After over two years, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) Representative for the Eastern Caribbean States, Mr. Gregg Rawlins has finally made a return to Antigua and Barbuda.
His agenda is to engaged key Institutions who have a common interest in the development of Agriculture; to visit various Stakeholders whom IICA has been able to assist; and meet with Officials within the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Barbuda Affairs to discuss the progress of the sector thus far and future plans.
Mr. Rawlins met with Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs, Hon. Samantha Marshall, Permanent Secretary, Colin O’Keiffe and Director of Agriculture, Gregory Bailey, other senior officials of the Ministry as well as with Ambassador Anthony Liverpool, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In addition, Mr. Rawlins met with representatives of the United Nations agencies, British High Commission, Australian High Commission, Indian High Commission, CARDI, GARD Centre and visited farmers who benefited recently from various projects supported by IICA.
IICA continues to remain committed to support Antigua and Barbuda in developing the Agriculture Sector in achieving Food Security.
IICA has been working on a number of strategic areas such as climate change adaptation to ensure that the sector is able to adjust and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
They have also focused on the area of small ruminants, by looking to develop forages and grass species that could help to provide feeding material for them, especially during the dry periods.
They continue to collaborate with partners such as Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in establishing certain local value chains such as the Antiguan Black Pineapple and Honey Production, as these are avenues that could aid in reducing the food import bill and develop exports.
“We have to always be open-minded to not only addressing the import side but also looking at what can Antigua produce competitively to also meet export requirements,” explains Mr. Rawlins.
They aim to continue to work in the area of youth engagement and bring young people into the sector so that they could bring their energy, ideas and all that they have to offer to help build the sector that can thereby be much more competitive, business oriented, and one that allows for new and improved technologies.
Mr. Rawlins also expressed that they want to engage more women in the Agriculture Sector and see the economic empowerment of them in the sector, as they play a primary role, not just in production but in adding value and in marketing.
These provide tremendous opportunities for Antigua and Barbuda, there is a high food import bill and while the country cannot obviously produce everything that is consumed, there are certain products that they can focus on and try to see how they could build the production and marketing systems, a dent can be made in the import of certain products.
“This would help to contribute to the 25 by 25 initiative that CARICOM has adopted, which aims to bring down the food import bill by 25%,” explains Mr. Rawlins.
IICA continues to help Antigua and Barbuda to become a much more food secure nation, particularly given recent developments such as the impact of the war on Ukraine and the pandemic. The sector needs to be more positioned so that persons become more self-reliant are able to provide basic requirements in terms of food.
“These events are messages that we need to double our efforts to improve and strengthen the Agriculture Sector and for Governments to invest more in the sector thus providing the resources necessary to ensure that the sector contributes to both food security and to economic growth. There are tremendous business opportunities in the sector that can allow for us to create jobs, rural employment, sustainable livelihoods, for trade and economic development,” explains Mr. Rawlins.
He also commended Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Samantha Marshall for her leadership and expressed thanks to the Minister and the Ministry for the excellent collaboration and partnership with IICA on a number of major projects..
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