Climate change is real and urgent
Most, if not all, of us are very aware that climate change is a very real and present phenomenon. We are also aware that it is and will continue to affect agricultural systems across the world. Such effects are particularly devastating to Small Island Developing States (SIDS) and island regions as a whole. Big picture effects are often alarming: ocean-level rise, displacement and loss of fisheries and low-lying/ flood-plain farmland, and salinization corrupting fresh water sources. But how about immediate effects? How about the fact that several coffee farmers in the Blue Mountain range in Jamaica, can now grow varieties of mangoes and oranges where they’ve never been able to grow either species of fruit before? How about the fact that wind directions are changing, affecting tree crop yields and quality, especially for farms in hilly areas? How about the rapid decline in fish catch in Caribbean waters over the last decade?
Climate change is not only real, it is urgent. Farmers and fisherfolk are losing their livelihoods, and on a larger scale, our food supply, and by extension – our health, wellness, and ultimately our existence, is in jeopardy. Needless to say, climate-smart agriculture and adaptation measures are an immediate necessity. Yet how do we move from where we are now, to a place where we begin to exhibit flexibility and productivity in the face of our changing environment?
Analysing the situation
A first step would be to examine current systems. When I say systems, I refer to strategies, current practices and techniques, and even current ideologies, theories and conceptions. We must examine what works well, what works poorly, what isn’t working at all, and most importantly why? Furthermore, assessment of what is needed to improve systems needing improvement and to scale up systems working well is another logical step.
Of course, to conduct such in depth examination, and to implement necessary change, resources are needed. Here we come to the issue of constraints to improvement and growth, and how we might overcome those constraints. Major pools of resources within the Caribbean region include international bodies like the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), local bodies such as NGOs and other granting organisations and foundations, and tertiary institutions, specifically the University of the West Indies (among others).
These institutions form the bulk of funding and knowledge that Caribbean citizens and those closest to the Caribbean region have access to. However, global issues require global solutions, and doing things the way we have always done them will not get us where we need to be. Collaboration outside of our typical borders is necessary; non-traditional, disruptive partnerships must be formed to tackle this spectre looming over our planet from individual, community, national, regional and global levels.
Some innovative solutions
Take for example the Jamaica Sustainable Farm Enterprise Program. The Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance (VEGA), funded through the United States Agency for International Aid (USAID) and the Farmer-to-Farmer program, have supported the growth and training of farmers in the parish of St. Thomas through partnership with The Source Farm Eco-Village. Month-long trainings are held about twice a year where farmers are trained in permaculture and sustainable techniques to restore the health of their soils and improve their overall productivity. Farmers from these training sessions often go on to become members of the Ujima Natural Farmer’s Market, run by The Source Farm in Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston. Others go on to revamp their operations, implement techniques learned and branch out to specialty crop cultivation – often seeing significant increases in yields, productivity and revenue. As such, we see that an unconventional partnership produces real change in the lives of farmers.
As a planet, we often divide ourselves into regions, then nations, and further, sectors and communities. Various factors divide us, from geography to industry and interests. However, the need for unconventional collaboration to breach these divides and capitalise on resources has never been greater than it is today. I look forward to the germination of seeds of partnership and collaboration during this Caribbean Pacific Agri-Food Forum. We have a lot of hard work ahead of us. Maybe this forum will be the genesis of improvement for our regions, and, as we look ahead to COP21 in December, indeed the world.
Please share your thoughts on collaboration in the discussion section below. Additionally, follow the CTA blog and @CTAflash and #CPAF15 on Twitter for the latest happenings at the Caribbean Pacific Agri-Food Forum!
Photo credit: S.Kilungu/CCAFS
Blogpost by Chelsea Wallace, Social Reporter for the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum 2015.