Officials seek to stem agricultural losses of farm systems and livelihoods
February 14, 2012
Officials seek to stem agricultural losses of farm systems and livelihoods

The agricultural sector’s contribution to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has steadily declined, but it still remains a major pillar in the livelihood of many people throughout the Caribbean region.{{more}}

It also remains one of the more vulnerable sectors, particularly to natural disasters, which is why we have a great responsibility in how we treat the land.

Globalization has moved us to a position where we have ignored the agricultural practices of the past, in which issues such as soil conservation were prominent.

This was the view expressed by Dr Balfour Spence, Consultant at a two-day workshop on Capacity Building for the Agricultural Component for the CARICOM which got underway at the Methodist Church Hall on Tuesday, February 7.

It was not too late to recover according to Spence, however.

“But recovery has to take a new direction. It has to be a process that is spearheaded, championed at the community level,” he explained.

The workshop was held in an attempt to create more capacity and to seek to stem the losses of farm systems and livelihoods that result from these impacts in the region and was conducted through a joint effort between the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Government of Brazil.

According to Spence, there are many measures currently being employed by farmers in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the Caribbean but there was little sharing of this knowledge.

He said that he anticipated that the workshop would address some of those issues.

The impact of natural disasters on the natural environment or resources was already understood, Fitzgerald Providence, who represented the Ministry of Agriculture, said.

But it was often difficult to assess the impact of a storm, because the impact can last from several months to years, Providence explained.

“So, we see in small island states like St Vincent and the Grenadines, where the environment plays a pivotal role in the livelihoods of individuals and many families and also indirectly, in the social and economic sustainability of our country, that it is important for us to manage our environment in a way to mitigate those impacts,” he said.

Providence was also of the opinion that as the agricultural sector has evolved over the years, that most farmers had abandoned the old time practices which had proven crucial in land conservation.

“If we destroy our forests, we in fact destroy our agricultural sector,” he said.

“We have to protect the land that feeds us; so, it is important to go back to our cultural practices, especially those that helped us to conserve our soil,” Providence continued.(DD)