The 14th Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) hosted by the Grand Cayman Islands kicked off on a beautiful Monday morning with a very clear and much-needed theme – “Investing in Food & Agriculture”.
However, various messages were projected during the Plenary Meeting from the panelists.
Hon. Kurt Tibbetts (Minister for Planning, Lands, Agriculture, and Housing & Infrastructure) of the Grand Cayman Islands officially opened CWA by stressing the need for the Caribbean to create an environment that is attractive to investors.
He proposed that increased investment in the agriculture sector will facilitate ongoing development, improved food security and stimulate economic growth for the region.
While all seemingly great, myself among many others in the room (surely) awaited linkages from the mentioned objectives to the approaches stakeholders should take.
Therefore, the question is, what can we do to encourage and attract investment?
Undoubtedly, there are various ways that this can be done, but there was a huge emphasis placed on the private sector. Guest Speaker, Mr Doug Hewson, presented his views as a private equity player who moulded a possible approach for stakeholders across the Caribbean region.
This being that agribusinesses need to demonstrate how profitable they are and can be. He spoke strongly about the need to provide a “Return on Investment” (ROI) and more or less that they have to be a fairly significant enterprise.
That should be no surprise considering they report a USD$20-40m per investment within the Caribbean region, and over the past nine years to date, have only managed six investments within the agricultural space.
Surely, this magnitude of monetary value as an ROI could not be realistically expected of most if not all Caribbean countries – right?
Other panel speakers for the Plenary Meeting presented their take on investment strategies for the region. Dr Lystra Fletcher-Paul, FAO Representative for Trinidad and Tobago (Deputy Sub-Regional Coordinator for the Caribbean), stated that they encourage investment in agriculture by providing policy advice, encouraging knowledge sharing, providing a mutual forum for dialogue with various stakeholders, and building capacity.
Additionally, the importance of school feeding programmes across the region is expected to create sustainable results. Mr Diego Montenegro (Director of Management & Regional Integration of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)) provided results that reflect ongoing investments from his end such as identifying constraints and seeking opportunities to address this financially.
Mr Michael Hailu (Director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA)) believes investment through his organisation is playing a pivotal role in bringing regions together such as the Caribbean and the Pacific to strengthen links and increase learning and knowledge sharing.
A successful implementation of this is CTA’s investment in youth – which is evident by 13 on-site social reporters. Ending the Plenary Meeting, Mr Barton Clarke (Executive Director for Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI)) takes an economic view and believes that by focusing on employment, improving the way we utilise resources and being more efficient should give us stronger ground to attract investment.
Ultimately and at the end of CWA Plenary Meeting, you sit there and wonder, what then is the best investment strategy for the Caribbean going forward?
Despite the numerous approaches stated above, it would seem that the focus should be based solely either on monetary value like an ROI, policy advice, youth, employment or resources. But these would be all wrong.
Sometimes when we specify identified solutions, we miss out on not only the bigger picture but more importantly, the underlying aspect and the very thing which holds it all together.
It steers collaboration, guides discussions, and creates the need thus pathways for development. It incorporates all of the above – it is to invest in the invaluable thus to invest in it all.
It is to invest in relationships.
Personally, I loved how Mr Barton Clarke basically put it when he said, “Everybody has to participate” – which only means that even you reading this has an important part to play and the future of investment in food and in agriculture rests in your hands.
- agricultural investment
- plenary session
- Social Reporting