A call has been made for greater collaboration between local researchers to pave the way forward in the current food crisis.
It has come from Chief Agricultural Officer (CIO), Barton Clarke, who was speaking during the wrap of the just-ended National Agricultural Conference at the Sherbourne Conference Centre.
“I wish to see a maximisation of research resources which is only possible if there is deeper collaboration. There has to be far greater collaboration among researchers going forward since in the future we will be expected to give more for less,” he underlined.
In termsof the current research agenda, Mr. Clarke underscored the need to focus on “food.”
“We need to focus on food, if we focus on agriculture only we will miss the boat,” he warned.
To elucidate his point, the agricultural spokesman said while there was much emphasis on fresh agricultural produce, this only represented 15 percent of what we consumed in both the local and imported markets.
“The research agenda must be driven by our food needs which go beyond fresh produce, it includes processed foods, gourmet foods, snacks and myriad other classes,” he underscored.
Mr. Clarke told the gathering of researchers, agriculturalists and ministry personnel gathered some of the issues which will need to be addressed go beyond Barbados and will therefore necessitate external collaboration as well as a multi-faceted approach.
On the local front, he highlighted the need for further investment in training so that the necessary inroads could be made in the research arena.
“We ought to deal with the issues associated with food safety and we must invest in our youth. The question : is how do we get more out of less water, how do we get more out of less land, how do we get more out of less people, how do we get more out of less labour. There is a suggestion that there will be a tightening of resources, what systems are we going to put in place?” he asked.
Mr. Clarke assured those gathered that there was a remit in the Ministry’s medium – term plan to revisit the existing research agenda since this was last done in the 1990s.
In commenting on this year’s forum, he cited “significant improvements” in the quality of research presented, while reiterating his call for current research to be done by all researchers within the Ministry.
“Representatives of the Ministry should provide leadership by presenting research which they are mandated to do, and by extension allow farmers to benefit,” he said.
A total of 15 research papers were presented at the Conference by technicians from within the Ministry; regional and international representatives as well as representatives of international organisations.