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`Believe in agriculture’ – rallying call at CWA 2013 opening

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana)     The Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) 2013 was formally opened on Wednesday evening with rallying calls for belief in the agricultural potential of the Region, and action, at all levels, to realize that potential.
At the Guyana International Conference Centre at Liliendaal, Greater Georgetown, where activities of the twelfth edition of CWA are anchored, speakers at the opening ceremony were confident about the movement towards food security and the alleviation of poverty.
Dr the Hon Leslie Ramsammy, Minister of Agriculture of Guyana, led the chorus of calls for belief in agriculture as a vehicle for regional development, as a wealth creator, and as the key to food and nutrition security. In his welcoming remarks, the Minister called on the Region to reaffirm its commitment to agriculture, to ensure that it was a vehicle through which the future was guaranteed; and the means through which all citizens could live in food security.
“We must leave this evening saying `I believe’ … `I believe’ is a new Guyana campaign because I believe that Guyana is taking our place in the family of CARICOM truly as the breadbasket of this Region. We are committed, and we believe that we do not have to import US$5B worth of food from outside the Caribbean. Working together we can feed our people; we can produce all the food we need,” he told the packed auditorium.
Dr. Arlington Chesney, Executive Director of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) underscored the necessity for belief in the sector.
“We need to believe in ourselves,” he reiterated, as he pointed to the gains the Region had made in agriculture and the benefits of the CWA, as well as to the steps that needed to be taken to ensure food security. Among those steps were increasing capacity, facilitating farmers working together, and more investment in agriculture.
Dr. Douglas Slater, Assistant Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM)’s Directorate of Human and Social Development, said that the Region had to recognize that “we have to be integrated in all our efforts”, and added that “we believe that we can do it, but we must work at it”.
Dr. Slater stressed that while high credit was assigned to `business people’ – traders who buy and sell – recognition needed to be given to those who engage in agriculture who “really create value, create wealth”.
“It is time for you to recognize that and to ensure that it is understood that there is real business in agriculture,” he said. Dr. Slater said that the CWA was being held at an opportune time, when intense focus was being placed on non-communicable diseases. There could not be human and social development without people being properly fed, he pointed out. He threw out challenges to the youth to understand the economics of agriculture so they could earn a living from it; and to the media to ensure that the people of the Caribbean were well informed about what was happening in the Community.
Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2013, which began on 4 October and concludes on Friday following a Special meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Agriculture, is being held under the theme `Linking the Caribbean for Regional Food and Nutrition Security and Rural Development’.

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