Guyana's Miniser of Agriculture, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.
Guyana’s Miniser of Agriculture, Dr Leslie Ramsammy.

The Caribbean will miss the 2015 target date for eliminating hunger unless more is invested in research in agriculture, Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture Dr. Leslie Ramsammy says.

He told regional journalists at the beginning of a two-day workshop on reportage on agricultural issues that while the region also aspires to move towards the upper middle-income bracket, it cannot achieve these goals “unless agriculture plays its role”.

“And without proper research we will not be able to do that,” added Ramsammy, who said there is a “dire need” for indigenous research in agriculture.

“… we need to get off where we are and address the issue. We don’t even invest in agriculture research,” he said, adding that the region commits less than 0.1 per cent of its gross domestic product (GDP) to research in agriculture.

“We share that shame with the whole of the Latin America region. We have Cuba at about 0.7 [per cent], Brazil, at about 0.5 per cent of their GDP,” he further said, adding that Argentina and Chile “have made some efforts.

“But in the Caribbean, less than 0.1 per cent goes to those issues and we need to address these issues,” he further stated.

He said that there are more Caribbean people in Africa working in research in agriculture than in the Caribbean.

Ramsammy said that while the Caribbean has a legacy of research in agriculture, this has dissipated since Independence.

“One of the things we should not be proud about Independence is that with Independence and sovereignty came the departure of an active research programme that was led by the Imperial College of Tropical Agriculture. So, agriculture and health went two different ways…” he said.

“I am not shy at saying that we have a poor agriculture research capacity in this region and we need to change that paradigm. … We have a poorly coordinated research agenda and research capacity in this region,” he further said.

Ramsammy said that while the elements for such research exists in the various agricultural agencies across the region, the potential is not being realised.

“We have done a poor job and that was one of the key binding constraints recognised in the Jagdeo Initiative. We have done little or nothing…”

The “Jagdeo Initiative” identifies and defines key, crucial and binding constraints to agricultural repositioning in the Caribbean Region and aims to develop and implement targeted, focused and practical interventions at both the regional and national levels to overcome the constraints.

Ramsammy said his comments were not “in criticism” or “judgement” of anyone.

“I say these things because they are imperative for our development,” he said.

The two-day workshop on Inclusive Evidence-Based Coverage of Agriculture and Rural Development Issues in the Caribbean is sponsored by the Association of Caribbean Mediaworkers, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation.