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:
- Spans the entire agri-food chain and delivers diverse products including starches, proteins, minerals and vitamins, biofuel, and medicinal, cosmetic and nutraceutical products
- Develops direct and indirect linkages with the other productive sectors and, is market oriented
- Requires significant quantum of human capital that is technologically trained and more organised
- Is significantly driven by appropriate technological processes and measures
- Has an improved image through greater use of the media and corporate communication programmes
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.
- The Tobago House of Assembly (THA) conducted a demonstration of commercial organic farming methodologies, primarily in alley cropping, and orchard establishment and maintenance. A protected structure was erected for propagating seedlings. Crops grown under organic systems included F1 Calypso, Tropic Boy and Heatmaster tomato, Early Red sorrel, a ‘local’ named variety of payapa, King Henry sweet peppers, cassava and cacao beans.
- In the area of livestock, two tones of Gliricidia spp., were shredded and composted on the organic station in Tobago. Make shift bins were constructed to facilitate the composting process, however, new permanent compost bins have been designed and will be constructed for use in evaluations in 2010.
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.
- CARDI and IICA are collaborating in Jamaica to garner agronomic requirements for the commercial production of selected herbs and medicinal plants, some of which are traditionally harvested in the wild. The plants selected are Cerasee (Momordica charantia L), Red sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa), Spearmint (Mentha spicata, syn M. viridis), Peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and Lemongrass (Cymbopogon spp.). Data collection started in late March 2008 and continues to 2009/2010. To date CARDI has developed technological protocols for the successful cultivation of cerassee, red sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa), spearmint (Mentha spicata, syn M. viridis), peppermint (Mentha x piperita) and lemongrass (Cymbopogon spp.). This was done through the establishment of plots of the above-mentioned herbs and data was collected on factors such as plant establishment, growth time to 50% flowering, time to fruit and harvesting, and yield. Work continues on identifying growth habits, nutritional requirements, as well as pest and diseases of these plants.
- In Trinidad & Tobago, a survey was carried out in the Rio Claro district to determine the constraints impacting on commercial operations of shado beni. CARDI collaborated with IICA, the Ministry of Agriculture, and UWI to identify several areas for intervention: (i) identifying a fertilizer regime for optimal production, (ii) development of an integrated weed management programme (iii) development of a cost of production model that can be used by farmers to guide production and pricing. All the information gathered will be used to prepare guides for producers in commercial production of traditional herbs.
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.