CPDC members are NGOs located across all the language groupings of the Caribbean region.
The policy and action plan are extensive. While there will always be differences in the areas of emphasis based on sector (private, public, civil society) location, constituencies and methods of work, the majorityof the pertinent issues are recognised and mentioned in the documents.
My two overarching comments are about the communications strategy and the role of civil society in the implementation of the policy and action plan.
1. Communications strategy - the policy and action plan has to be shared publicly in a way which encourages each consumer to embrace its goals as their own.
Civil society has considerable capabilities with the diverse methodolgies of public education needed to achieve this.
Public education that focuses on technical information only will make little inroads into changing the food choices of 95% of consumers because we eat for the pleasure of the experience more than for nutritional value.
There are cases of available nutritious food going to waste because it does not appeal to perceptions of social status and the taste buds of consumers.
2. Civil society must be contracted to carry out a range of implementation roles in this policy and action plan; inclusive of production, processing, distribution, research, communications.
The RastafarI community has consistently advocated its commitment to food production and nutrition; and has demonstrated the benefits by its health profile over the past two generations.
Rural populations can be incentivised to produce; store, process, distribute food.
Indigenous populations have traditional knowledge of food storage and weather patterns which can be harnessed.
Small farmers have been the perservers of local foods - fruit trees, herbs, and ground provisions in particular.
Women as full time and part-time producers of domestic food are an important target group within each of the 4 contituencies named above.
The role of civil society should include dialogue, implementation and evaluation.
Posted on 17.08.2011 2:18 pm
Winston R. Rudder
Comments made thus far on the Regional Food and Nutrition Security Action Plan (RFNSAP) are very encouraging and confirm the value of this e-Consultation. They are deeply appreciated and we look forward to the further contributions in this continuing discussion.
Just to remind that the RFNSAP is based on the Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy (RFNSP) adopted and approved by the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development in October, 2010. The RFSNP aims to achieve four overarching food and nutrition security objectives:
• Food Availability: promote the sustainable production, processing, preparation, commercialization ad consumption of safe, affordable, nutritious, high quality Caribbean food commodities/products. This includes food, agricultural, rural, infrastructural development, land use and trade issues.
• Food Access: ensure regular access of Caribbean households, especially the poor and vulnerable, to sufficient quantities of safe, affordable, quality food at all times, particularly in response to diverse socioeconomic and natural shocks. Prices, incomes, agricultural public health, food safety and social development issues are covered.
• Food Utilization/Nutritional Adequacy: improve the nutritional status of Caribbean people especially with respect to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including diabetes, hypertension, overweight and obesity. Healthy lifestyle choices from early childhood - education, health, nutrition and social welfare issues are the major considerations.
• Stability of Food Supply: improve the resilience of the region’s national communities and households to natural and socioeconomic stresses. Research and development, information and early warning systems, disaster preparedness and management, and adaptation to climate change issues are included.
The development goal of the RFNSAP is to contribute to ensuring long-term food security of CARICOM Member States. Guided by this and the four specific objectives indicated above, the Draft RFNSAP proposes a comprehensive package of interventions, involving the community of public and private sector stakeholders acting in concert. It is the framework for elaborating detailed activities to be undertaken at regional and national levels. The draft affirms the relevance of the main issues raised by the commentators so far, including: the cultural dimensions of food (as part of consumer education and food utilization); wider stakeholder participation in food policy and planning processes (including disaster preparedness and risk reduction); increasing agricultural modernization, productivity and efficiency through research and development and the wider application of technology; enhancing support for commercialization of the agricultural and food sector by adopting and applying agribusiness approaches; and the critical importance of coordination and coherence within and across diverse national and regional institutions.
The RFNSAP is also very clear that in dealing with food and nutrition security, specific attention must be placed on the most vulnerable groups (small producers – farmers, fishers etc; women; children and the differently-abled) to ensure their sustainable livelihoods.
Winston R. Rudder
Posted on 16.08.2011 10:41 am
The problem with papers like these is that they do not address the detail. 2011 is the International Year for People of African Descent (IYPAD) and the main theme for BANGO is health, nutrition and food security. Certainly you can't separate the three.
This theme contemplates involving all people, from backyard farming and cottage industry to mass production of food. It speaks to an educational campaign debunking the myths that have us in this insecure position. There are some things which consumers should know, for example, that the best food is fresh food and that which is grown in your own country. Importation of fresh food ought to be a no-no because the time lapse will render the food as "not nutritious" because veg lose their potency in a few days.
Backyard farming is the best way to supplement food production and ease consumer demand. It is also a way that householders can save on the cost of food as we did in the past; albeit when we had no money to speak of and was forced to grow our own. Here we not only save in the household but this has a net effect on reducing imports.
GM Foods and all these processed foods which contain no natural enzymes and create a strain on the human body to digest is of great concern. Consideration must be given to cultural impacts and resultant shifts in attitudes, where our children have lost the understanding of what is good food. The sweets, fast foods and snacks which our children consider as food is a good example of how we have corrupted our sense of good food.
We have listened to those who have used the argument of "Comparative Advantage" to cause us to shut down our production processes and lose our technology, making us dependent on large corporation for our food, which comes at a price beyond what you pay for them. We don't know what is in the food we are eating today.
The next concern is the amount of drugs on the market. We eat the food, get sick and then they supply the drugs that are supposed to counteract the sickness. Personal health is not a certainty anymore. It is like Russian Roulette where there is always a bullet somewhere lurking to end your life. The long lines at doctors offices; the productive man-hours lost; the hours that school children miss because of sickness; our children have no stamina, etc.
Of course, the greatest challenge is countering the propaganda which the profiteers put out there to entice consumers and give them confidence in processed products. For example, corn flakes is promoted as cereal, when it is not... and too many people feel that KFC is a good lunch.
The problem is that we have integrated all these things into our economy and will have great difficulty getting rid of them for healthy alternatives. Whatever happens we must tell our people that good food is the best medicine.
Another matter is the hybrid seeds which farmers have to buy for every crop is an added expense. We must return to organic seeds and build several seed banks within the region so that farmers can save their seeds for planting. We must further attempt to protect the indigenous fruits and herbs before they are corrupted by the profiteers seeking new revenue streams.
We still have Golden apple, sugar apples, soursop, breadfruit and some others which have not been modified and we must seek to protect these from exploitation. Coconut water for example is set to be the next power drink in the USA moving to a multi-million dollar industry in just a year.
Finally, free trade is the final straw in making us totally dependent. Our only weapon against this is consumer education. Furthermore, any capacity building should contemplate facilities in each country that will research the nutritional and medicinal value of our plants as well as to equip small scale production on a cooperative basis. Foremost, capacity building must include a large investment in making findings widely available. This includes investment in technology, especially to equip the region with the necessary bandwidth for simple uses and for reaching remote areas. What we have is an effective monopoly situation which seeks to milk the most money from the least investment. This is holding us back as a region by rendering us "not competitive enough" because we are without the capacity for high volume flows of information.
Food Security has many aspects but the IYPAD Global team, founded and led by BANGO, started to look into the most obvious issues, given the urgency. The areas being acted on are:
1) Farming/Agriculture; systems and techniques
3) Distribution of produce
4) Distribution of Organic Seeds
5) Establishment of Standards and Practices for growing, selling, processing and packaging produce.
However, there is much more to food security such as:
• Protection of crops (larceny);
• Protection of stores (accidental or malicious damage);
• Disaster planning;
• Pest control;
• Nutrition content/quality;
• Energy; etc.
Posted on 12.08.2011 10:17 am
Any effective Action Plan needs to have mechanisms in place to include the opinions and voices of key players in the society. In this case, being a Regional Action Plan for the Food and Nutrition Security Policy of the CARICOM countries, it is important to design fora where Civil Society, working at the regional level can influence the implementation of the Action Plan. This will ensure not only effectiveness but also the inclusiveness of the most disadvantaged groups in the food secuirty actions.
In the brink of food price volatility, the adequate blend of regional actions and policies favouring commercial agriculture and those promoting family farming, will ensure a better level of food security for all.
The CARICOM countries present a series of unique opportunities linked to their resources, geographic position and cultural heritage, that positions them in and advantageous situation vis-a-vis other countries in the region.
For these countries to make the most out of these opportunities, it is important to have the full support and ownership of the policies by their citizens as well as their active participation in them.
Lastly, regional actions plans are important since they allow the later articulation of National action plans and national food and nutrition security policies. These twoh complement each other in the path towards food security for all and poverty reduction in the region.
Posted on 11.08.2011 11:34 am
What tends to happen in the Caribbean is that people deal with many peripheral issues and fail to grasp those which are fundamental. Agriculture in the region must be regarded as a business, use modern systems of production and achieve high productivity within the constraints that prevail. Extreme weather events affect every country in the world. The challenge is to develop systems that minimise the impact of such extremes. Even in the Caribbean, some highly innovative very commercial agriculturalists have been able to do this.
Most agriculture in the region is archiac using techniques that are far from modern. The cost of much locally produced food, as a result, is 50% - 100% higher than in countries with modern unsubsidised agricultural sectors (e.g. in T&T compared to New Zealand) It is unattractive to the vast majority of young people because existing policies perpetuate 'peasant farming'. There is little technology and few modern comforts in Caribbean agriculture. In small isolated countries like New Zealand agriculture is a modern hi-tech business. That's what is needed here and what needs to be the primary focus of any policy. If, by using modern techniques and providing modern infrastructure, agriculturalists make a return that is competitive with other commercial sectors, then it will thrive. If not, it will continue to decline.
This the primary focus of any policy should be to modernise agricultural production and the value chain that connects with consumers. That way food security will be improved and the value propositions for both consumers and agriculturalists vastly improved. If the current policy deficiencies are not addressed (and this proposed policy does not address modernisation, productivity and efficiency sufficiently) then little is likely to change. It will just be another 'feel-good' document that is likely to gather dust on a shelf somewhere.
We have a great deal of material highly relevant to this theme developed here in the Caribbean.
Posted on 11.08.2011 9:35 am
The RFNSAP is long overdue and I am happy to see that provision is made for inputs from stakeholders. However, the choices under the categories "Organizations" and "Constituencies" seem limited and could exclude lay persons as myself who have to be creative in order to complete these required fields.
With respect to the actual plan, this requires some study. However, the first impression is that it is somewhat "wordy" and does not provide some vital information in a readily accessable way. For example: could there be a table(s) that would show: (a) CARICOM population - distribution (rural/urban), by age, involvement in agricultural production; (b) Per capita nutrition requirements by age group; (c) Food crops required to meet these nutritional requirements; (d) Available acreage and resources for plant and livestock production. I am sure there are others that would be useful.
Having set out that information the plan could then show how we could utilize the available human, land and other resources to meet the requirements for regional food security.
Posted on 06.08.2011 2:40 pm
A key priority area in the RFNSAP is increasing the availability of regionally produced nutritious food to satisfy the requirements of the regional market. This involves the aoption of coordinated and coherent approaches, taking on board and balancing the interests of all stakeholders along the entire supply chain from the farmer to the consumer. The application of the value chain approach is seen as an important initiative in making this happen. The relative strength, capability and negotiating skills of the partners in the chain are considerations which will need to be examined and addressed for long term sustainability and success of the intended approach. Of importance here is the readiness of the national institutions - Ministries of Agriculture in particular - to review and adjust in light of the implications of the value chain approach for changes in the way they function and deliver development support. Dealing with the strengthening of smaller farmers' organizations must also be a priority on the agenda.
Posted on 05.08.2011 2:02 pm