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Caribbean experts to focus on family farming, technology for agri

PARAMARIBO, Suriname, Oct 6 (CND).-Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2014 (CWA2014) kicks off here on Monday with a heavy focus on family farming and the use of technology in agriculture, according to top officials.

Executive Director of the Caribbean Agriculture and Research Development Institute (CARDI), Dr. Arlington Chesney said a hackathon (Agri Hack) scheduled for Thursday would see youths from across the region showing off applications (apps) that can benefit the region’s agriculture sector. “Agriculture is changing and is no longer land and labour but it is primarily knowledge and information,” he said. Youths are also expected to attend the several workshops that have been planned for CWA scheduled for October 6 to 12 under the theme “Transforming Caribbean Agriculture through Family Farming.”

Executive Director of The Netherlands-based Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Michael Hailu said in a message for the event in this former Dutch colony that during CWA, CTA would showcase the finalists of the Science and Agriculture Film and Video Competition and ICT applications developed within the framework of the AgriHack Talent Caribbean Competition – both interventions aimed at bringing youth into agriculture.  Organisers also plan to show films of participatory mapping exercises from Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, and we will launch the Regional Synthesis Report of ICT’s Uptake and Usage in Agricultural Value Chains in the Caribbean, a result of a joint effort between CTA and CARDI.

“The joint workshops on three main streams of work – value chain development, climate change/climate smart agriculture and policy and strategy for agricultural revitalisation and food and nutrition security – will focus our deliberations on key priority issues of concern for the region,” added Hailu .

The United Nations (UN) has designated 2014 as “International Year of Family Farming.”

The CARDI boss also said that CWA 2014 would highlight the crucial role that family farming can play in developing the Caribbean’s agricultural sector at a seminar titled “Transforming Caribbean Agriculture Through Family Farming.”  Some experts classify family farmers as those who earn 60 to 65 percent of their revenue from agriculture.  “Coupled with specific policies, family farming has the potential to stimulate local economies by providing a social safety net for the rural communities in which they are based,” states a briefing document.

A Caribbean Family Farming Working Group has already agreed to do five things to support family farming. They include crafting public policy, creating information and communication systems collect and analyse data, promoting an increase in youth and women, business and economic planning and analysis of enterprise development, and sustainable development to build resilience and reduce risk.

A Regional Dialogue on Family Farming in Latin America and the Caribbean that was held last October, 2013 in Chile has reported that four critical areas of family farming need to be addressed. They are no institutional framework to  guide family farming development, lack of appreciation and undervaluing of that type of farming by society and government, weak and uncoordinated economic, technological, social and environmental policies in this area.

Caribbean agriculture ministers are also due to hold their trade and economic ministerial meeting here later this week.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines journalist, Kenton Chance, who is at CWA 2014, contributed to this report.