President Ali urges Caribbean people to eat homegrown agricultural products

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GEORGETOWN, Guyana — President Dr. Irfaan Ali on Friday urged Caribbean countries to move away from the consumption of poor quality food and called on the region’s population to eat agricultural products grown in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) region.

Addressing the Regional Food Systems Dialogue, which is a precursor to the United Nations 2021 Food Systems Summit scheduled for September, President Ali said it is time that Caribbean people remind themselves of the importance of eating local and utilizing products from with the 15-member regional grouping.

“We cannot continue to eat third quality or second quality when we can produce first quality… we have to be brave in addressing these issues. We can’t walk along the sidelines anymore,” Ali said as he delivered the feature address at the regional dialogue.

The Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat has partnered with key regional stakeholders including the United Nations Resident Coordinators, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Programme (WFP), and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) to host the virtual event.

Farmers, policymakers, non-governmental organisations, businesses, and civil society participated in the event with CARICOM agriculture ministers chairing the three sessions on climate change, Caribbean food systems, finance and funding for the new Caribbean food systems, and food production and security, a Caribbean imperative.

The CaricomSecretariat said that the ideas, solutions, and action plans emanating from this dialogue will feed into the Global forum that is part of the Decade of Action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

Ali, who has lead responsibility for agriculture in the quasi Caricom Cabinet, said that while efforts can be taken within the region to tackle food security, Caricom needs the help of external agencies especially in light of its vulnerability to climate change.

“The Caribbean region has been named as the second most hazard-prone region in the world, largely owing to its vulnerability and exposure to multiple extreme and frequent hazard events,” Ali said, adding “it is therefore imperative that attention is given to building climate resilience in order to transform the region’s agri-food systems”.

He said progress towards achieving the SDGs requires a commitment from all member states for affirmative action with respect to climate change.

He recalled the Jagdeo initiative, dating back to 2007, which is a strategy for removing constraints to the development of agriculture in the Caribbean. It builds upon past regional efforts to develop a Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and identifies ten key binding constraints faced by the sector.

“Foremost among those constraints was limited financing and new investments in the sector. The initiative proposed the development of a fund to modernise regional agriculture. But financing for regional agriculture cannot be divorced from financing for climate resilience,” he said.

He said the success of the regional effort in agriculture will depend on the degree of international support, especially with respect to financing in building an agricultural sector that is more resilient.

“Financing for sustainable development is of equal importance,” he said, recalling an intervention he made at a UN High-Level conference earlier this week on the extractive sector.

“I said then that without greater access to financing efforts by small states to meet their commitments under the Paris Agreement …will be derailed”.

He urged regional countries to seize the opportunities of the September UN food systems summit ‘to link greater resilience with increased access to financing sustainable development.

Ali said that the Caribbean “must add its voice to the full implementation of the Addis Abba Action Agenda for a third international conference on financing for development. He said there was also a need for greater base financing for the establishment of a climate change vulnerability fund.

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