Chair of CARICOM’s Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Agriculture, Roland Boulder, left, and Guyana's Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy.
Chair of CARICOM’s Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Agriculture, Roland Boulder, left, and Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) has not abandoned the Jagdeo Initiative on Agriculture, but has been disappointingly slow in its implementation, Ministers of Agriculture said Friday.

The Jagdeo initiative, named for former president of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, in 2003 identified and defined the key constraints facing agricultural development in the Caribbean region, Guyana state media says.

The initiative has been endorsed throughout CARICOM for its thorough analysis of the state of agriculture, its hard look at internal and external factors and for deepening the discussion of fundamental areas that need improvement, reform and/or initiation.

CARICOM’s Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Agriculture met here on Friday, the final day of Caribbean Week of Agriculture.

“I think coming out of today’s meeting, what is one of the greatest highlights for me is the fact that we all would have recognize that as a region we are long overdue to deliver to our people on food security and nutrition,” said chair of the COTED on Agriculture, Grenada’s Minister of Agriculture, Roland Boulder.

“We believe that we have the capacity to do it, we believe that we have the human resource,” he said, adding that further training in human development and research and development are needed.

Boulder said that the meeting discussed CARICOM’s progress on the implementation of the Jagdeo Initiative.

“There was some discussions too about the issue of time that has been lagging between when the Initiative came out and what was said and planned to be done many years ago, and where we are today,” Boulder said.

“And we all lamented the fact, as ministers, that the progress has been very slow and very painstaking and that maybe we should have been much more advanced than we are presently,” he further stated.

Boulder said that the meeting recognized that there is still a need for CARICOM’s ministers of agriculture “to work from a national standpoint” ensuring that populations, governments and ministries understand and perform their roles.

At the same time, these stakeholders should connect their roles to the regional initiative, Boulder said.

He said a linkage would be facilitated by the many regional organizations involved in agriculture and its subsectors.

Meanwhile, Guyana’s Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Leslie Ramsammy, told the press briefing that he does not want people to get the impression that the Jagdeo Initiative “was formulated, then abandoned.

“That’s not the case. The truth is, much activity has gone on,” he said, adding that the Jagdeo Initiative

Identified food and nutrition security as a constraint and number alleviating activities, one of which is that countries should develop national strategies for dealing with food and nutrition security.

“So far, 11 countries have done so. And 11 countries have done so, not only developing the strategies but work plan with indicators,” Ramsammy said.

“So, when we say that we are disappointed and we have made slow progress, we don’t mean that there was a lag in implementation, we don’t mean that it was abandoned. What we did concede is that there is much room for energising the way we have embraced and implemented the Jagdeo initiative,” he further stated.

Ramsammy said that agriculture ministers have to identify substitute for some imports, such as using cassava and other types of flour to reduce the US$200 million spent to import wheat.

“What we have done is that we have worked with the Jagdeo Initiative in the past, without timelines. We identify the activities, the alleviating activities but we didn’t give ourselves timeline,” Ramsammy said.

He further said that the meeting mandated a working group led by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute to look at the alleviating activities and put timelines on them.

“I can tell you 50 other things under the Jagdeo Initiative that we have done. So, I want to dispel the notion that many of us have that the Jagdeo Initiative was just an initiative that we brought together and we then shelved it. It was never shelved.

“All we are saying as Caribbean Agriculture Ministers is that we can work with greater urgency in addressing the constraints through alleviating activities that we identified,” he said.