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Caribbean agricultural entities looking to strengthen disease surveillance systems

The article below is a production distributed through Panoscope, a series of Panos Caribbean. It is made freely available to your media and we encourage publishing and redistribution, giving credit to Panos Caribbean. We
appreciate feedback.
For further information contact: Indi Mclymont/Petre Williams Raynor, Panos Caribbean. Tel: 920-0070-1, E-mail: jamaica@panoscaribbean.org

 

Caribbean agricultural entities looking to strengthen disease surveillance systems

-learning lessons from Chikungunya and Ebola

By Indi Mclymont – Lafayette, Journalist

 

Paramaribo, Suriname. October 10, 2014 – Paramaribo, Suriname. Several regional entities at the Caribbean Week of Agriculture are discussing ways to work together to strengthen the Caribbean’s disease surveillance systems especially those related to animal and human contact at a time when the region battles Chikungunya and the threat of Ebola.

‘We are not monitoring the spread of Chik V and Ebola. That would be done more by the Ministries of Health but these diseases show how quickly diseases can spread.  Chik V started in one island and now its sweeping through the region. So we need to be prepared and have the surveillance techniques ready for any emerging diseases,’ said Dr Patricia Bedfford, Veterinary Health Specialist and Chair of the Caribbean Veterinary (CARIBVET) Communication Working group.

According to Bedfford, the Caribbean had challenges with the detection of diseases, fortifying borders against disease incursion and establishing adequate disease surveillance systems.  Beddford was presenting at a seminar on Agricultural Health and Food Safety at CWA – the premiere Caribbean annual event in the region bringing together hundreds of policymakers, ministers of agriculture, farmers, youth and other key players to decide on priority actions for the region. It is partly sponsored by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)

Having identified these challenges, Bedfford said her organisation, CARIBVET, was one of several working to reinforce laboratory capacities in its 33 member countries.

‘We are working to increase disease control in the region and establish early detection disease systems,’ she said while adding that CARIBVET had been preparing the region for nearly 10 years to tackle animal disease emergence.

‘We have trained about 200 professionals from 26 countries since 2008,’ she said.

CARIBVET was one of about five organisations presenting at the seminar. Other organisations such as the Caribbean Plant Health Directors, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), also shared similar challenges.

According to information shared by the Caribbean Plant Health Directors, the absence of effective plant health and safeguarding systems will result in increases in Quarantine of Pests, Reduction in crop production, loss of local and export markets, increased cost of pest control and production,  challenges in affording inputs/pesticides, loss of Income and increase in rural poverty.

‘The development and growth of many countries depend, to a great extent, on the Agri-food sector and this is linked to the performance of the National Agricultural Health and Food Safety System,’ explained Carol Thomas, an International Agricultural Health and Food Safety Specialist from IICA.

‘The agricultural health and food safety systems in the Region have been described as being inefficient and outdated….strengthening these systems is a shared responsibility that requires the involvement and participation of both the public and the private sectors,’ she said.

Her sentiments were similarly echoed by Guyanese Minister of Agriculture, Leslie Ramsammy, who was speaking on the slightly different but related issue of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR).

‘We need more cohesion in our policies – starting with animal health etc,’ he said while addressing a seminar on AMR, which he described as an important public and agricultural health threat that was not getting enough attention.

‘We have not invested in agriculture enough – our animal health labs are not properly equipped anywhere in the Caribbean. We put in a little money but not enough for them to do what they need to and so they lag behind,’ he said.

He called for greater Caribbean leadership on animal and human health issues starting with AMR.

 ‘We have lead the world in many things. We were the first sub-region to get rid of Polio and Small Pox and we are not insignificant in our achievements. We can make AMR a priority issue so that we can again provide leadership. Guyana is ready to play our role,’ he said.

He stressed that he would be following up at the 2015 CWA to see what progress had been made in this area. The recommendations coming out of CWA will be fed into subsequent CARICOM policy meetings. (END10/10/2014)

Young Jamaican team wins AgriHack Talent Caribbean contest at 13th Caribbean Week of Agriculture

And the winner is… Node420, from Jamaica. The team’s ICT application, also called Node420, offers real-time weather analysis and automatic yield forecasts for farmers. The AgriHack Talent Caribbean contest, organised by CTA and partners, came to a close during the 13th Caribbean Week of Agriculture, held this week in Paramaribo, Suriname. The winning teams designed agricultural apps that can forecast crop yields, improve pest management and put farmers in touch with market outlets.

 Second prize went to CropGuard, from Barbados, an app that seeks to enhance food security by helping farmers to protect their crops through pest diagnosis, monitoring and control. Third prize was awarded to UNICODE, from Suriname, with an application called Agri-Kari, designed to help farmers manage their land and sell their products.

 More than 150 young ICT specialists took part in the AgriHack Talent Caribbean contest run by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and partners. The regional championship sought to develop innovative ICT applications that address key Caribbean agricultural challenges and drive agri-enterprise among young people. The ICT applications created by the first three prize-winners will now be developed and incubated, to promote their successful rollout in the region.

The eight regional finalists, drawn from the results of national contests in six Caribbean countries – Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago – spent the first four days of the 13th Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) fine-tuning their applications before the winners were announced on Thursday October 9. The CWA has been held this week in in Paramaribo, Suriname and ends today (October 10).

All the finalists were given the opportunity to pitch their products to participants attending the CWA, before the regional winners were selected by an international jury.

The contest was based on the idea of a hackathon – a gathering that brings together computer programmers for a short period of time to develop an ICT application or platform that offers solutions for a specific challenge.

Partners in the AgriHack Talent Caribbean contest included the Caribbean Farmers’ Network (CaFAN), the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Connectimass, Suriname telecom operator Telesur, the Open Caribbean Institute and eight ICT innovation hubs.

“ICTs can strongly enhance family farming and the AgriHack Talent Caribbean initiative is supporting ICT innovations and entrepreneurship by youth in the Caribbean,” said CTA Director Michael Hailu. “There is an undisputed need to engage youth in agriculture. Encouraging young ICT innovators to develop services for agriculture contributes to this. It also contributes to improving the image of agriculture and offers opportunities to modernise the sector.”

A key ingredient in the mix has involved bringing together a broad range of expertise from the ICT, agriculture and business sectors, to help take products to the next level. In the run up to the regional finals, the ICT team members received technical support to develop their applications, as well as advice on how to draw up a business model, how to approach investors and how to pitch their idea to the judges and audience.

During the next six months, incubation and mentoring will be offered to the winning teams, who will be given technical and business support, including contact with potential investors and opportunities to promote their applications.

“This contest is about helping young people to sustain agriculture, developing exciting ICT applications that target key agricultural challenges in the Caribbean,” said Ken Lohento, ICT Programme Coordinator for CTA. “The agricultural sector offers substantial opportunities for young people, including those who can offer ICT services to support it. We hope that the AgriHack championship will also result in young people having more livelihood opportunities.”

Winning Jamaican team Node420 said its product sought to provide solutions for some of the most challenging difficulties faced by farmers. “Collecting the information they need can be a real problem for farmers, so we decided to design some hardware that could gather all sorts of data to help them with their cultivation, including planting, sowing and harvesting,” said Jason Scott, who was at the prize-giving with colleague Orane Edwards to collect first prize on behalf of the Node420 team from Jamaica.

The other two team members were: Simantha Hong and Jonathon Cooper. The young ICT developers, who won €5,000 euros plus six months of incubation, are supported by Jamaican ICT Hub SlashRoots, which won €3,000.

“Think of it as a very compact weather station,” said Scott. “It helps farmers to increase their yields, and to forecast how much they might be able to produce.”

[Ends]

For more information, please contact:

Adelle Roopchand

Media Relations

adelleroopchand@gmail.com

Stéphane Gambier

Senior Programme Coordinator for Communications (CTA)

gambier@cta.int

And visit:

http://hackathon.ict4ag.org

Agricultural cooperation between Caribbean and Pacific regions moves forward at 13th Caribbean Week of Agriculture

Inter-regional cooperation for agricultural and rural development has moved a step closer with the announcement that the Pacific region is planning to hold a regional week of agriculture in 2015. The event has been inspired by the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA), whose 13th edition is currently under way in Paramaribo, Suriname,  according to the minister of agriculture for Vanuatu, attending CWA at the invitation of CTA and the government of Suriname.

 

The announcement came during a meeting between the agriculture ministers of Suriname and Vanuatu, brokered by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). Both countries agreed to work together to share best practices and improve agricultural and rural development. The encounter was held during the 13th Caribbean Week of Agriculture, currently under way in Paramaribo, Suriname from October 6-10.

The future Pacific Week of Agriculture marks a new milestone in progress made by the Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme (APP), which is working to enhance Caribbean and Pacific and interregional capabilities of agricultural sectors to improve food security and nutrition by increasing production and strengthening business linkages.

There are a number of parallels between conditions for agricultural production and the problems faced by producers in the Caribbean and in the Pacific. Both regions face similar challenges from climate change, natural disasters, high food import bills, small internal markets and reliance on a few export commodities.

The Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme is run in partnership with CTA, the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). In the Caribbean, other implementing institutions are the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI).

Together with partners, CTA has brought together Caribbean and Pacific businesses, producers, experts and public and private sector representatives on a number of occasions in recent years, to exchange lessons on how to strengthen economic gains for smallholder farmers and rural communities, especially women and youth.

At last year’s CWA, held in Guyana, women producers and entrepreneurs interacted with Caribbean and Pacific Ministers of Agriculture in order to engage the voices of women entrepreneurs at high policy level and in key policy processes. During this year’s CWA, Hon. David Tosul Butulso, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biodiversity of the Republic of Vanuatu, together with his Director General, Mr. Howard Aru, are attending at the invitation of CTA and the government of Suriname.

During the meeting with his counterpart in Suriname, Hon. Soeresh Algoe, Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, the Minister of Vanuatu expressed his desire to learn from the experiences of the Caribbean about intra-regional cooperation in agriculture, and in particular the organisation of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture.

“The Pacific will build on the experience of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) to host its first ever Pacific Week of Agriculture (PWA) whose partnerships were announced recently in Samoa at the Private Sector Forum at the start of the Third International Conference of Small Island Developing States (SIDS),” said Mr. Butulso. “The next step will be to have discussions with ministers of the Pacific countries, but I think that the first Pacific Week of Agriculture will be held next year, in 2015.”

Earlier, the ministers of Suriname and Vanuatu spoke of the challenges their countries faced, and pledged their willingness to cooperate with each other. Suriname, which has good food security, has succeeded in cutting imports through increased agricultural production and now exports food including rice, bananas, fish and vegetables to other countries in the region, as well as to Europe and the United States of America. Previously an importer of products such as lettuce, sweet peppers and sweetcorn, local farmers were now growing their own varieties, said Mr. Algoe. Challenges for producers included climate change, salt water intrusion and food safety issues, he added.

Vanuatu, a country in which 80% of the population is engaged in small-scale farming, continues to import much of its food, including 300,000 tonnes of rice per year, said its agriculture minister.

“That means our food security is fragile,” said Mr. Butulso. “I need to learn from your experience, how you achieved food security,” he told his colleague from Suriname. “And maybe you can learn some things from me.”

The Suriname minister agreed to help Vanuatu with advice and information on rice production, and offered support with the proposed Pacific Week of Agriculture. “We are here and ready to help with any needs,” said Mr. Algoe.

CTA Director Michael Hailu, who attended the meeting, welcomed the opportunity for cooperation between the two countries. He said it was an example of how South-South partnerships can produce mutual benefits, and he pledged CTA support for moving arrangements to launch a Pacific Week of Agriculture forward as quickly as possible.

“At CTA, we have given support for exchanges between the two regions, the Caribbean and the Pacific, for example in agritourism, which can be a valuable source of revenue, especially for women,” he said. “There are a great many things that both sides, facing similar challenges, can learn from each other. Best practices should cross borders and oceans. That way they have a chance of having much greater impact.”

[Ends]

For more information, please contact:

Adelle Roopchand

Media Relations

adelleroopchand@gmail.com

Stéphane Gambier

Senior Programme Coordinator for Communications (CTA)

gambier@cta.int

And visit:

http://cta.int/en

(L-R): Michael Hailu, CTA Director; Hon. David Tosul Butulso, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biodiversity, Vanuatu and Hon. Soeresh Algoa, Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Suriname.

(L-R): Michael Hailu, CTA Director; Hon. David Tosul Butulso, Minister of Agriculture, Livestock, Forestry, Fisheries and Biodiversity, Vanuatu and Hon. Soeresh Algoa, Minister of Agriculture, Animal Husbandry and Fisheries, Suriname.

CTA press release

Climate Smart Agriculture at CWA2014 – CTA PRESS RELEASE 1

Caribbean Family farmers neglected in development policy, says expert

The article below is a production distributed through Panoscope, a series of Panos Caribbean. It is made freely available to your media and we encourage publishing and redistribution, giving credit to Panos Caribbean. We
appreciate feedback.
For further information contact: Indi Mclymont/Petre Williams Raynor, Panos Caribbean. Tel: 920-0070-1, E-mail: jamaica@panoscaribbean.org

Paramaribo, Suriname. October 8, 2014. Food and Agriculture Organisation expert, Dr John R Deep Ford, is urging increased attention, investment and policy interventions to improve the economic capacity of family farmers in the Caribbean who he says have largely been neglected by policymakers.

‘This is the International Year of Family Farming – a year to focus on policy efforts that impact family farmers and recognise the contribution that they have made to agriculture over the years,’ said Ford, who was addressing the opening seminar of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) in Suriname on Monday.

‘We have neglected our family farms – our approaches have been too technological and economic. Our Green revolution programmes and Washington consensus policies have not served family farms well,’ he said.

Family farming is one of the cross cutting issues being explored at the CWA which runs from October 6-10. It is one of the region’s premier annual meetings on agriculture and for 2014 focuses on value chain development, climate change/climate smart agriculture, policy and strategies for agricultural revitalization and food and nutrition security.

According to Ford, family farming captures much of the Caribbean’s small farmers and provides the backbone of food production for many of the islands even though these farmers themselves tend to be poor.

‘This group which has fed our nations are often in the poorest communities in the country and we want to recognise them all across the Caribbean – in St Elizabeth in Ja, Black Bay in Saint Lucia, St George Valley in Barbados,’ he said, while explaining that changes in policy in the 1980’s had resulted in many leaving family and small farming.

‘They have had good reason to abandon family farms. We have taken away the minimum wage we use to offer – through price bans which used to allow them to bring more to the table.  We abandoned it during the 1980’s. We have not supported our small farmers in this regard but more supported large scale farmers to produce,’ he said.

Ford recommended that more time be spent looking at how family farming was defined as distinct from small farmers so that more equitable policies and initiatives could be developed to cater that sector of Caribbean farming.

‘Why is this important? Because we need to target programmes to these farms,’ he said. ‘Family farms are better stewards of the earth. Small farms are more efficient in how it uses resources. We are interested in a better distribution of income in our countries. We must make sure that family farms have enough acreage to make sure that their farming is profitable.’

Similar sentiments were expressed by Director of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Michael Hailu, who said that his organisation was working with its partners in CWA to address family farming and other key challenges facing agriculture in the region.

‘The theme of this year’s CWA, ‘Transforming Caribbean Agriculture through Family Farming,’ is not only timely, given that 2014 is the International Year of Family Farming, but is highly relevant to the region’s family farms that contribute so much to its economy and way of life,’ said Hailu.

Both men stressed the value of family farms and Ford especially argued that Caribbean policies need to be strengthened to reflect this.

‘The kinds of polices that are being spoken about is that there needs to be differentiated policies – we can’t treat all farmers as the same – we have used fiscal resources not as effectively as we could have – so instead of doing things with 100% of all farmers we have to target policies more to their specific needs and ask how do we include more small and medium term farmers for family development,’ he said.

The recommendations coming out of the CWA will be fed into the policy process of the Caribbean Community. (END08/10/2014).

CTA Director, Michael Hailu

CTA Director, Michael Hailu

CTA Director, Michael Hailu

 

 

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