Participants shared their learning experiences
The final session of the Study Visit and Planning Workshop was for participants to share their learning experiences that can be adopted; strengthening country to country agriculture.
Richie (Antigua): I arrived in St. Vincent, not knowing what to expect. When the session opened I was eager to get started. I was placed in group “marketing and production” and assigned the task of scribing, which I gladly facilitated. I would like to say thank you to all of my group members. They gave me insights into the marketing technique which is so greatly needed to facilitate production. The field trip was a delight for me it gave me an opportunity to do something I recently adopted as a hobby. – taking pictures. I also learned about Citrus Greening – a disease that affects citrus plants. They are also experimenting with several varieties of tomatoes in an attempt to find a suitable variety adaptable to St. Vincent.
Amanda (St Lucia): It is amazing how far we have come as an agriculture community, and indeed as a region, in appreciating the value the Media, and communication for development is to the success of our evolving agriculture economy. The excitement and enthusiasm that the proposal for the initiation of a CaFAN Media Programme to train and develop the capacity of media practitioners received from the participants of the Strategic Planning Meeting is testimony that with improved Public Relations, Marketing and communications on all facets of the industry, could greatly assist our quest to sustain rural modernization... especially our youth and women .Media will definitely work for the betterment of our Agriculture...giving it the prestige and applause it so rightly deserve!!
In 2002, at the suggestion of creating a “regional” farmers’ organization in the Caribbean, many were hesitant that Caribbean farmers could work together and influence national and regional agricultural policies. However, with a vision and strong voices like CaFAN’s Chairman, Norman Grant of Jamaica; Chief Coordinator, Mr. Jethro Greene of St. Vincent and the Grenadines; Director, James Paul of Barbados; Director, Dhano Sookoo of Trinidad and other regional directors of the Caribbean Farmers Network, within a ten year period, the focus of Agriculture which has been on a decline since the collapse of the banana industry, is making a U-turn. Although the region’s agriculture sector has a long way to go, CaFAN is hopeful that it can return to the forefront once its farmers continue to work together and the right investments are put in place. These include strengthening existing and creating new market linkages and building alliances along the value chain.
Presently, the region is tackling its food import bill of over four billion dollars as a result of the advocacy and lobbying actions of CaFAN and other national and regional agricultural bodies. The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has developed two regional agricultural policies; the Community Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy. CaFAN sat on both the CAP and the RFNS committees and advocated for Youth and Rural Modernization pillar to be one of the main pillars covered in the CAP.
In addition, CaFAN is working to ensure that these policies move from paper to implementations through its own interventions. In this regard, CaFAN was instrumental in the setting up of a regional cluster of institutions which comprises institutions such as CARDI, IICA, FAO, CARICOM and the University of the West Indies. This cluster provides a platform for information sharing and collaboration in order to avoid duplication of resources and to formulate programmes within the region. The committee covers areas such as food and nutrition, climate change, water resource development, youth and women, etc.
Also, CaFAN has presented several position papers advocating the position of Caribbean small farmers and the importance of ensuring that they be seen as business persons and given a strong voice in the decision making process.
As a non-profit organisation, the Caribbean Farmers Network thrives on the success of its members and have been creating projects and programs aimed at empowering its farmers’ organisations through advocacy and lobbying, capacity building and market linkages. The support offered to members is to enable members to be independent and to develop their own national programs aimed at meeting the needs of their farmers and ensuring the right investment are put to agricultural development within their country.
CaFAN in Action through some of its members:
- Antigua and Barbuda
Pamela Thomas is the President of the Team Fresh Farmers’ Cooperative in Antigua and Barbuda. She was an assistant school principal and female farmer who was recently assigned to work in the Ministry of Agriculture as a CaFAN representative. This transfer shows very strong confidence and respect that the government holds for the role of CaFAN in Antigua. This great achievement is also as a result of the Cooperative’s role towards agricultural development in Antigua and Barbuda. Since in the Ministry, several projects have been developed and in process for implementation. These include:
- A construction of the first high-tech solar powered greenhouse technology;oThe launch of Farmers’ and Producers’ Organizations Role in RAS;
- The piloting of the First Farmer-Field-School for at risk youths;
- The Youth “Access Agriculture Program”; and
- Agro-processing, storage and micro financing plant.
The Chief Executive Officer of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS), James Paul is leading the negotiations along with his counterpart the President of the Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago, Dhano Sookoo with major supermarket buyers on behalf of the entire CaFAN network. In Barbados, BAS already have contracts with hotels and supermarkets to supply over 13 products as an import substitution effort. Barbados is heavily dependent on Tourism and is one the largest importers of food within the region. The Barbados “Agrofest” is one of BAS premier activities which have been promoting the consumption of locally grown food in an effort to also reduce the country’s food import bill through agricultural exhibitions.
Evan Gooding and Magdalene Niles of the North East Farmers Organisation (NEFO) are taking the charge to broaden the CaFAN network in Grenada. In collaboration with the Marketing and National Importing Board which is also a member of CaFAN, functions as the marketing arm in Grenada for all CaFAN programmes. They already have contracts with major supermarkets and recently they have been given access to CaFAN overseas markets and are supplying products by air to the UK. Director of the marketing board Ruel Edwards sit as a Director of CaFAN along with Roderick St. Clair who works with MNIB and was trained by CaFAN sitting as a regional marketing advisor. NEFO is currently one of MNIB main suppliers of crops for export on the local and export markets.
The Jamaica Agricultural Society (JAS) and Christiana Potato Growers Cooperative Association are members of CaFAN. Senator Norman Grant, Chairman of CaFAN and President of JAS has held the charge in Jamaica for the “Eat what you grow and grow what you eat” campaign. Like Barbados, it too is a main importer of food but has been working significantly to reduce its food import bill. JAS has launched a “National Red Peas Planting Project” aimed at revitalizing the local production and reducing the high import bill for the commodity. It is also very active in getting young people through its Annual Denbigh Agricultural, Food and Industrial Show.
In addition, the President of JAS has received a national award by the country’s Prime Minister on August 6th, 2015 for the work he is doing on behalf of the farmers in Jamaica. It is through such recognitions that helps to motivate young people to get involved in agriculture and to make their contributions impactful.
- St. Lucia:
Belle Vue Farmers’ Cooperative under the leadership of Raphael Felix is leading the charge in supplying the country’s tourism and supermarkets with local produce. These marketing opportunities for farmers is a demonstration of the high level placed on agriculture in St. Lucia
St. Vincent and the Grenadines:
The Eastern Caribbean Trading Agriculture and Development Organisation (ECTAD) continues to expand its marketing programme to the United Kingdom. ECTAD was able to train ordinary farmers like Vanessa Joseph and Billidorn Haywood to market their own products. As a result of the work put into dasheen production and marketing, the crop which was an obscure crop, is now the 3rd highest export crop out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. ECTAD is proud of its farmers in the six dasheen villages who are working together for over six years to market their own crop.
- Trinidad and Tobago:
The Agricultural Society of Trinidad and Tobago is a very vocal representative for the farmers in the country. Through their advocacy and lobbying, ASTT was able to develop programmes that secure land for farmers in Trinidad including securing financing for farmers and to build roads for farmers. They are negotiating with local supermarkets and agro processors to expand marketing by air and sea. ASTT is also working on a pepper export and has started to export hot peppers to Europe.
There are other CaFAN members who are achieving great success such as in Dominica with the Nature Island Pineapple Gowers Association and the Nevis Growers Cooperative who are selling to the Hotel sector. Guyana and Suriname also have the land capacity and are working to expand production and agro-processing.
CaFAN is pleased with the success of all its members and will continue to provide support and assistance. We are extremely grateful for the support of CTA who along with CARDI are seen as CaFAN’s god-parents since it was at a CARDI-CTA conference that the idea first came about to establish the network.
Among CaFAN’s most recently achievement is the recognition from the Sandals Foundation who has offered CaFAN members the opportunity to supply their Hotel chains in countries where they have operation. Sandals Foundation has also partnered with CaFAN and the CTA through the Caribbean Value Chain Alliance. The Alliance aims to build strong relationships of trust between farmers and buyers along the value chain to leverage the power of markets for sustainable livelihoods of family farmers, women and youth in the Caribbean. It also serves as a platform for building partnerships with the private sector, agricultural organisations and institutions.
Beginning on February 1st, through to the 3rd, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and CARDI will be hosting a meeting on Market-Oriented Agricultural Extension in Port of Spain, Trinidad.