Caribbean Ministers of Agriculture explore funding options to mitigate the effects of the pandemic on agriculture

The ministers and secretaries of Agriculture of 14 Caribbean countries learned about funding opportunities they will be able to access to implement recovery actions in the agriculture and rural sectors to address the impact of Covid-19.

During a videoconference, representatives of financial institutions, development organizations and donors informed the ministers of funding alternatives and resources available to strengthen agriculture, with special emphasis on food security, resilience, economic recovery, technological innovation, sustainable use of resources and the preservation of biodiversity, among other areas.

The meeting was organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Secretariat of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), as part of their efforts to strengthen agriculture in the region.

“We have sought to respond to the needs and demands of the region to mitigate the problems facing agriculture in the Caribbean, laying the groundwork for a more resilient and robust sector”, stated Manuel Otero, Director General of IICA, a hemispheric organization specializing in agriculture and rurality.

“The pandemic is an unprecedented shock to the region, which is crying out for investments to boost resilience and food security. Certain plans require the participation of development partners. We are committed to emerging stronger from this crisis, and the only way to do that is through regional integration”, explained Irwin LaRocque, Secretary General of CARICOM.

During the event, authorities from Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay also confirmed their willingness to collaborate and share experiences with Caribbean countries through South-South cooperation in areas such as good agricultural practices, research and development, genetic improvement, sustainability, efficient use of soils, capacity building, business and agricultural trade.

The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), the Green Climate Fund (GCF), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Development Bank of Latin America (CAF), the World Bank (WB), the European Union (EU) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) presented their credit lines and opportunities for monetary support.

“Engaging in dialogue with financial agencies is very important. Submitting project proposals is what we must do to secure funding; revitalize our sector, which is key to economic recovery; and provide producers with the support they require”, stated Yolande Bain-Horsford, Minister of Agriculture and Lands of Grenada.

On the other hand, Michael Pintard, Minister of Marine Resources and Agriculture of The Bahamas, and Floyd Green, Minister of State at the Ministry of Industry, Trade, Agriculture and Fisheries of Jamaica, agreed on the importance of reducing bureaucracy, which generally hinders swift access to funds.

“The lack of funding is one of the constraints we face in developing the sector. In this regard, a practical, comprehensive plan that combines credit opportunities at the regional level would be very helpful. The fact that IICA and CARICOM are synthesizing the opportunities available is extremely valuable, given that agriculture and marine resources are a beam of hope for economic recovery in our countries”, remarked Pintard.

“Having a list of regional and international partners, so that we can be aware of the opportunities available to us, is very useful; we appreciate IICA’s efforts in this regard. There is no doubt that, now more than ever, we must have adequate agricultural insurance in the region, which would allow for accessing funds more rapidly and avoiding bureaucracy, which is often an obstacle. This would be very helpful”, added Green.

The Caribbean agricultural authorities also acknowledged the fact that having multiple funding alternatives is crucial to meet the challenges facing the region’s agriculture, such as fostering trade, driving regional integration, expanding market access, improving the transportation of products, boosting the resilience of production systems to climate change, investing in innovation and technology transfer, building capacities, implementing sanitary measures, and linking youth to farming activities.

“After Covid-19, funding for recovery processes in agriculture will be in high demand. We are grateful for the support, because we must continue to focus on guaranteeing food security and commit to resolving the various challenges facing agriculture in our region. Now is the time to collaborate and undertake a joint commitment”, stated Noel Holder, Minister of Agriculture of Guyana.

IICA, in turn, reiterated its commitment to assisting CARICOM countries in implementing the Food Security Plan, which seeks to mitigate the consequences of Covid-19 in the region and increase agricultural production in the region by 25% over the next five years.

“We have the political will of CARICOM and the ministers, and IICA is committed to offering its internal and technical capacities to carry out this plan”, concluded the Director General of IICA, Manuel Otero