low productivity, pests and diseases, heightened food prices, increased frequency and intensity of natural hazards, climate variability and extremes compounded by the fallout from the COVID- 19 pandemic and the Russia/Ukraine conflict continue to undermine the achievement of food security targets in the Region.
Disrupted food supply chains have forced the transaction cost of goods up, leaving many without the means to access or afford healthy food. The fourth round of the CARICOM Caribbean COVID- 19 Food Security and Livelihoods Impact survey revealed that 2.75 million people (39%) out of 7.1 million in the English-speaking Caribbean are in fact, food insecure. Choosing cheaper unhealthier meals, using savings to put food on the table and going without meals for extended periods of time are some of the negative coping strategies people have resorted to.
On the occasion of World Food Day 2022, the Institute remains committed to working together with all stakeholders ‘to leave no one behind’. We hold the view that every person must have access to nutritious, safe and affordable food, says Executive Director, Ansari Hosein.
To achieve this, CARDI will continue to leverage partnerships and pursue projects and other initiatives that will provide the science based solutions needed to transform and reposition Caribbean agriculture. For the new Strategic Period, beginning in 2023, emphasis will be placed on improving the productivity and utilization of local commodities, climate proofing and building resilience, harnessing digital technologies, increasing youth involvement, knowledge generation and information sharing.
This year several CARDI offices across the Region hosted activities to commemorate World Food Day.
In Tobago, the Division of Food Security, Natural Resources, the Environment and Sustainable Development hosted a series of Open Days to celebrate World Food Day. The first event was hosted by CARDI at the Goldsborough Demonstration and Training Centre (GDTC) under the theme ‘Producing for the displacement of food importation’. Attendees had the opportunity to learn more about the production systems for crops with high potential for import substitution like onions, carrots, cantaloupe, sweet corn and broccoli. They witnessed first-hand the production systems for these crops as well as gained a better understanding of opportunities for value added product development. Samples of some value added products were on display. Attendees also learnt about the new and improved method for trapping the South American Palm Weevil in coconuts and gained information on the construction and efficacy of using such traps.
In Antigua, CARDI collaborated with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs (MAFBA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) to host two schools at the CARDI Field Station in Betty’s Hope. Students from the Potters Primary and St. Andrew’s Primary Schools received a guided tour by CARDI Representative Paul Lucas of the fields, seed bank, weather station and shade house. They also saw the various water management strategies deployed on station to cope with the dry conditions. Many students were excited to see how sweet potato grows – many noted that while they consume it they weren’t aware of how the crop grows.
Across in Guyana CARDI participated in the World Food Day and Berbice Expo at the Albion Sports Complex, Region 6. Here visitors were able to gain a deeper insight into the Institute’s work in Guyana: to improve the sweet potato and cassava industries; develop the 5,000 acre commercial enterprise in Ebini and the various capacity building initiatives being undertaken to improve the capacity of farmers and processors.
In St Lucia, CARDI participated in the World Food Day exhibition hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture. Dubbed a ‘Sea Moss Fiesta’ the event highlighted a locally grown product that can help improve Saint Lucia’s food security. Noting that food security is a global priority, CARDI Representative, Barry Innocent, said the Institute remains committed to assisting in the fight for food security because the health, stability, and well-being of a country is dependent on the food security that it has built. Mr Innocent also participated in a Panel Discussion on Food Security that was aired on the National Television Network.