On Friday, the President of Guyana Dr. Irfaan Ali pleaded with CARICOM countries to move away from the consumption of low-quality food and approached the region’s populace to eat agricultural products grown in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) region.
Tending to 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, regionally, and utilizing products from with the 15-part local gathering.
“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.
The CARICOM Secretariat 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, the 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 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”.
Additionally, 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.
Earlier, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, the lead head of state on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), told the conference that she hopes the region accepts the fact “that we need to expedite the process of producing as much food regionally as we can and that we need to come together, accepting that the true breadbaskets of the region will be Guyana, Suriname, and Belize.
“But that does not remove from the rest of us the obligation of producing as much food as we can,” she said, acknowledging that while there are some difficulties, they should be confronted.
“The first and foremost is the potential normal access for cheaper food from outside of the region, and therefore the question as to how we treat to the whole issue of food security, allowing us to anchor our domestic policies and our trade policies becomes absolutely critical/”
Mottley said also that the region “cannot afford to only have the need to grow food when there is a crisis.
With additions from CMC