Tue | Oct 23, 2018

Hunger, obesity and Haiti top issues for FAO summit

Published:Friday | March 2, 2018 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Dr Gillian Smith, acting FAO country representative for Jamaica, Belize and The Bahamas
Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) set for the Montego Bay Conference Centre in St James from next Monday, March 5 to Thursday, March 8
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Decisions coming out of the 35th regional conference of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), set for the Montego Bay Conference Centre in St James from next Monday, March 5, to Thursday, March 8, will have far-reaching implications for Jamaica and the region.

While food security and nutrition will be the core of all talks, these will extend beyond agricultural systems, food distribution and trade for the host country. The summit will examine in detail, practical steps for attaining the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations which Jamaica has signed on to and is trying to achieve.

The 33 member countries of FAO in the region will use the occasion to develop an agenda to fight hunger and malnutrition, build a future without rural poverty, and transform agriculture to be sustainable and resilient to climate change.

 

Alarming realities

 

This is in recognition of the alarming reality that in the Latin America and the Caribbean:

- Hunger is growing and obesity has become an epidemic.

- Climate change threatens agriculture.

- Millions of people in rural areas live in extreme poverty.

There are three thematic areas that ministers of agriculture, education, social protection, health, environment, planning and finance will be discussing against the background of the Caribbean Strategic Plan, which was developed for 2016 and 2017 which looked at several issues.

Dr Gillian Smith, acting FAO country representative for Jamaica, Belize and The Bahamas, used a consultation workshop at The Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, last Wednesday to drive home the urgency and importance of the conference.

"Over 40 per cent of the people in Latin America and the Caribbean who live in rural areas are in extreme poverty. This is after decades of discussions and efforts to pull people out of poverty, we still have a rural development issue and Jamaica is not different from any of the other countries in that respect," she lamented.

Making agricultural food systems climate resilient; scaling up production systems and productivity to meet demand; and improving food distribution and trade to ensure proper and timely linkages from farm to fork are issues that will be revisited at the 35th regional conference of the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) set for the Montego Bay Conference Centre in St James from next Monday, March 5, to Thursday, March 8.

Making these systems climate smart and resilient will be among the top agenda items, according to Dr Gillian Smith, acting FAO country representative for Jamaica, Belize and The Bahamas.

"We know the stories of 2017 in Grenada and Dominica, where in the space of a few hours, with hurricanes Irma and Maria, their agriculture production systems, trade routes and import routes were all irreparably damaged and populations passed from one day to the next into a state of extreme food insecurity," she said.

 

Crucial regional conference

 

"It's been 20 years since a regional conference has been in the Caribbean; 50 years since the regional conference was hosted by Jamaica. We're expecting about 150 delegates. The delegations will all be led by ministers and they are going to be asked to deliberate on these key areas."

She continued, "Food nutrition and security; sustainable production and productivity growth, particularly in agriculture, forestry and fisheries; resilience and risk management of our agricultural food systems from farm to fork, and for the Caribbean importantly, Haiti. The question of how we move Haiti along as part of the region of the Caribbean. Haiti accounts for more than 50 per cent of the people who are hungry. For the Caribbean, they account for more percentage of the risk issues that we see and they have their issues with sustainability and growth. We can leave no one behind."

christopher.serju@gleanerjm.com