(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Good Evening. I wish first of all, to congratulate and thank the Government of Suriname for being such excellent hosts and for the hard work and commitment which have gone into the planning and preparation for this event.
This year, we focus on the theme of Family Agriculture for CWA 2014 – a theme that is timely and highly relevant to the development of agriculture here in the Caribbean Region.
One may well ask “What is it about agriculture that lends itself to family- managed production?”
Agricultural production requires localized knowledge, flexibility, and the ability to quickly adapt to changes in the production environment, and those are all strengths of family businesses.
Agricultural production is also highly seasonal work, and families are able to adjust their labour to the seasonality of farm production and to reallocate their labour to other tasks on and off the farm to accommodate unexpected variability in agricultural production needs.
Agricultural production requires an intimate knowledge of local soils and nutrient status, pests and diseases, water availability, and weather conditions to effectively manage production operations. This is especially important in the Caribbean where the adoption of climate-smart agricultural practices in smallholder production is so critical to sustainable livelihoods. Similarly, effective animal husbandry decisions still depend on close observation of animals and knowledge of animal behaviour in the specific environment of the farm. Farmers have to be able to adapt quickly as sudden changes in weather, pest populations, and commodity markets demand quick and informed decisions.
Farm families also have localized on-farm expertise, often passed down through generations, and they have the incentive, as owners of the operations, to make those decisions quickly.
The reality of Family farming in our region includes thousands of small farms as well as some successful large farms – all applying indigenous knowledge and technology and acting as innovators in their own right. Some of the large and very successful commercial family-managed farms in the Caribbean include the Mennonite farmers in Belize who are responsible for much of the corn, beans and dairy production, rice farmers in Guyana, cassava farmers here in Suriname, and sheep and goat farmers in Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.
Under our new 2014-2018 Medium Term Plan, Family Agriculture and Rural Inclusion are two of the four flagship projects which constitute the backbone of our technical cooperation actions in the Member States.
With our new MTP and IICAs’ motto of Sowing Innovation to Harvest Prosperity, IICA therefore wishes to take this opportunity to re-affirm its commitment to Family Agriculture in the Caribbean, and to the application of technology in helping to promote a new kind of agriculture in the Caribbean that will make the sector more competitive and increase its contribution to food security.
In closing, I wish to commend the Ministry of Agriculture and the Government of Suriname for their vision and commitment to making this CWA one to remember, and to extend to all, our best wishes for a productive and successful CWA 2014.