Acting Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Senator Haynesley Benn (left), chatting with Director Emeritus of the Inter American Institute for Cooperation??in Agriculture, Dr. Chelston Brathwaite, after the opening ceremony of the 47th annual Caribbean Food Crops Society.
(C. Pitt/BGIS)

The Caribbean must seek to develop effective mitigation and adaptation strategies to address the issues of climate change and food security and sustainability, if not, the consequences could be dire.

This warning has come from Acting Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Senator Haynesley Benn, who stressed that the region, because of its small size, was particularly susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change.

Speaking at the opening of the 47th annual Caribbean Food Crops Society (CFCS) Meeting at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre today, he pointed out that if the region remained reactive, its losses could be in the region of 14 per cent of Gross Domestic Product by 2025.

"In our agricultural sectors, the effects of climate change are such that they can worsen our food security and nutrition situation. This is all the more worrying when one considers the growing demand for food due to population growth, rising incomes and the use of grains to produce bio-energy.?? Drastic measures must, therefore, be taken if we are to manage the expected fallout from climate change on our food production sectors. The best way to achieve this is by taking a regional approach," he said.

One of the solutions Senator Benn proffered was the development of regional food production and distribution systems to ensure stable food availability and access.

Such a system, he suggested, would need to take advantage of the strengths of individual member states and would require a uniform legal and regulatory environment which guaranteed food safety, health nutrition standards and institutional arrangements for implementation.

Citing unfavourable global weather conditions, including droughts and wildfires in Russia, and floods in Australia, China and Pakistan, Senator Benn stressed, "the reality is that the climate has changed and this will require that we change too."

The Acting Agriculture Minister said for the Caribbean it could not be business as usual, with food and nutrition security becoming a multi-dimensional and multi-sectoral issue.

"…there is no way that one nation or one institution can tackle this issue alone. Practical solutions to this problem can only be secured through the creation of synergies, including inter-agency collaboration, south-south as well as north-south cooperation, and the forging of other strategic partnerships."

Locally, he said Barbados had a number of projects in the pipeline which would seek to mitigate the challenges of climate change, food security and sustainability.

These include the drafting of a National Food and Nutrition Security Policy and the establishment of a Climate Secretariat, which will deliver "an early warning and response system with timely information on [the] likely incidence of climate sensitive health risks." This project is being undertaken by the Ministry of Health in collaboration with the Pan American Health Organization.

The theme of the week long CFCS meeting is Assuring Caribbean Food and Nutrition Security in the context of Climate Change, with the subtheme Productive Agrosystems and Resources Conservation in an island Environment: An Ecological Challenge for Caribbean Sustainable Development.??

Some 150 delegates from Barbados, the Caribbean, Latin America, the United States of America and Europe are attending the meeting which is being coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management.


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