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Climate smart agriculture must be adopted

Published in GINA, 6 Oct 2013

October 7, 2013

As part of the on-going activities for the 12 th Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA), an opening ceremony was held to officially usher in the 43 workshops which are already underway, and continue into the week.

During the formal ceremony held at the Guyana International Conference Centre, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute ( CARDI) and Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) launched its joint publication entitled 'Making Caribbean Agriculture Climate Smart.'

Guyana's Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy was presented with a copy of the document by CARDI's Executive Director, Dr. H. Arlington Chesney.

Dr. Chesney emphasised that the book outlines the work that has been done in the last three years by CARDI and CTA on improving the policy framework, sensitisation of the public on climate change and the way forward in developing climate change resilient systems in the Caribbean.

"The publication presents a detailed synopsis of the new climate smart agriculture with information provided on how the global climate change system works, what factors are changing the global climate, indications and impacts of the changing climate...it also shares information on how climate change is threatening the agricultural and food production systems in the Caribbean, and around the world, what are the various solutions and response options to deal with climate change, and agriculture and how CARDI and CTA are working with national, regional and international partners to build a new climate smart agriculture," he said.

In his feature presentation, Minister Ramsammy stated that the CWA provides great opportunities to examine where the Caribbean is thus far in agriculture, its economic importance, and how it can better lives.

The Minister highlighted that former President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo has, and continues to play a pivotal role globally in advocating for better ways to be found to address climate change.

He explained that Guyana has just experienced one of the wettest August and September months since maintaining rainfall records and one of the wettest start of October. The Minister described the recent weather changes as weird.

"Whatever we call it, we in the Caribbean do not find it funny that some want to continue the debate as to whether there is global warming and climate change. We know and we are experiencing climate change and our experiences have been that climate change threatens our economic and social development... I believe those who have doubted climate change and those who have continued to drag their feet are reckless in their behaviour and leave too many people at risk," he stated.

Minister Ramsammy stressed that agriculture can, and must be a pillar on which a sustainable and resilient economy is built so as to bring equity, prosperity and social justice for all peoples. Further, agriculture, or more appropriate today, the climate smart agriculture must be the vehicle for sustained economic and social prosperity and for ensuring that CARICOM countries reach the goal of high middle income countries in their lifetime.

In this regard, the participants were called upon to talk passionately about climate smart agriculture and be diligent and aggressive in placing it at the very heart of any people-centered development agenda.

"For Guyana, and countries in CARICOM, this is an imperative... in our countries and in a world where the pursuit of equity for our citizens remain a major challenge, it is our imperative to robustly promote a knowledge-based, climate smart, multifunctional transformative agricultural sector as one of the prudent approaches to achieve equity and better lives for our people," the Minister highlighted.

In this regard, the Jagdeo Initiative was a sound approach and remains relevant today. "I am saddened that having developed and embraced a prudent approach to transform agriculture and ensure it plays an expanded role in our development trajectory, we have been lukewarm in our implementation of the Jagdeo Initiative," Minister Ramsammy expressed.

It is the Minister's hope that CWA 2013 sees a new commitment and reaffirmation to the Jagdeo Initiative.

He acknowledged that agriculture plays a significant role in the emission of greenhouse gases. "Our agriculture development trajectory must proceed in ways that reduce agriculture's environmental footprint, reduce vulnerability to climate change, help agriculture to create food security and add to the energy stock through bio-fuel production," the Minister posited.

Importantly, Guyana's Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS) is an ambitious and lofty approach to development that shows that global warming and climate change can be reversed, and that even countries that played no role in its emergence can contribute to the solution without deferring development.

"The challenge we face today is enormous...we must be willing to respond with ambitions that are equally enormous in its scope," Minister Ramsammy indicated.

Climate smart agriculture can help the Caribbean to increase food production, reduce losses due to weather patterns, become more resilient to climate change, reduce greenhouse gases and play a role in mitigation of climate change. If climate smart agriculture or conservation agriculture is practiced, the region can also reduce water needs for crops by 30 percent, lower energy needs by 70 percent and increase carbon sequestration, he posited.

"I believe there is a call to action...today, we declare that agriculture will not be part of the problem of global warming and climate change and a threat to food and nutrition security, but represents a robust solution, leading to adaptation and mitigation of the weather insecurity challenge," Minister Ramsammy declared.

During the opening ceremony greetings were delivered by the President of the Association of Caribbean Media Workers, Wesley Gibbings; Regional Coordinator, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Gregg Rawlins; Director, technical Centre for Agriculture, CTA, Michael Haili; Executive Director CARDI and Officer-in- Charge, Trade and Economic Integration CARICOM, Desiree Field- Ridley.