(by Nazima Raghubir)
Major changes in the agriculture sector hinge on Political Will.
As Caribbean week of Agriculture ends, the challenges and commitments identified to aid the region in its pursuit to be self-sufficient would have to be backed by strong political will. During the week long activities, Ministers of Agriculture and Fisheries across the region met at more than 3 different levels. These include the CARICOM’s Council for Trade and Economic Development meeting, Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Ministerial meeting and Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism Special Ministerial Council. FAO’s Coordinator and Caribbean Sub-Region Representative, Dr. J.R. Deep Ford says gaining political remains a challenge.
“It is a one we are tackling head on, we have talked in the past, about addressing these challenges, we have concentrated on the ministry of agriculture and maybe the ministry of agriculture is not strong enough, so we have to build the political will. The strategy for building that political will is working simultaneously with the Ministry of Agriculture, Health, Education, Finance, the Minister of health will sat our health bill is increase because of the processed imported products, the Minister of Education will say students are not eating local products because the fast food people are offering them imported chicken and flour, we have to work across the ministries.”
Dr. Ford believes that the more political involvement can make the critical changes needed.
“We have to build political will with civil society, they must learn how to pressure better, win friends among the politicians whom they can influence and that is why we have governance meetings now, within the last few years was the first time that the FAO has ever organise governance meetings.”
The region’s food import bill stands at US$4.5 million.