The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, in collaboration with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, will convene the Eleventh Regional Planners Forum on Agriculture at the Hilton Resort, Barbados on Thursday, 14 September 2017 and Friday, 15 September 2017 under the theme Innovation Systems for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development.
The Regional Planners Forum provides for dialogue amongst Agricultural Planners of the Region and articulation of regional policies in agriculture, based on national and regional priorities/imperatives. The recommendations of the forum are received by Ministers of Agriculture at the Special Meeting of the Council of Trade and Economic Development (Agriculture) for that body’s consideration. The forum is therefore a key body to map the growth and expansion of the agricultural sector of CARICOM and realisation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
The objective of the forum is to identify and promote policies and institutional mechanisms to strengthen innovation systems for sustainable agriculture and rural development in three very crucial areas: Financial Instruments, Investments and Institutional Strengthening; Climate Smart Agriculture; and Value Chains and Access to Inclusive Markets.
Some seventy persons will be participating in the forum. Agricultural Planners of CARICOM Member States and officials of several institutions and agencies engaged in Agriculture Development of the Region as well as the private sector of the Caribbean will be in attendance. In addition, for the first time, the Regional Planners Forum will include representatives of several Latin American countries, who will be provide insights and information on the activities in their respective countries that propel the adoption of innovation systems for sustainable agriculture and rural development.
Emphasis has been placed on active participation of delegates and on knowledge sharing and there will be break-out sessions to allow all participants to contribute to issues that have been identified.
The analysis and discussion will thus be based on a critical view of public policy and institutional frameworks and what must be done to be more facilitative of the development and adoption of innovative proposals to meet current demands of the countries and local communities in these three areas that are critical for the expansion of the agricultural sector.
The recent passing of Hurricane Irma and its devastating impacts on some of our Caribbean countries have served as a grim reminder of the impacts of climate change on vulnerable Small Island Developing States with limited natural resource base. It underscores even more the need for Climate Smart Agriculture to be a main component of agricultural planning and national disaster preparedness plans. In this regard, planners would examine the predicted impacts of Climate Change on the Agriculture Sector and the adverse effects on food and nutrition security in the Region and the innovation strategies and policies needed to build resilience and promote sustainable natural resources management systems.
Availability and adequacy of financial services, such as loans and insurance, and the impact on investment in agriculture remain a major concern of stakeholders.Planners will deliberate on success stories in Member States and critically assess the services available to small and large investors towards finalising a Regional Strategy for Investment in Agriculture. Issues such as what is needed to attain higher levels of public-private partnerships, institutional strengthening and actions that must be taken to promote an innovative investment strategy for the benefit of all stakeholders will be examined critically.
There are important examples of innovation in family farming in Latin America and the Caribbean which have enhanced the assets of rural communities through the use of technology in value chain development according to their own productive and cultural processes with linkages to more efficient and sustainable markets. An examination of the lessons learned from these innovations and the implications for policy makers is important to improve the performance of the agricultural sector, and particularly the empowerment of small farmers. In addition, the forum will deliberate on what policies or instruments have supported the creation of innovative Caribbean products, assisted in agricultural marketing and distribution and have led to improved livelihoods and poverty reduction. Representatives of the Caribbean Agribusiness Association, the Caribbean Farmers Network and the Massy Group of Companies and Goddard enterprises Limited will ensure that the private sector perspectives are taken on board in these deliberations.
An action plan and road map for each area of focus will be developed as the outcome of the meeting through a fully participatory process. Lead presenters from experts in the various focal areas and panellists will set the tone for group discussions and plenary sessions. The final recommendations will be presented to the Seventy First Special Meeting of the Council of Trade and Economic Development – Agriculture which will be held in Guyana on 4-6 October, 2017.