Communiqués

Media room

Opening speech from Michael Hailu, CTA Director

For immediate release - Bridgetown, Barbados, 2 November 2015

University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus, Barbados.

Monday 2nd November, 2015, 09:00 hrs - 11:00 hrs.

- Mr. Elsworth Reid, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Food Fisheries and Water Resource Management

- Senator Norman Grant, President, Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS), and Chairman of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN)

- Mr. Jethro Greene, Chief Coordinator, Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN)

- Mr. James Paul, MP, Chief Executive Officer, Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS)

- Ambassador Mikael Barfod, Head of Delegation of the European Union for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean

- Mr. Howard Aru, Director General, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Livelihoods, Forestry and Biodiversity

- Ms. Krystal Cox, Entrepreneur, St. Lucia

Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you all to the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum--the first of its kind that is bringing together farmers, entrepreneurs, policy makers, researchers, and the media from across the Caribbean, Pacific as well as from other countries, including Indian Ocean islands.

I am grateful to the Government and people of Barbados for welcoming us to this beautiful island.

Our main purpose for coming together this week is to explore new ways of transforming the agri-food sector in the Caribbean and Pacific regions so that it meets the nations' quest food security, healthy diets, job creation and overall economic growth.

We will be seeking win-win solutions for famers and agribusinesses alike so that they can both benefit by working together. For far too long, we have been talking about problems and challenges of agriculture. Conferences of this kind tend to focus on discussing problems rather than finding solutions. At this Forum, we want to change the tide of pessimism to a vision of optimism and focus our energies on seeking innovative solutions and smart partnerships that will transform the agri-food landscape across the Caribbean and Pacific.

We made a deliberate decision that the Forum should centre around people and action, based on experience from the field. As a result, you will have the chance to hear from and connect with people who have real-life experiences and lessons to share about how private sector entrepreneurship can become a game changer for the agrifood sector, and for the small-scale farmers and entrepreneurs engaged in it.

There is plenty of evidence to show that small island developing states are more vulnerable to economic shocks and natural hazards than other countries. If they are going to move from a position of vulnerability and dependence to one of resilience, these countries must explore new areas of economic development and strengthen their diversification strategies.

At CTA, we have seen time and time again that value chains and agribusiness, supported with an enabling policy environment, are the key drivers for transforming agriculture and fisheries in the ACP. At the end of the day, this is the strategy that is going to make a real difference to rural people whether they live in poverty, or are able to make a reliable income and have a decent standard of living. Nowhere is this more true than in the case of young people. It is no coincidence that the average age of farmers is 55-60 years old in the ACP countries, and that young people find the idea of working the land less than appealing, with its long hours and hard labour.

But farming needn't be like that, if you take a business approach. And especially if you factor in the massive potential of using ICTs in the agrifood sector. During the next few days, we will be exploring some of the many exciting opportunities for using Internet platforms and mobile phones at all stages of the agrifood value chain, from production and processing right through to marketing and distribution. We need to show the young generation that there is a bright future in agrifood, and that they must be a part of it.

Taking a cross-learning approach is one of the lynchpins of CTA's strategy for promoting agricultural and rural development in the ACP. That's because we have seen that there is much to be gained from countries and regions sharing their knowledge and best practices, especially when they have similar difficulties to overcome and potential for finding solutions.
I have no doubt, given the high-profile of the participants that are here today – that during this week, innovative ideas will emerge that can be of benefit to farmers and fisherfolk in both the Caribbean and Pacific.
In the pre-event survey that we conducted, many of you have said that your main purpose for coming to this event is to make new contacts as well as get new insights, ideas and knowledge on the various topics.

We have an action-packed programme lined up for you, with hands-on workshops, where you can explore how to create a successful agribusiness company, examine inclusive business models, learn about ICTs for fisheries, and even receive training in social media and Web 2.0 tools. Other themes to be addressed will be policy advocacy for Caribbean and Pacific farmers' leaders, improving access to finance. In keeping with the practical style of this first Caribbean-Pacific Agrifood Forum, we will be hearing about the role that chefs can play in linking agriculture and tourism.

The final two days of the event – on Thursday and Friday – will be dedicated to the 2nd Caribbean Agribusiness Forum--following the success of the one held last year in Grenada--with the theme of strengthening the agrifood sector and expanding markets. The Forum will facilitate sharing of successful business cases; identify tangible opportunities in new markets; and promote linkages between the agrifood sector and the tourism industry to increase sustainable local sourcing.
The Caribbean-Pacific Agrifood Forum is heavily supported by the Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme-funded by the European Union. CTA is a key implementing partner of the Programme, along with IICA and the Secretariat of the Pacific Community.

At CTA, we greatly value partnerships as a means for moving our vision forward, and today I would particularly like to thank our two co-organisers: the Barbados Agricultural Society, and the IICAgricu for helping to organize this innovative Forum. Also CAFAN. I would also like to thank the more than 30 organisations, from the Caribbean and Pacific, that are co-organizing various workshops and training sessions with us.

Let me thank you the participants for taking the time to travel long distances, in most cases, to join us at this exciting Forum.

In the spirit of the action-oriented, people-centred approach that is the dominant feature of this week, we will be aiming for impact and for making a difference. It is my great hope that the hard work and enthusiasm of everyone who has been involved in this week's Forum will translate into a promising future for smallholder farmers and agribusinesses across the Caribbean, Pacific and other small island developing states.

Thank you for your kind attention.

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