CARDI recommits to regional food security - Coconut development project already seeing gains
The Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) is refocusing its efforts at developing a healthy, productive regional agriculture sector to effectively counter childhood obesity and other long-term negative health outcomes.
These include non-communicable diseases, which have been linked to the calorie-dense, sugar-rich, processed foods which dominate the region's multimillion-dollar import food bill.
With Caribbean food products imports estimated at US$6.5 billion per year trending down, CARDI has renewed its commitment to positioning the agriculture sector to deliver a more sustained supply of locally grown nutritious and affordable food.
According to CARDI, it is working to achieve by way of technological innovations to drive the productivity, climate-smart agriculture and other climate-change resilience strategies needed to make regional farming globally competitive.
The CARDI Strategic Plan 2018-2022 includes a value chain services programme focused on improving the productivity of key regional commodities, including roots and tubers, herbs and spices, small ruminants and coconuts. Other priority areas of research are climate resilience, climate-smart practices and market development.
Last Wednesday, the region celebrated CARDI Day with activities designed to sensitise and engage stakeholders and garner further buy-in and support for its programmes and projects.
Special attention was on highlighting the CARDI's work under the European Union.
Progress of the Regional Coconut Industry Development Project was highlighted through a series of exhibitions, workshops, public lectures and school tours showcasing some of the practical ways this initiative is breathing new life into one of the region's oldest industries.
This programme has a mandate to transition the region's small-scale coconut industry operations to enterprise-level profitability in the global coconut industry.
Launched in 2015, it is funded by the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific group of states and implemented by the International Trade Centre and CARDI.
It will enhance farming productivity, business capacity and the competitiveness of small-scale farmers and enterprises along the coconut value chain.
In Jamaica, the coconut project has achieved the following:
- Established functional national stakeholders' platforms which continue to guide and support the implementation of project activities.
- Forged strategic alliances with stakeholders along the value chain. Alliance activities are now ongoing at the farm level with the establishment of 10 alliances (farmer groups made up of 15-30 farmers). These groups have received training in group dynamics, nursery establishment, management, production, intercropping, integrated crop management and food safety. Sensitisation to finance and investment concepts will begin during the second phase which starts next year.
- The project has contributed to the upgrade of the Coconut Industry Board nursery in Spring Garden through the introduction of shade netting and irrigation systems. The project is now completing the establishment of a new nursery at Knockalva Polytechnic in Hanover, which will also service surrounding parishes.
- Three integrated pest-management plots demonstrating management of coconut mite, ambrosia beetle and lethal yellowing have been established in St Mary. The plots are used for research and also demonstration for farmers in good agricultural practice.
- Training of local and regional stakeholders in quality planting material, group dynamics and nursery management. Alliances to support the value chain, processing of green coconut water, the use of clean manufacturing techniques in coconut-processing facilities, quality and safety of coconut water have been established. Investment profiles of the coconut industry in Jamaica have also been completed.
- The completion of a coconut water quality survey for Jamaica has led to a series of planned partnerships involving CARDI, the Ministry of Health, the Bureau of Standards Jamaica, and others.
- In collaboration with the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality, the CARICOM Regional Standard for packaged natural coconut water is being revised to facilitate trade, improve consumer safety, and guide production practices.