“Not just another talk shop,” was the sentiment expressed by the speakers at the opening ceremony of the 2nd Agri-Business Forum being held in Barbados at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford. The Forum is being organised by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Caribbean Agribusiness Association (CABA) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management and the Barbados Tourism Product Authority (BTPA), as part of the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum.
Vassel Stewart, the President of CABA, made the clarion call for the forum to be more than just a talk shop; that proposed actions are discussed and a proper monitoring mechanism is put in place to ensure the discussion points are implemented.
“We want to ensure that when we would have left here on Saturday that this will not be, as it is often said, one of these seminars and workshops; that is another talk shop. It’s not another talk shop,” declared Mr. Stewart.
He noted that the session panelists were asked to present some very specific topics and questions that will produce concrete responses.
“Out of those responses, we expect that we will have some very clear proposed actions, perhaps proposed projects, that will become the responsibility, not just of us as the institutions, but I want to charge all of you that are going to be tied to whatever decision or whatever output that are going to be made here today,” Stewart said.
He also added that an arrangement would be put in place to ensure that there are follow-ups of the proposed projects emanating from the forum.
High on agenda
The head of the European Union to the Eastern Caribbean Countries, CARICOM and CARIFORUM Ambassador Mikael Barford, also addressed the opening ceremony and made it clear that strengthening the agri-food sector and expanding markets are high on the agenda of the European Union. He listed as objectives of this focus to eradicate hunger, provide jobs and promote food security.
“To support these ambitious goals, the EU strategy is to support a professional, productive, innovative market-oriented sector. In other words, we believe supporting agribusiness and value chains will contribute to reducing hunger, poverty and increase production, wealth and job creation,” Ambassador Barfour said.
The EU ambassador also hoped that the discussion and recounting of success stories in agribusiness would motivate other successes as well as give participants an idea of challenges facing the sector.
The director of CTA, Michael Hailu, also stressed the importance of coming up with concrete actions and solutions from the Forum. He highlighted the need to forge partnerships in transforming the agri- food sector into a productive industry.
“We really want to come up with concrete measurable targets, so that when we look into the problem in terms of the next year or two, we have some real action points that the partner in cooperation with the regional organisations, the farmers’ organisations, private sector, combined with others… can really make some concrete advance; not just talking about these issues year after year,” Mr. Hailu said.
From all accounts, this Forum is expected to be very practical in its approach and business oriented designed to deliver concrete action benefiting all stakeholders. It’s not a talk shop.
Photo: Carole Cholai
Blogpost by Andre Huie, Social Reporter for the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum 2015.