InterAmerican Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture and Agricultural Productivity in the Caribbean: What Does It Mean?

The question of how the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), mirrors agricultural productivity in the Caribbean, is now an important subject in ethical thought and discussions.

Endorsed by CARICOM’S Secretariat, “the overall purpose of the Inter American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) is a specialized agency for agriculture in the Inter -American system. IICA is to support the efforts of its member states to more intensely achieve a competitive, sustainable agricultural sector with rural well-being and inclusiveness.”

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Whatever this means, there are many suggestions as to how this purpose can be efficiently explored. First, it must be noted, that, the efforts of IICA’s focus on agricultural productivity, as a means of securing food security and reducing poverty in the Caribbean is commendable. Food security is inherently related to sustainable development. On the other hand, if IICA’s mission of encouraging, promoting and supporting member states in their efforts to achieve agricultural development and rural well-being, through international technical cooperation of excellence is to be achieved, then, modern agricultural technologies and good democratic governance are also needed in the lesser developed Caribbean states as well.

And for this, the light must shine on the promotion of good democratic governance, as an improvement to food security in the Caribbean. Inclusiveness must also be geared towards freedom of the press, an independent judiciary, the electoral process and of civil society.
Even as the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) is responding to the new demands of the agricultural sector in the Caribbean, it must also be remembered that it is democracy that improves transparency, and decentralizes political and fiscal power. It is democracy that yields greater agricultural productivity and improves food security through its positive effect on agricultural capital and agricultural productivity.
Although proponents contend that IICA should focus support on horizontal and south – south cooperation and engagement in regional exchanges to support technology transfer and adaptation; there must also be a more concrete agricultural roadmap aimed at reducing hunger in the lesser developed Caribbean states. Fostering collaboration with Caribbean states and participation in the creation of a document that presents a renewed vision for agriculture is a great step. However, there must also be a strengthening of the key democratic institutions of society and of public policies.

The politicization of humanitarian aid to hurricane ravaged countries in the Caribbean is not sustainable agriculture. Statistics show that the United States provides 22 percent of the United Nations’ operating budget. The US government’s inclination to cut financial aid to member states that vote in favor of the U.N.’s calling for the U.S. to draw from its recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, may very well mean that political agendas will threaten food security and the eradication of hunger in the Caribbean.
If Caribbean governments are unable to influence policy choices in the United States, then what is the objective of the consultation processes of the IICA in the Caribbean?
What is meant by promoting sustainable agriculture for farmers in the Caribbean in the form of consultations, when Caribbean farmers are readily experiencing shortages of physical capital, new modern agricultural technologies and access to regional and international markets?

Undoubtedly, agriculture is important to economic development in the Caribbean. New studies indicate that food prices in the Caribbean are spiking as climate change keeps intensifying droughts and floods. Barbados, Jamaica and Puerto Rico are now highly dependent on imported food and agricultural products, as money for poverty alleviation and other social services are diverted to recover from the impacts of climate change. The lack of food security in the Caribbean is making it harder for people to achieve a good quality of life because the smaller islands of the Caribbean are included in the global scale of planning and development.

Therefore, there must be capacity building among Agri -business groups in the Caribbean, so that the relationship between food security and poverty can be understood. Moreover, IICA’s objective of supporting “inclusive” agriculture and rural development in the Caribbean must also address the colossal disadvantages that Caribbean women are facing in building sustainable and empowering livelihoods. Caribbean women are economically and socially disadvantaged in this new agricultural equation because they have less access to economic assets and opportunities. Urgent reforms are needed by the IICA to help to eradicate discriminatory laws and customs for Caribbean women, so that they can have equal access to economic and creative resources. Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) policies must also seek to promote innovative agricultural technologies and practices for Caribbean women and introduce them to climate-resilient jobs and discussions, so that the dimensions of sustainable development can be translated into concrete changes in the lives of people in the smaller developed Caribbean states.
Notwithstanding, it is agricultural productivity that keeps wage cost low and increases investments. Agricultural performance must also be strengthened by civil society and the tenets of good democratic governance, if agricultural productivity is to make positive headway towards economic growth and food security in the lesser developed Caribbean states.

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