A farmer at Connector Road, Chaguanas, organises his vegetables for sale after harvesting his crops earlier in May. (File photo)

Caricom Development Fund, IICA sign agreement for agricultural development

A farmer at Connector Road, Chaguanas, organises his vegetables for sale after harvesting his crops earlier in May. (File photo)

The Caricom Development Fund (CDF) and Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture on Monday announced the signing of a technical agreement that seeks to improve collaboration between the two institutions.

To this end, both the IICA and CDF will work together on initiatives geared toward fast-tracking agricultural developments in the region.

According to the IICA, “While the vital importance of the agricultural sector as a pillar of growth and stability for Caribbean economies has been emphasised by the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on food and nutrition security, most countries in the Caribbean face several systemic constraints on their capacity for sustainable food production.”

Ryan Smith (left) who is autistic, and his mother Suzette Griffith (right), participating in the Farmers Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED) programme. The Caricom Development Fund and Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture technical cooperation agreement will address the control and use of agricultural assets by youth and women. (Photo: Barbados Today)

Beyond production and productivity

The institute pointed out further that players in the region’s agricultural sector — farmers, agro-processors, and other small and medium-sized entities — continue to face the challenges of scaling up their operations due to the systemic constraints. Among them: access to financing, susceptibility to natural disasters and climate change, availability of land, satisfying international market standards, etc.

A farmer removes cocoa beans from their pods on the Belmont Estate in Grenada. The CDF and IICA agreement aims to tackle some of the challenges that farmers, agro-processors and SMEs have in the region’s agricultural sector. (Photo: Belmont Estate)

In addition, they have to compete with imports that increase the food import bill, put a strain on foreign exchange reserves, and by extension make buying some inputs difficult — creating a cycle.

As such, the IICA believes that its contribution to improving agricultural sustainability in the region not only involves improving production and productivity levels, but also improving linkages between farmers and processors, and markets.

“This agreement strengthens our initiatives in the Caribbean countries to increase productivity, add value and link between producers and local markets, in order to reduce imports and guarantee the food security of their inhabitants, together with a partner, such as CDF, who knows the region very well,” Director General of IICA Manuel Otero stated.

Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture Manuel Ortero (File photo)

Talking points and action plan

As part of the joint agreement, the IICA and CDF will seek to address the following strategic areas:

  • productivity and competitiveness;
  • territorial development and rural well-being;
  • agriculture, climate change, and natural resource management;
  • food and nutrition security;
  • youth and women’s use and control of agricultural assets; and
  • technological innovation in agriculture

For his part, CEO of the CDF Rodinald Soomer highlighted the importance of the partnership with IICA “to the consolidation of CDF’s efforts at strengthening the productive base of agriculture in the Caribbean region, as the foundation for increasing the contribution of agriculture to intra-regional trade and economic growth, especially in the disadvantaged countries and regions in the [Caribbean] Community”.

Chief Executive Officer of the Caricom Development Fund Rodinald Soomer (Photo: IICA)

Over the past decade, the CDF has provided in excess of US$23M in direct financing and technical assistance to the less developed and disadvantaged countries of CARICOM to enhance agricultural production capability, infrastructure and competitiveness. Meanwhile, IICA has, for almost 78 years, focused on providing technical cooperation of excellence with a view to strengthening institutional capacities of public, private and civil society and supporting the integration mechanism required to achieve sustainable and equitable agriculture development.