Caribbean governments have been told to do less talking and show more action in relation to agriculture.
This advice came last Saturday at the opening of a Web 2.0 Training and Exchange workshop, designed by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation and the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus.
Chief Coordinator of the CaFAN, Jethro Greene, providing a historical context on the fall of agriculture in the region, said it was declining because many years ago most governments in the region, as well as bureaucrats, had ???decided to kick agriculture under the table???.
Regional governments were, therefore, urged to not just talk about agriculture, but to show what actions were being taken. The CaFAN Head said: ???You show me the government that has delegated an adequate funding to agriculture. You look at what percentage of the budgets throughout a lot of these countries go into agriculture and then ask yourself if it is not just a theoretical exercise again.??????
Pointing out that it was for this reason CaFAN had decided ???let us start to act???, Mr. Greene acknowledged that his organisation had recognised that in order for the region to advance in agriculture it needed to move away from just what is being shown. He said: ???When we talk about agriculture people just see farmers. Farmers are just one component of agriculture. In order for agriculture to advance, we need to have more intellectual muscle in the agricultural system.
???You need accountants, technologists, researchers and people who specialise in marketing to make this thing work. You need a whole heap of people in a value chain to make this thing work as a business, just like how they do it in the United States, in Japan ??? all the developed countries. We don???t need to go far, just look at how they do their agriculture.???
It was also noted that, marketing had a role to play, and Mr. Greene stressed the importance of countries developing good integrated production and marketing plans to address gluts and adverse actions by some major producers.
Farmers??? organisations as well as the private sector were also advised to take a serious step towards ensuring that they were not just talking, but acting. And, the Chief Coordinator lamented that there was a food and nutrition security policy, yet governments were not looking at ???the low hanging fruits???.
???You have over 50 per cent of your people dying from NCDs. You have children in schools eating junk. You have a lot of merchants dropping real junk in the market, while your fruit and vegetable go to spoil. All you need to do is start within your school system to link the kinds of healthy foods you have within the region to the health of all people,??? Mr. Greene suggested.
And, he pointed out that years ago the region was tricked and told that its ???roots and tubers were so bad???, but was now hearing ???it gives you long life???. He stressed, however, that the most dangerous product according to the new research emerging was ???excessive use of white flour???- the basis of most of our diets.
According to Mr. Greene, it was for these reasons that CaFAN required young leadership to work, and it was not by accident that the workshop was being held at the University. ???We need the schools, we need the university??? One of our techniques [is about] how do we bring the university to the people??? We want to show that agriculture is not just farmers; it has its linkage to the school and to health. At the end of the day, it is linked to our very lives,??? the CaFAN Head stressed.??