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THE STATE OF REGIONAL AGRICULTURE AND FOOD SECURITY MANAGING CHANGE AND TRANSITIONS1 ASHLEY R CAIN 2 Introduction Let

me first thank WINFA for the pleasure and honor of being the feature speaker at the opening ceremony of your Regional Food Security Workshop and 7th Biennial Assembly. In 1981, I talked my way to a Barclay Bank Regional Scholarship Award to study agriculture at UWI, St Augustine. Before that, as the child of poor farmers, I had no idea how I was going to fulfill my dream of studying Agriculture at UWI. The only condition of the award was that I work in the Caribbean for three years after graduation in agriculture or a field related to agriculture. It is my 26th year of working in agriculture in SVG and the region. When I left for UWI to study Agriculture, I was the Youth Secretary for the newly formed National Farmers Union of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Let me therefore commend NFU/WINFA, as an early member, for the strides which it has made during this time. Let me also commend WINFA for its foresight and interest in organising this forum. Some people say that change is the ultimate reality. I remember participating in the late nineties at a Caribbean agricultural Economics conference in Barbados where the focus was how should the region address or respond to new global imperatives arising from the establishment of the WTO and the arrangements which we were about to enter into. The focus then was trade. Some of my colleagues at that conference were pessimistic, others were cautiously optimistic. As economists we sometimes embrace theoretical frameworks and constructs which, though they offer some promise at first as reasonable propositions, turn out in hindsight and practice to not be in our best interests. I am also reminded of a fable about the introduction of Broadcast Television to Africa (many of these services are embraced within the framework of a liberalised global economic space a virtual nirvana of unbridled bliss). It was welcomed with joy into the living rooms. Before it came, families met together, discussed their issues, agreed on livelihood strategies and became bonded behind the cause of family survival. It was the means by which important values and traditions were passed on to the next generation. After a while it was noticed that something profound had changed in the lives of the
1 Feature Address at WINFA Regional Food Security Workshop, Kingstown St Vincent , 25th May 2011. 2Agricultural Diversification Officer, Ministry of Agriculture St Vincent and the Grenadines

families. Before Television came, if a child wanted to raise an issue from school during the daily family gathering, then everyone will listen, give a response whether of advice or otherwise and the child will get satisfaction, perspective or guidance. After the advent of TV, when the same child or other family member wanted to raise a point of view, it had to be done during the commercial break. If it were raised at a time when all eyes were glued to the TV, the adult or other family member will say wait let us see this first . (You can't watch TV and have normal conversations at the same time.) After a while it was noticed that the oral traditions, the story telling, the bonding of persons through normal conversations, became a thing of the past. The door was opened for a different socialization and learned deviance which manifests itself even in our countries as a new culture of violence, choke and rob and fat school children who can't run to escape a sharp shower or to save their own lives. Today, as parents and family members, access to the computers and internet, as useful as they are, pose similar challenges. So what does this have to do with food security and agriculture? Apart from the changing tastes of our younger and older generations, fed by subliminal advertising and cultural reprogramming, agriculture across the region is in a virtual melting pot. Our exposure to Internet and television have helped to reshape our perceptions of a reasonable standard of living to the point where this new expectation of the good life is increasingly out of sync with our ability to sustain it. Many of our young have grown up, or are being weaned on diets which we have little capacity to sustain now nor replace. It is my own observation that, once our food preferences are formed at a relatively young age, it becomes extremely difficult to change them in adult life, except necessity becomes the mother of invention. The traditional agricultural industries such as banana and sugar are caught in a global competitiveness web. We have a generation of farmers exiting the scene in the face of new global marketing imperatives. Their replacement by a more savvy, technologically capable and younger generation, which is committed to making viable livelihoods from agriculture, is much slower than expected. Our agricultural and rural industries face many challenges.

The two Figures below tell two striking stories of banana production in St Vincent and the Grenadines from 1975 to 2008. In Figure 1, Banana production expanded from just under 20000 tons per year to just under 80000 tons in 1994. Thereafter it declined to less than 20000 tons in 2009. The number of active banana growers also declined from 8000 in 1992 to just over 1000 in 2009.

Banana Production 1975-2009


90 ,0 00 80 ,0 00 70 ,0 00 60 ,0 00 50 ,0 00 40 ,0 00 30 ,0 00 20 ,0 00 10 ,0 00 0
1975 1981 1993 1999 2003 2005 2007 2009 1977 1979 1983 1985 1987 1989 1991 1995 1997 2001
2006

Tons

Years

N m e o B n n F rm rs u br f aaa a e
Number of active farmers 9 0 ,0 0 8 0 ,0 0 7 0 ,0 0 6 0 ,0 0 5 0 ,0 0 4 0 ,0 0 3 0 ,0 0 2 0 ,0 0 1 0 ,0 0 1994 1998 2000 2004 2008 1992 1996 2002 0

Y ear A eF rm rs ctiv a e

Fig 1 and 2 Declining banana industry production and farmers (Source SVBGA)

For other agricultural enterprises, be it livestock, vegetables, or root crops, the predominance of supermarket chains, operating side by side with weak domestic market arrangements, leave us locked into various marketing dilemmas as our people rely increasingly on these supermarkets as the marketing channels of first choice. Convenience in food marketing and supply always comes at a cost, especially for the rural poor. We lose lands increasingly to alternative uses through speculation and the desire for quick wealth and prosperity. The skills which our farmers had in managing land and sea resources sustainably have either declined or been lost. Even though our various revolutions in education and technological improvement have given us the basis for sustaining agriculture and or enhancing productivity within the agricultural industry sector, there is insufficient integration where it really matters. The increasing cost of energy to produce and market food globally raises it own issues and challenges. At another level, our production systems are increasingly integrated into global networks and intellectual property rights regimes, which have a bearing on seed supplies and our access to improved genetic materials, among other things, at competitive prices. As WINFA indicated in its invitation to me, this workshop is being held against the backdrop of the most serious economic crisis to hit the local economy since the depression of the thirties. Prior to this 'meltdown' millions of people the world over were experiencing grave problems in accessing food, especially healthy food. WINFA is also concerned that its core constituency - small scale semicommercial farmers and agro-processors the traditional suppliers of food for the world's people, have an important role to play in transforming these emerging challenges into opportunities. Additional concerns include: what should be the regional approach around the issue of food sovereignty and livelihood security and what role for small farmers along the value chain as we seek to sustain food security in our region? I am sure that in your discussions over the next two days these issues will be examined in depth and strategies and action plans developed. Time does not permit me to do an in depth presentation on the very deep issues involved in the food security debate. Let me therefore highlight some key dimensions of the problem in the hope that it stimulates a deeper examination, debate, and possible agenda for

advocacy by WINFA. Our regional experiences are often not well documented. We are often inclined to gloss over them. When we have engaged in and contributed to global debates, more often than not we have made invaluable contributions to the global fund of knowledge and understanding of development issues and challenges. I trust that this workshop becomes the basis for our contribution to an important global debate.

Important Food Security Dimensions


Since the 1990's, a global consensus is evolving that development is more than material growth. It must also have objectives related to human well being (Fukada Parr 2002) 3. Any measurement of human development must include the food and nutritional dimension in the measurement of human development.

What is Food Security?


In reviewing the food security literature or landscape, the following key considerations have been identified. Food security happens when all people at all times have access to enough food that is affordable, healthy and safe, is culturally acceptable meets specific dietary needs is obtained in a dignified manner is produced in ways that are environmentally sound and socially just

The issue of food security has spawned intense debate among policy makers, activists and development practitioners. It is scarcely used by local people even though they feel its sharp edge. Our country is well known now for the number of talk shows available to us every day. We have intense debates on almost everything under the sun. I can count on my fingers the number of times when I have heard national debates on food security and how we should address it. Is it merely the province of social activists, political elites and academics? Yet it is the poor and vulnerable who face it, feel it and know the hard reality of it. For the experts, food security exists when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe,
3 Quoted in Afonso Ana Taking into account Food and Nutrition Security in the measurement and assessment of human development Selected Proceedings from the 12th International Congress on Project Engineering.
http://www.aeipro.com/files/Selected_Proceedings/2008/SP08_0319_0327.1860.pdf - (Zaragoza, July 2008)

nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life. On the flip side food insecurity exists when people are undernourished as a result of the physical unavailability of food, their lack of social or economic access to adequate food and/or inadequate food utilisation. Food insecure people are those individuals whose food intake falls below their minimum calorie (energy) requirements, as well as those who exhibit physical symptoms caused by energy and nutrient deficiencies resulting from an inadequate or unbalanced diet or from the body's inability to use food effectively because of infection or disease. The concept of food security is therefore defined as including both physical and economic access to food that meets people's dietary needs as well as their food preferences. Food security is not just a poverty issue; it is a much larger issue which involves the whole food system and affects every one of us in some way. It is built on three pillars: Food availability: sufficient quantities of food available on a consistent basis. Food access: having sufficient resources to obtain appropriate foods for a nutritious diet. Food use: appropriate use based on knowledge of basic nutrition and care, as well as adequate water and sanitation. The food system includes. everyone who grows or catches food, like farmers, fishers, and hunters earth, air, water, energy (the physical environment) food processors, packagers, distributors, marketers, and advertisers food wholesalers and the warehouses where food is stored the transportation system: trucks, planes, boats, trains places that sell food: grocery stores, markets, bakeries, farm stands, co-ops, restaurants places where food is served: hospitals, nursing homes governments, policies, taxes (the political and economic environment) the health care system, the workforce, schools, technology (the social, educational and cultural environment) everyone who eats! Closely allied to Food Security is the idea of Food Sovereignty which is described as The right of peoples and communities to safe, nutritious, culturally appropriate food, to food-producing resources, and to the ability to sustain themselves. The right of peoples and communities to define their own agricultural, labour, fishing, 6

food and land policies which are ecologically, socially, economically and culturally appropriate to their unique circumstances.

Food security happens when.


farmers and fishers can earn a fair income for their efforts food is produced in a way that is safe for people and the environment local, regional, and community food production is supported social justice and inclusion are priorities all people are empowered to work together to create positive change in the food system and our communities

Food insecurity happens whenever food is hard to get, such as when:


there are no farms or grocery stores nearby our food travels great distances to get to us there isn't enough money healthy & safe food is not available healthy foods cost more than unhealthy foods our rivers are polluted so fish don't survive our traditional foods are not available or accessible

Summary of Key Food Security Issues For Consideration Within the Caribbean Region
Time does not allow me to discuss fully the pertinent issues in this brief address. I will merely sketch a framework for your examination of the issues over the next two days. These are some key considerations or questions which should be examined by WINFA and other agencies as they advocate for and engage in more thorough analysis of food security related challenges, dilemmas and possibilities. i) What is the Extent of food insecurity as far as it relates to Access Vulnerability Challenges? ii) What Strategies should we adopt or pursue in tackling food security issues? iii) What are options and choices for tackling the following fundamentals: I) Enhancing domestic production in sustainable ways 7

II) Ensuring the Availability of food III) Distribution of food to vulnerable or at risk constituencies IV) Building and sustaining national and regional capacity to respond to food security issues and challenges? Some contingent issues which should also be examined include: a) Right To Food as a global issue and policy imperative. This is a moral and ethical concern which is gaining currency and attention at a global level and its importance is expected to increase in the same way that the Millennium Development Goals became a focal point for international attention, actions and responsibility. b) Public policy support and what should be the configuration of an adequate framework for achieving the requisite support for food security concerns /issues. c) Millennium Development Goals issues and challenges associated with achieving the nutrition related dimensions of these goals or lofty ideals Key Considerations, Needs and Options Going Forward I) Enhanced measurement and monitoring as basis for policy formulation and decision making II) Subsidy frameworks (to what end, what costs and sustainability?) III) Fiscal policy options (as a basis for financing) IV) Caribbean Community (Caricom) Agenda (Is there a common development framework?) 1. A Regional Food Plan (sustained policy focus and capacity building) to drive investment in domestic (regional) production based on eight food groups proposed by CFNI, Jagdeo initiative? 2. Is the OECS strategic action framework- cast in concrete or is it malleable or amenable to change by agencies such as WINFA? 3. What gaps exist in current strategic frameworks which require attention? 4. What linkages into domestic and global economies /economic frameworks need to be created or strengthened? 5. Does St Vincent and the Grenadines or other Windward Islands have a case or experience which may be put on the table as a way forward? 6. How can we enhancing long term capacity to meet national and regional food

security needs through 1. Agricultural sector investment by Government, donor support and private sector initiatives 2. Policy frameworks (advocacy and lobbying in pursuit of desirable futures based on multi person and agency consensus on our common future) 3. Monitoring and policy formulation and reform 4. Engaging families to support advocacy i.e., leveraging the power of the lobby to influence policy outcomes (a market for policies?) V) Are there Best Practices for us to emulate - lessons from elsewhere? (For example, to what extent was European's global conquest driven by hunger and needs of their populations to meet national food needs all year round?)

Conclusion
Let me thank WINFA for its invitation to share some thoughts with you on this a matter of deep significance - regional agriculture and food security. It comes at a time when its core business is under threat and meeting the livelihood needs of its constituents has to go beyond lip service and rhetorical postures. The latest and continuing evolution of the EU banana marketing regime has put many small farmers at risk in the Windward Islands. Many have voted with their feet by exiting the industry. For those who remain, the task of provisioning for themselves- the key economic questionis an issue of the highest order. I have merely scratched the surface of this issue in this presentation. I trust that this brief reflection and presentation will encourage WINFA and other stakeholders in the region to continue and to widen the food security debate in each of our islands, as we seek to make our way in the world - a task which is increasingly difficult for the small and not too powerful people and nations in the world. Ashley R Cain References
Afonso Ana Taking into account Food and Nutrition Security in the measurement and assessment of human development Selected Proceedings from the 12th International Congress on Project Engineering. http://www.aeipro.com/files/Selected_Proceedings/2008/SP08_0319_0327.1860.pdf - (Zaragoza, July 2008)