For years the subject of agricultural growth and sustainability in the Caribbean has predominately been in the hands of the governments of the region. However, with increasing food import bills and declining interest in agriculture there has been renewed focus on exploring more investment opportunities to revive the sector.
Executive Director, Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Barton Clarke (pictured above), addressing the opening session of Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2016, said the time has come for an integrated approach to boosting the potential for agriculture across the region.
He pointed out that the general lackluster approach to Agriculture has helped to fuel the lack of interest in the area by the public and potential private investors.
“Governments’ allocation to Agriculture needs to be reconsidered as over the years there has been a progressively declining trend in budgetary allocations at the national level. This has resulted in the general under-investment, lack of supporting structures and enabling policies that are critical to the development of a competitive agricultural sector,” he said.
The current trend is worrying for a region of small-island developing states that grapple with the challenges of food security and nutrition and that are vulnerable to changing climates not only environmentally, but globally.
So what is the solution? There is no one solution but the joining together of all stakeholders both public and private and greater funding for research are options that are being favoured as the way forward.
However, according to the CARDI head, the only way to do this is to create an enabling environment for the growth and sustainability of agriculture.
“In light of the diminishing public investment in regional Agriculture, private investment needs to be encouraged and where it already exists it needs to be scaled up. To achieve this, it’s the role of each and every Government to create an enabling environment (legal, policy legislative and institutional framework) for responsible investment in their agricultural and food sectors,” he stressed.
The possible solutions given are not new to the region and have been implemented to some extent in the region. Some private sector companies have made significant investments in agriculture and so too have some governments.
However, the approach has been isolated with governments doing one thing and private companies another.
The impact of the investments would be greater felt if an integrated approach was taken. I highly doubt then that the Caribbean would be in this current pickle.
“These partnerships will significantly reduce the costs of research, make the research more relevant, pool complementary skills and resources thus leading to increased competitiveness,” Mr. Clarke highlighted.
Similarly, as an integrated approach to agriculture by governments and investors is being sought, there also needs to be regional support of agricultural produce from countries in the Caribbean.
With this united front, we will be better able to stand against elements that would make us vulnerable.
Indeed, every bit counts.