CARIBBEAN MINISTERS HIGHLIGHTED IICA’S ROLE IN TACKLING FOOD INSECURITY AND DISCUSSED NEW CHALLENGES STEMMING FROM THE PANDEMIC
(IICA) – Ministers and secretaries of agriculture of fourteen Caribbean countries related some of the dramatic consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic in the region, listed new challenges in strengthening food production and emphasized the support that the Inter-America Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) had provided in the fight against food and nutritional insecurity in 2020 – a year that had crippled tourism, the engine, of Caribbean economies.
The high-level authorities were participating in IICA’s virtual 2020 Regional Accountability Seminar, which gave an overview of the hemispheric organization’s actions to support the Caribbean productive sector. Announcements were also made about new initiatives and the agricultural authorities held a frank discussion about difficulties stemming from Covid-19, indicating that the technical assistance received had been invaluable.
“Food systems faced immense challenges in 2020. During this period IICA assisted us to improve productivity in agriculture and to boost climate change mitigation capacities”, said Zulfikar Mustapha, Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture. “For example, in our country, the Institute provided support through a biofortified rice project, which is extremely important for Guyana’s food security”.
Saboto Caesar, Minister of Agriculture of St. Vincent and the Grenadines remarked that, “For me, it is truly gratifying to participate in an accountability seminar at this level and I congratulate Manuel Otero (the Director General of IICA) for his excellent leadership during and before the pandemic. He is working diligently with his team to benefit agriculture in the region. We have been experiencing volcanic eruptions and will conduct a simulation exercise in the sector to prepare us to face the worst, save lives and protect the assets of farmers. We share the same vision with respect to providing opportunities to improve livelihoods in the region. I am anxious to see how we can build more synergies among countries, with the assistance of IICA”.
“Moreover”, he said, “I hope that we do not adopt an individualistic approach, but instead discuss synergies that will allow us all to advance, as a region. The lines of communication between the States and IICA should remain open. The doors of IICA have always been open to support our regional efforts”.
The IICA Director General spoke of the commitments of the hemispheric organization with respect to the countries of the Caribbean, vowing to continue supporting the advancement of the local rural sector. He mentioned aspects such as maintaining the infrastructure of the fourteen offices, providing adequate human and financial resources to implement the strategies deployed in the Caribbean, including a special fund to support the region.
“We are going to continue supporting proposals and securing external funding to address agricultural and rural development issues, serving as a bridge and facilitator for horizontal, South-South and Triangular cooperation, while capitalizing on the complementarities among different regions”, commented Otero. He also stressed the importance of supporting the post-Covid-19 renewal and positioning of the agriculture and rural sectors of the Caribbean.