Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is pleased to join the CARICOM Secretariat, IICA, CARDI and CTA in celebrating Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) 2018.
This year’s theme “Strengthening Agriculture for a Healthier Future in the region” is very relevant and timely. Over the past year, although the overall levels of undernutrition in the Caribbean have reduced, the levels of overweight and obesity continue to rise and are of some concern. In 2016, FAO recorded over 7.7 million undernourished Caribbean people down from 7.8 million between 2013 – 2015, 5 million of which were in Haiti. By contrast, the levels of overweight and obesity of Caribbean children exceeded global averages. Approximately seven percent (7%) of Caribbean children under 5 years old were overweight in 2016 and approximately 23% increase of adults were obese, with greater prevalence among women. As Caribbean nations, we are spending excessive amounts on the importation of processed foods and foods (which are high is sugar, salt and fat), rather than growing our own food. This has given rise to more unhealthy diets, which have contributed to the increasing incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as diabetes and hypertension, which is now the leading cause of death in the region. The economic costs associated with the treatment of NCDs are considerable and put further strain on an already over-burdened healthcare system as well as contribute to loss of productivity.
During the 35th FAO Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean which was held in Jamaica in March 2018, the Ministers of Agriculture of the Caribbean stressed the continuing imperative of ending hunger, achieving food security and eradicating malnutrition, with specific reference to the SAMOA Pathway and the adoption of the Global Action Programme for Food Security and Nutrition in SIDS. They also requested FAO to give increased attention to: combating obesity through consumption of locally-grown, healthy, safe and nutritious food; promoting political will and good governance, including the facilitation of development and strengthening of policies, legislation and regulations; supporting the monitoring and evaluation of policies and programmes and progress towards achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
As we collectively work towards strengthening food systems and agriculture, we must focus on lowering our high food import bill, look for transformative ways of strengthening our agrifood systems, support sustainable nutrition sensitive value chains for healthy nutrition and promote intraregional food trade. These are in line with our mission of fulfilling the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. FAO has now undertaken a more responsive approach that actively contributes to the advancement of the Sustainable Development Goals.
CWA 2018 offers a unique platform for the exchange of ideas and experiences on transformative food and agricultural development policies to be converted into action by unifying stakeholders committed to improving the region’s food and agriculture sector. It is our hope that through increased partnerships with governments, donor agencies, civil society, academia and the private sector, we can have more innovative thinking to further the development agenda.
We thank the Government of Barbados for hosting this week of agricultural engagement and exchange. We also thank our partner development agencies, for their support in organising this Caribbean Week of Agriculture 2018. We anticipate vibrant discussions and your invaluable inputs as we strive to achieve a strengthened Agricultural sector for a healthier future in the Caribbean. We wish all participants an engaging and rewarding CWA 2018.
 SAMOA – SIDS Accelerated Mode of Action