"The small island states are particularly vulnerable. In some cases, extreme weather events can wipe out agriculture in a very short space of time.
Grenada lost 70% of its agriculture in 2004 during Hurricane Ivan," said Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) Director Michael Hailu, who opened the workshop Monday on "Improving climate change in the small ruminants and Fisheries industries in the Caribbean.
"For some time now, CTA has been supporting institutions in the region in building resilience to climate change and its effect on agriculture, and this initiative will help to voice farmers' concerns and explore some of the options for helping them. Partnership is critical, and we hope that we can further engage farmers' organisations, institutions such as Caribbean Agriculture and Research Development Institute (CARDI) and other stakeholders, including the private sector," said Hailu in a statement.
Although some farmers, fishers, foresters and livestock keepers are already adapting to climate change using indigenous and scientific knowledge, in many cases adaptation requires investment and policy changes that enable farmers to manage risk, forecast weather and better use natural resources.
"We are seeking to explore what actually works, in which conditions and how these most effective initiatives can be scaled up," said Oluyede Ajayi, Senior Programme Coordinator for agricultural policy and rural development at CTA.
"We also want to find out what we don't know, and ask how we can fill that information gap and what kind of partnerships are required."
An important focus of the workshop involves listening to farmers and fishers who are in the front line in the fight against climate change.
"We think it is important to give farmers and fishers a platform, so that they can make their voices heard," said Ajayi.
"We want to hear about their direct experiences, how climate change is impacting them and where they need help. We want to explore where there are opportunities to lessen the impact. For example, through ICTs that can disseminate vital information to farmers and fishers," he said.
CTA will also be pursuing a three-pronged approach to climate change, targeting the collection of evidence-based knowledge, building capacity of stakeholders, especially small-scale producers, and disseminating useful information, within and across ACP countries and regions.
"The impact of climate change on food and nutrition security in the Caribbean, the Pacific as well in many African countries is a reality and no longer a hypothetical future scenario," said Hailu.
"But there is hope, if we plan well, based on solid facts, get stakeholders on board with strong partnerships, and show real commitment. The time to act is now," he added
The two-day workshop aimed at giving a voice to some of the world's most vulnerable small-scale producers in the Caribbean and is part of the Global Alliance on Climate Smart Agriculture(CSA)formed at the UN Climate Summit 2014, held in New York in September.
It groups together governments, international organisations, farmers' groups, multinational companies and NGOs, and has set itself the target of enabling 500 million farmers to practise climate smart agriculture by 2030. CTA has signed up to the Alliance, with a commitment to promote knowledge sharing on successful CSA practices across Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific (ACP).
The workshop also shares lessons on making Caribbean agriculture more resilient, specifically for fisheries and small ruminant production, both important sectors for the region, and both sectors that are being significantly affected by changing weather patterns.
CTA is developing a range of initiatives to tackle the impact of climate change on small-scale producers and promote (CSA) as a way of ensuring food security and building resilient agricultural systems.
Farmer innovations and best practices are creating new opportunities, and the workshop will seek to identify these and build on them.
CTA is sponsoring 40 delegates to take part in the Caribbean Week of Agriculture, drawn from farmers' and fishers' organisations and women's groups, as well as scientists, legislators and policy makers.
Written by Pita Ligaiula in Paramaribo, Suriname