CARICOM Ministerial Taskforce discuss ‘Parliamentary Front’ against regional hunger
GEORGETOWN, May 26, 2021 - As the COVID-19 Pandemic continues to remind the Caribbean Region about the urgent need for food security within individual member states, members of the Ministerial Taskforce on Food Production and Food Security participated in a virtual dialogue to discuss progress made to date to develop a strategy to advance CARICOM’s agri-food systems agenda.
The meeting was the second of several planned meetings as CARICOM Member States work together to improve agriculture in the Region.
During the meeting, participating Agriculture Ministers and other senior officials from across the Region provided updates on their country’s efforts to develop supporting documents to address agriculture-related issues in CARICOM.
Chairman of the Task Force, Guyana’s Agriculture Minister, Zulfikar Mustapha, reminded the officials of the group’s mandate, which is “to guide the regional position towards the transformation of the agri-food system allowing for a significantly more resilient, wealth-generating, and food secure Region.”
He pointed out that “after the last meeting we were all tasked with developing country-specific documents highlighting ways an integrated approach can be taken to improve agriculture in our country and CARICOM. As a Task Force, we have to ensure we set attainable goals and work together for the common good of the CARICOM agri-food systems agenda.”
The Task Force discussed the development of a Parliamentary Front in each member state, following which, CARICOM’s FAO Programme Liaison, Mr. Sandiford Edwards pointed out that the objective of the Parliamentary Front was to develop a process that brings Parliamentarians together to develop, implement and adopt laws and policies that surround and promote zero hunger and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal Two (SDG 2).
“The Parliamentary Front against hunger is designed and expected to be a country-driven, country-owned process that integrates or brings Parliamentarians or legislators together to develop, implement and adopt laws and policies that surround and promote zero hunger and the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal Two (SDG 2). In 2009, the Caribbean and Latin America would’ve formed their Parliamentary Front against hunger to promote the fight against malnutrition, the fight against food insecurity, et cetera.
Having regard to the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it would’ve had on lives, especially in the rural communities, the FAO is prepared and is working with a number of countries in the Caribbean, particularly St. Vincent and The Grenadines, who would’ve already set up a Zero Hunger Trust Fund. They (FAO) are supporting Grenada with a project, as well as Haiti, Jamaica, and to a certain extent, The Bahamas, to work with governments to assist in the promotion of laws and policies to fight against hunger,” he said.
Mr. Edwards also noted that over the next few months the FAO is seeking to engage Parliamentarians and Ministers to first of all, define and build awareness about the ‘Parliamentary Front’ and how it can be used to ensure food security in the Region.
Plans were also discussed for the hosting of this year’s Caribbean Week of Agriculture. With the ongoing pandemic putting a pause on the hosting of large events and mass gatherings, it was decided at the Regional level that the best alternative would be to host the event virtually, with each participating country having events to commemorate the occasion.
Caribbean Week of Agriculture is expected to take place from October 4-8, 2021. Guyana, which has once again taken the lead on agriculture in CARICOM, will also be observing Agriculture Month in October. The Ministry of Agriculture is scheduled to host a month of activities across the country. These events usually include trade fairs, farmers’ market days, school sensitisation exercises and specialised extension services.
A recent FAO study on The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2020, indicated that hunger in Latin America and the Caribbean increased to 47.7 million people in 2019, after five years of continuous rise.
The study warns that the region will not reach Sustainable Development Goal 2 of the 2030 Agenda –zero hunger– by 2030. SOFI projections indicate that hunger, considered as an estimate of the number of people who do not consume enough calories for an active and healthy life, will affect almost 67 million people in 2030, that is, about 20 million more than in 2019.
These projections do not consider the impact of COVID-19, so it is estimated that hunger will be even greater when the effects of the pandemic on food security are accounted for.
“We are far worse now than when the region committed to the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. Hunger has increased by 9 million people since then”, said FAO’s Regional Representative, Julio Berdegué. Hunger now affects 7.4 percent of the population, and is expected to rise to 9.5 percent by 2030.
A 3-percentage point increase in hunger is projected for Central America by 2030, an additional 7.9 million people. In South America, hunger is projected to increase to 7.7 percent, equal to almost 36 million people. The Caribbean, while making progress, is also off track to achieve the hunger reduction target of the SDGs by 2030: the SOFI reports estimates that, by 2030, 6.6 million people will live with hunger in that area.