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Health and agri project to feature at CWA 2013

Drs. Leroy Phillip (L) and Wayne Ganpat.

Researchers from Canada and the Caribbean will be looking for greater buy in to a food and nutrition security programme currently being run in four countries when the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) continues this week in Georgetown.

The CDN $5M project is spearheaded by researchers from McGill University and from the University of the West Indies (UWI) in Trinidad and Tobago. They are looking to improve food production in the region, as well as the nutrition and health of CARICOM populations. 

McGill Professor Leroy Phillip said the project addresses three areas that had been identified as challenges in the region, namely agriculture productivity, health (particularly obesity and chronic non-communicable diseases) and market opportunities for small farmers.

According to him, it was the first time a project had sought to link agriculture and health.

“It is targeting small holder farmers and school children so we’re using school feeding programmes as our vehicle for change and we’re using small holder farmers to deliver the kind of produce that we want,” Dr. Phillip explained.

The project is being run in Guyana, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis and Trinidad and Tobago.

Professor Phillip and UWI’s Dr. Wayne Ganpat are scheduled to be part of a workshop on Thursday looking at improving nutrition and health within CARICOM.” Incidentally, the theme for CWA 2013 is “Linking the Caribbean for Regional Food and Nutrition Security and Rural Development.”

Dr. Phillip noted that they received full support from the Guyana government which already had a school feeding policy in place with similar objectives. He added that the project was rooted in three key documents coming out of the region with the Jagdeo Initiative on Agriculture being the root of it. The other documents informing it was a report on CARICOM health and development commissioned by regional leaders and the Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy.

But Dr. Phillip said he believed sustaining and transferring the work they started to other territories were the likely challenges.

“The project comes to an end in a year, we’ve been having very successful results; the challenge for people involved is to sustain the momentum that we have when we’re gone.

The other challenge I think we have is transferability. We’re working in four countries and CARICOM is 15 countries so if we develop results in let’s say Guyana, Trinidad could say is that applicable to me? So transferability could be another challenge since not one size may fit all.”

The intention, he said, had always been to develop the model and have it adopted by the region. According to Dr. Ganpat, their immediate goal was to get the policy makers to buy in to the project.

“We could have all this good work but if they don’t decide to take some action then we’ll go nowhere so our goal here is to really get intervention at the policy level.”

He added that over the next few days they would be meeting with ministers and other officials in an effort to get them involved.

“There are things they have to do to facilitate this process,” Dr. Ganpat said, identifying the link between the small farmers and the schools as an area for policy intervention.

The “From Farm to Fork” project as it is dubbed is being financed by the Canadian International Food Security Research Fund.