Linking, learning and transforming

An initial review from the Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum

The Caribbean-Pacific Agri-Food Forum (CPAF15) brought together farmers, entrepreneurs, policymakers, researchers and media from across the Caribbean and the Pacific, as well as other countries including Indian Ocean islands. CPAF15 took place from 2 to 6 November 2015 in Bridgetown, Barbados and consisted of eight workshops held in parallel sessions during the first three days and an Agribusiness Forum during the final two days. 

Around 300 participants from 37 countries attended, representing 110 organisations from farmers’ organisations to policymakers. Some participants also took part in learning journeys to other Caribbean countries (Jamaica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago).

Importantly, the Forum highlighted achievements from - and opportunities available to - Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Discover participant’s impressions of the event and read newly-available reports on participants' statistics as well as post-event survey results.

This snapshot of views from selected participants captures the major perceptions garnered by talking informally to more than 30 attendees. The responses were primarily to questions about their expectations, the actual outcomes of the Forum and what could have been done to make the exercise more meaningful. The workshop sessions were generally more favourably assessed than the Agribusiness Forum. There was near universal agreement that individual presentations during the panels on the last two days were neither appropriately time-managed nor structured to engage the diverse audience.

Richard Mathiot, Executive Chef and Principal Lecturer, Seychelles Tourism Academy: "When I heard I was going to Barbados it was a 'Wow', simply because it was a chance of a lifetime". He wanted to learn about the similarities and differences in the Tourism products between the Caribbean and the Seychelles. He anticipated seeing for himself what was so special about Barbados and the Caribbean. Effusing that he had learnt a lot, not only in terms of different uses of produce the islands shared in common, but a healthier appreciation of the Seychelles' unique products. "Learn to value and be creative with what you have" was his most significant "take home" message. Given a population base of 90,000 he was realistic in terms of the Seychelles ability to compete head-on with larger producers. With regard to tourism in the Seychelles "Change the whole concept, value the product and then send it to the plate ...from farm to table, so at the end of the day whoever eats that product will say it's a 'wow'. We will never be able to compete with French Fries, but we can have value added." He advocated the immediate setting up of a Steering Committee to form an Alliance of Chefs of the Caribbean and the Pacific. "This is the time, and the time cannot be tomorrow," for the Chefs of both regions to develop an action platform from which they can meaningfully increase the use of local produce.


Rasheeda Hall-Hanson, Researcher, Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), Jamaica Unit: "My idea on coming to the conference was that I would be exposed to a lot of the issues that are now current with respect to food security, and particularly climate change." When asked if her expectations were met she responded "Absolutely." She was surprised by the "level of information," to which she was exposed. She had no idea of the myriad activities and initiatives taking place in the Caribbean although she worked on root crop accessions from the Pacific that are being tested for drought and salt tolerance. By way of improvement for future seminars, she opined that there should be opportunities to engage some of the concurrent sessions that she may have missed, because of her involvement in the climate change workshop. A designated poster display area, with looped video playback of the sessions, was amongst her suggestions to compensate for the extremely packed itinerary.


Jean-Baptiste Calo: Media Consultant and Journalist. Having attended, and covered a number of key sessions of the Pacific Delegation at ACP activities including the negotiations surrounding the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP), it was his first visit to the Caribbean. He focused on relaying information about CPAF15 and its likely impact and outcomes to his audience in the Pacific. Coming to the Caribbean was the fulfilment of a long-held dream from a personal and professional perspective. The first Pacific Agri-Tourism Forum during June 2015 in Fiji alerted him to the fact that the Caribbean's products were different and worthy of emulation in some cases. The opportunity to actually visit the Caribbean and see "first-hand" some of the innovations was his most significant knowledge acquisition. The Forum was quite a learning event for him; he recognised that there is a lot that the Pacific can learn from the Caribbean and vice-versa. The Pacific is a useful climate analogue for the Caribbean (an area where the current or likely impacts of climate change are, or will be, similar) and he was aware of the significant exchange of drought- and salt-tolerant planting material. The importance of these adapted plant varieties to the improvement of Caribbean nutrition security was not lost on the veteran journalist. The CPAF15 was the first Forum he had been to where he was an "interviewee".


Pathleen Titus: Adviser to the Secretary for Agriculture, Tobago House of Assembly; and former Country Representative/Researcher, Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI). She anticipated a widening of her network and an increased appreciation of the developments with regard to Climate-Smart Agriculture. She happily reported that the climate change workshop was excellent, with a very efficient facilitator. Ms. Titus was impressed by the fact that all participants felt a part of the process, contributed to the formulation of solutions and were allowed to approach the issue from their diverse areas of expertise. Whilst she was impressed with her workshop she lamented the fact that the Agribusiness Forum had too many long presentations from the panellists and lacked a participatory approach. She gained nothing from the process that was compounded by the poor time management. Additionally, the logistical arrangements were extremely poor. She recommended small group sessions to allow for greater involvement and contributions by all participants. "Presenters should be careful with information disseminated. Some inaccuracies were presented, this is probably due to the fact that presenters were not knowledgeable enough." As a former researcher she was peeved by some of the institutional presentations that were not delivered by the persons who actually did the research.

Mark Remy: Farmer, representing two organisations in Saint Lucia, the Bellevue Farmers' Cooperative, and Farmers with Disabilities. He contributes vegetables and root crops to the former and a full range of apiary products for the latter where he is also the President. He was invited to attend the Forum because of his Cooperative's membership in the Caribbean Farmers Network (CAFAN). He was particularly grateful and appreciative of the work CAFAN did in organising the Forum and exposing member organisations to agro-tourism linkages and other initiatives geared to boost famers' livelihoods. He complimented the organisers on highlighting some of the issues stymieing smallholder farmers such as access to credit and other resources including markets. He was satisfied that he learnt a lot but lamented the fact that, to put what he learnt into practice, and to share with other farmers, requires finance. Although not directly requesting financial support from the organisers, he highlighted the loss of earnings he was subjected to by dint of his participation at the Forum and subsequent learning tour. He was adamant that he had genuinely learnt a lot and was now in a position to widen his network with farmers and institutions in the Caribbean and the Pacific. Whilst he was very pleased with the workshop sessions he attended on value chains, and agri-finance; he believed the Agribusiness forum could have been better organised. There were too many presentations resulting in an information overload, especially when the presentations were not accompanied by graphics or videos. Future sessions should be less compact and provide more opportunities to participate.


Christopher Serju: Veteran Journalist with the Jamaica Gleaner Newspaper. Having covered most of the annual Caribbean Week of Agriculture events over the last decade, the views of this agriculture-savvy journalist were solicited. He believed that the Forum would have provided "practical examples of some of the gains made in agriculture, agro-processing and other related areas as a result of interventions over the years. I am somewhat disappointed that I am still seeing much more of a talk shop than practical implementation." To improve future fora he opined that a scaling up of the practical examples of success stories is necessary. "I have been seeing too many of them at the model level, pilot projects", he adds. "When you are catering for the delegates and stakeholders here, I want to see Caribbean products which have come out of these initiatives being used in the drinks and food, that is served to them, so we can proudly say that these products came from initiatives launched five years ago."



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