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Caribbean Week of Agriculture spotlights effects of climate change

The priority areas for the agriculture sector were highlighted at the joint opening ceremony of the climate change and science and technology workshops. 

Delivering the feature address, Ambrose George, acting prime minister of Dominica, pointed out that the agriculture sector was vitally important in the gamut of economic and social interactions of the region’s people. 

He called for a closer examination of the interactions of climate change and the key factors of agricultural production, the rural way of life, as well as the threats to coastal communities and infrastructural investments. 

CWA is being held in the middle of the hurricane season, and follows the worst flooding in Dominica’s history — a point to which the acting prime minister and other speakers referred in their addresses. The cost associated with recent flooding in Dominica –excluding the tab borne by private individuals and institutions — is estimated at EC$46 million. 

The acting prime minister said that the region needed to take stock of the probable negative impacts that climate change would have on agriculture of the future, and pointed out that drought, intense rainfall, flooding and sea level rise would cost the English-speaking Caribbean five percent of gross domestic product (GDP) annually. 

The region, he said, had to “focus on the imperatives of transforming agriculture and our way of life, with a view to building resilience in our natural environments and economies to the ever- present negative effects of climate change, if not for us, then certainly for future generations to come.” 

He was of the view that the fundamental objectives of deliberations at CWA should include strategies for adaptation, mitigation and building resilience to the harmful effects of climate change. 

“Let me say… this year’s Caribbean Week of Agriculture should be judged not by the declarations that we expect will come out of it, but rather it should be judged by the practical, fundable action plans and a schedule of major milestones that are implemented before the next CWA,” he told the gathering that included policymakers, representatives of international organizations, stakeholders in the agriculture sector and representatives of the media. 

The urgent response to the threats associated with climate change was also underscored by Dr Kenneth Darroux, Minister of Environment, Natural Resources, Physical Planning and Fisheries. 

He drew attention to Dominica’s experience of drought in 2010; this year’s unprecedented flooding; and weather systems that had become more unpredictable, frequent and intense. 

“We need to recognize the urgency for immediate action. Climate change is not a future scenario but a current event with almost daily scientific reassessments of the immediacy and severity of the risks presented. Adaptation policies and measures must therefore be viewed as a priority and therefore integrated into decision-making at virtually all levels. And in the Caribbean, we have to be alert to the international political fiasco into which the issue of climate change has evolved. The industrialised countries are the ones who contribute the most to the anthropogenic aspects of climate change, and as such, should be held the most accountable. Thus, our participation at international forums, especially those involving negotiations with these countries, is very critical,” he pointed out. 

More than 300 persons are expected in Dominica for the CWA being held from 9-15 October, 2011, under the theme `Caribbean Food and Nutrition Security in a Changing Climate – the Nature Island Experience’. About 20 events will be held at eight locations. 

The CWA, conceptualized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), is aimed at placing agriculture and rural life at the forefront of regional integration activities. It is convened under the aegis of the Alliance for Sustainable Development of Agriculture and the Rural Milieu, known as The Alliance. 

The main collaborating agencies are IICA, the CARICOM Secretariat, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the ACP-EU Technical Centre for Cooperation on Agriculture and Rural Development (CTA).

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