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Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture has reiterated hiss organisation's commitment to help Caricom ministers of agriculture design a recovery plan. (File photo)

IICA, Caricom collaborate on recovery plan for Caribbean agriculture

Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture has reiterated hiss organisation's commitment to help Caricom ministers of agriculture design a recovery plan. (File photo)

The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture is providing assistance to Caribbean Community (Caricom) ministers and secretaries of agriculture to navigate the challenges stemming from the coronavirus (COVID-19) and mapping a path of recovery for the region’s agriculture sector.

The institute on the weekend organised and co-hosted, with the Caricom Secretariat, a videoconference that focused on food security, resilience, economic recovery, technological innovation, sustainable use of resources and the preservation of biodiversity, among other areas.

“We have sought to respond to the needs and demands of the region to mitigate the problems facing agriculture in the Caribbean, laying the groundwork for a more resilient and robust sector,” Manuel Otero, director general of IICA, explained.

Financial resources and solutions

The video conference also included the participation of the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, the Caribbean Development Bank, the Green Climate Fund, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Development Bank of Latin America, the World Bank, the European Union, and the International Fund for Agricultural Development.

During the meeting the representatives from these financial institutions, development organisations and donors presented their lines of credit and opportunities for monetary support. They also advised about funding resources and alternatives available to strengthen agriculture.

“We have sought to respond to the needs and demands of the region to mitigate the problems facing agriculture in the Caribbean, laying the groundwork for a more resilient and robust sector.”

Manuel Otero, director general, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture

In addition, authorities from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay committed to collaborating with Caribbean countries through the South-South Cooperation, as well as sharing their experiences in the areas of good agricultural practices, research and development, genetic improvement, sustainability, efficient use of soils, capacity building, business, and agricultural trade.

While noting that the region is in dire need of investments to boost agriculture resilience and food security, even before experiencing the unexpected and unprecedented impacts of COVID-19, Secretary General of CARICOM Irwin LaRocque pointed out that, “Certain plans require the participation of development partners.”

Secretary General for the Caribbean Community Irwin LaRocque (File photo)

“We are committed to emerging stronger from this crisis, and the only way to do that is through regional integration,” he added.

Grenada’s Minister of Agriculture and Lands Yolande Bain Horsford agreed, noting that stakeholders in the Caribbean can now take action to access funding and “revitalise” agriculture.

“Engaging in dialogue with financial agencies is very important. Submitting project proposals is what we must do to secure funding; revitalise our sector, which is key to economic recovery; and provide producers with the support they require,” she stated.

Grenada’s Ministry of Agriculture and Land Yolande Bains Horsford (Photo: NOW Grenada)

Lack of information a constraint

While acknowledging that lack of funding has hindered the growth of agriculture in the region, The Bahamas’ Minister of Marine Resources and Agriculture Michael Pintard and Jamaica’s state minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries agreed that a lack of information has thwarted access to funding.

“The lack of funding is one of the constraints we face in developing the sector. In this regard, a practical, comprehensive plan that combines credit opportunities at the regional level would be very helpful,” Pintard commented, also noting that he values the collaborative effort of the IICA and CARICOM in making funding opportunities available.

Green added: “Having a list of regional and international partners, so that we can be aware of the opportunities available to us, is very useful; we appreciate IICA’s efforts in this regard. There is no doubt that, now more than ever, we must have adequate agricultural insurance in the region, which would allow for accessing funds more rapidly and avoiding bureaucracy, which is often an obstacle.”

Jamaica’s state minister in the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Floyd Green (Photo: JIS)

The IICA and Caricom also underscored the importance of multiple funding alternatives to creating new opportunities for the region’s agriculture sector, including fostering trade, driving regional integration, expanding market access, improving the transportation of products, boosting the resilience to climate change, investing in innovation and technology transfer, and linking youth to farming activities.

To this end, Otero reiterated IICA’s resolve to helping Caricom countries implement the Food Security Plan and, by extension, mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the region.

The CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana, co-hosted the videoconference with the Inter-American Institue for Cooperation on Agriculture. (File photo)

“We have the political will of Caricom and the ministers, and IICA is committed to offering its internal and technical capacities to carry out this plan”, the director general said.