The workshop which opened yesterday morning under the theme "Inclusive Evidence-based Coverage of Agriculture and Rural Development in the Caribbean" is being held as part of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture by the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) along with the Association of Caribbean Media Workers.
Stressing the need for more information with an aim to promote agriculture and rural development issues was Guyana's Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy. He spoke of what he described as a void in reporting on agriculture related issues in the region.
He said that the average Caribbean citizen is unaware of the Jagdeo initiative and its importance to the Caribbean.
The Jagdeo Initiative is regarded as a regional strategy aimed at promoting and advancing agriculture policies across the region. It was crafted by former President Bharrat Jagdeo but much of its proposal and recommendations aimed at promoting food security in the region are yet to be realized.
Dr. Ramsammy commenting on the lack of information on the initiative, said that coverage is "marginable at its best". "The authorities themselves don't talk about it"
He said that awareness of the initiative was also likened to that of the Economic Partnership Agreement which the Minister believes "the average citizen is unaware of". The Minister said that he estimates that "food insecurity" affects some eight million people in the Caribbean adding that agriculture holds the answers to addressing the food and nutrition puzzles.
"There is a dire need for indigenous research," Minister Ramsammy told the reporters and agricultural specialists. He recalled that the region once held what he said was the "proud record in Agriculture research".
He pointed to faltering research with the "departure" of the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture.
"We have a poor agriculture capacity research in this region and we need to change that paradigm...I am not ashamed to say we have a poorly coordinated research agenda; we have the elements of it together..."
The Minister listed CARDI, the University of the West Indies, St. George's University in Grenada and the locally based University of Guyana, Guyana School of Agriculture and N.A.R.I.
The Minister said that a poor job was done; there were constraints recognized by the Jagdeo Initiative.
Recognizing the importance of the media workshop to promote coverage of the agriculture issues was Maurice Wilson of CARDI. "Constantly we have underestimated in many ways the overriding importance of agriculture...It is linked to health, manufacturing, provides food to the mining sector."
Agriculture has been described as not being attractive enough to for media coverage but Wilson believes that it is important enough to warrant coverage.
"We collectively must make agriculture a significant important element in our lives... and bring it to the attention of all the stakeholders that matter."
Thierry Doudet of the CTA noted that the media workshop can be used to strengthen reporting on Agriculture and Rural Development Issues. The CTA is known for its technical capacity that has been able to provide specialized information on a range of issues including agriculture, climate change and food and nutrition.