The successful transformation of agri-food systems in the region will require ownership, political commitment and action plans, the author writes. Credit: Wadner Pierre/IPS
  • Opinion by Mario Lubetkin (Santiago)
  • Interpress service

This region is highly vulnerable to extreme events, climate variability and climate change. Increasingly extreme weather events, shifting rainfall patterns, rising temperatures, recurring droughts and floods, among others, pose an unprecedented threat that can cause significant socio-economic and environmental loss and damage.

The recent forty-fourth regular meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), chaired by the Bahamas, highlighted some of the biggest challenges affecting food production in the region. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has strengthened a special focus to implement common strategies to support Caribbean countries’ priorities and discuss new ways for the Caribbean to transform agriculture and food systems.

For the first time, FAO was invited to address this important discussion during the 17th Special Session of the CARICOM Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR). FAO recognized CARICOM’s major efforts to implement the Agriculture and Food Systems Strategy in member countries to help reduce the Caribbean’s large food import bill by 25 percent by 2025.

The organization supports the development of prioritized value chains to help reduce the region’s food import bill. It does so by working with governments and key stakeholders to design and upgrade strategies, as well as good practices and opportunities to attract investment to help increase trade within the region.

In this framework, CARICOM heads of government have also supported the project proposal “Building food security through innovation, resilience, sustainability and empowerment” presented by Guyana; and FAO is working closely with Member States to advance a climate finance mobilization strategy to fund innovative initiatives such as new animal feed, greenhouse optimization, soil and soil mapping. FAO supports governments and communities in building capacity to comprehensively manage multi-hazard risks to improve the resilience of livelihoods and value chains.

It is crucial to increase and improve the efficiency and effectiveness of investments throughout the agriculture and food system. In this regard, FAO, together with the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation, agreed to continue cooperation to increase intra-regional trade and private sector investment in the Caribbean to trigger growth in the agricultural sector.

On the other hand, the last summit of heads of state and government of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), whose current pre-tempore presidency is held by St. Vincent and the Grenadines, with a declaration from 33 member countries, emphasizing a regional commitment to ensure food security, support agricultural and rural development.

This high level of commitment from the main government structures in the region will contribute to an effective preparation for the next FAO Regional Conference in Georgetown, Guyana, which will take place in March 2024, and reveals the importance of an effective involvement of the West Indies in the decision-making process to transform agri-food systems.

Successful transformation of agri-food systems in the region will require ownership, political commitment and action plans. It is necessary to coordinate a joint effort to strengthen technical assistance on the ground and more investments and partnerships to support food security, the fight against climate change, sustainable production and international fair trade to protect livelihoods and small-scale producers and guarantee our food security.

© Inter Press Service (2023) — All rights reservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service