APP Thematic Features

TF#1 AgriMSMEs

Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, with funding
by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF)
APP Thematic Feature No. 1 • June 2016


Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme (APP)

APP Thematic Feature No. 1

What’s the big deal about MSMEs?

Taking action to support MSMEs who play a vital role in agriculture and the economy of the Caribbean.

Diandra Rowe is a unique and driven young woman. She arrives at her family’s shade-house vegetable business in Jamaica at 8am each morning. She makes her rounds to ensure that staff are all set to complete their daily assignments and then, after making sure that orders are ready for pickup by wholesalers and individual customers, she spends much of the rest of her day sowing seeds.
“I sow anywhere from 2000-3500 lettuce seeds, along with other seeds in a day, depending what is happening on the farm,” she says.
These tasks more than fill her day but before her work is done, Diandra ensures that accounts are up to date, books are in order and payroll is prepared before she goes home.
Diandra left a corporate job in the car sales industry about a year and a half ago in order to pursue farming full time at Abbey Garden Farm. She knows that running a small agricultural enterprise in the Caribbean isn’t easy but her passion for the farm keeps her going. Despite challenges, she is sure that she made the right decision to join her family’s business.
Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises like Abbey Garden Farm, or MSMEs as they are commonly referred to, represent much of the Caribbean’s GDP and employment however, they still face many challenges as they climb up the ladder to ‘mainstream’ their enterprise into the formal business sector. For agricultural MSMEs, making this climb can be even longer and harder.
This Feature highlights the importance of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) in agriculture in the Caribbean, and the role that they play in the development process. It recognises that in spite of their initiative, self- investment and hard work, small agriculture based business owners do face challenges. It urges ‘policy’ to understand core needs and create the framework necessary for MSMEs to survive, thrive and inspire a new crop of agricultural enterprises.

This is the first in a series of four Thematic Features to be produced under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action. The APP is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10 th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Intra-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as Executing Agency and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as Implementing Partners.
Current State for MSMEs in the Caribbean
The name alone, MSME, tells us that these enterprises are small. However, it is businesses like these that are the backbone of the Caribbean business sector. We are often impressed by big stores and ‘branded’ operations but MSMEs represent as much as 70% of the region’s GDP and almost 80% of employment. So, for small Caribbean economies, the success of small business enterprises is a big deal. We are often impressed by big stores and ‘branded’ operations but MSMEs represent as much as 70% of the region’s GDP and almost 80% of employment. So, for small Caribbean economies, the success of small business enterprises is a big deal.

Yet despite the evident importance of these businesses, according to the 2016 World Bank’s Doing Business survey, the atmosphere for operating a small or medium businesses in the Caribbean is less than agreeable. The rankings are based on the ease of things like starting a new business, getting access to electricity and financing, paying taxes, trade across borders and more. Though most Caribbean countries have improved in their ranking, out of 189 countries surveyed, the average ranking for the Caribbean is 114.
In a 2013 World Bank report on private enterprise in the Caribbean they readily acknowledge that entrepreneurs are “key actors” in creating lasting economic benefits for the region. The report recommends establishing an environment which supports entrepreneurs in their quest to innovate and compete, leading to increased productivity and a diversified business environment.
Both of these World Bank reports point to the fact that relative to the other countries, much work remains to be done in the Caribbean to create an environment where MSMEs can flourish and do the important work of bolstering the economy.
MSMEs make up a remarkable 95% of companies in the region. By definition, an MSME would be a business that has less than 250 employees, however, 77% of businesses in the Caribbean have only five employees or less. Regardless of their individual size though, these businesses together provide an important source of tax revenue, employment, innovation and skills training. They are also beginning to play an important role in the growth of a green economy in the Caribbean by providing alternative energy sources and offering green products and services.
Ownership of MSMEs has also served as a social safety net for women and youth. Entrepreneurship offers them the opportunity to earn a living and allows them to be active contributors in their communities.
Studies conducted by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor show that men generally become involved in the business sector for “opportunity”, while women tend to start and maintain a business out of “necessity”. That doesn’t mean however that women are building these business just so they can survive. They are in fact building businesses which will allow them to thrive.

Women in the Caribbean are taking advantage of the opportunities being presented to them including training, technical assistance, conferences and more. In 2012/2013 women represented 55% of business owners that became involved in development activities to support MSMEs which were offered under the 10th EDF. This demonstrates that women are serious about growing their businesses and making their products into globally competitive brands which is sure to benefit them, their communities and the regional economy.
Kamarsha Sylvester is a true example of that determination. She runs ‘Taste of Eden’, a small tea and seasoning company in Dominica. It has been operating for eight months now and Kamarsha is unwavering in her resolve to make it work for many years to come. By 2017 Taste of Eden plans to employ other farmers in the production of necessary crops. A few years later the hope is to purchase more property and build a new plant. In the long run, Kamarsha foresees her products being a staple in the region, and eventually in international markets.

“Taste of Eden will become a household name”, Kamarsha says. “In short, Taste of Eden is going to conquer the world.”
The potential opportunities offered by running a small business have not been lost on young people in the region either. The average youth unemployment rates in the Caribbean are grim at 25%, however many enthusiastic young people with good, marketable ideas are making their own jobs by starting a business. Most are entering at production or processing levels of the value-chain, while others have started providing Business Development Services. There have been limited, formal studies on youth entrepreneurs in the Caribbean but the enthusiasm and energy, as well as numbers, presented by youth at recent agricultural policy and business forums has been encouraging.
Spotlight Agri-MSMEs in the Caribbean
Purely from a numbers perspective, MSMEs dominate economic activity in agriculture in the Caribbean. They make up the bulk of the farming community and small-scale food processing. The Caribbean Action under the APP aims specifically to support these small agri-enterprises and businesses.
The objective of the Action is to contribute to enhanced capabilities of the sector with the end goal of eradicating poverty. The plan is to achieve this goal through various means, one of which is the development of small holder agriculture, or agribusiness MSMEs.
Since the late-1980s, the agricultural sector’s contribution to GDP and employment in the region has been declining relative to other economic sectors. According to a 2014 study from the International Labour Organization (ILO), agriculture employment in the Caribbean fell from 25% in 1991 to only 15% in 2013. This has impacted incomes and living standards, especially in rural areas. It has led to an increase in rural poverty and the migration to urban living in many places across the Caribbean. Additionally, cost of food in the region continues to rise due to imports.
The presence of strong agricultural businesses in a country reduces foreign currency expenditure and food costs by providing local products at market and using local raw materials for inputs to further production. An excellent example of this can be seen in Jamaica where the food import bill was reduced by 11.5% last year. This 10.5 billion dollar savings was credited to deliberate strategies to increase domestic food production. Jamaica has been able to attain self-sufficiency in pork, poultry, white potatoes and most vegetables. Further plans are in place to increase production in cassava, onions, coffee and bananas.In Jamaica, the food import bill was reduced by 11.5% last year. This 10.5 billion dollar savings was credited to deliberate strategies to increase domestic food production.

MSMEs can be major drivers of increased food production in the Caribbean, leading to these kinds of positive economic outcomes. But to reach their full potential, Agri MSMEs must meet the traditional ‘constraints’ to agriculture head-on. Young agri-MSMEs are not standing idly by expecting handouts. They are pushing against several closed doors to reach their goals. But, to use their own words, ‘they need more targeted help’ from:

financiers, to provide the funds needed to start, invest in and grow their businesses

farmers, domestic and regional, to get the necessary raw materials to make market-ready products

education and community development agencies, to ‘turn out’ the skills and attitudes needed to staff their businesses

public and private sector marketing agencies, to cre­ate linkages, mainstream their products and develop innovative strategies to deal with demand and price fluctuations

technical research agencies, to advise and facilitate their access to updated equipment and technology, and to provide information on business risks and threats, including climate change and water for agriculture

policy makers, to create the proverbial ‘enabling envi­ronment’ that allows all of this to happen, especially equitable access to land for production from the farm MSMEs
Diandra Rowe of Abbey Garden Farms has become quite familiar with the demands of running a small, family farm in the Caribbean but she is not backing down from them. She understands the value of these enterprises in her community and this understanding fuels her passion to keep going.
“Businesses like mine are very important as they support food safety and security for the region,” she says. “80% of the workers we employ are from within the community and we make it our point of duty to provide fresh produce for two children’s homes in our parish as often as we can.
Abbey Garden Farm really is about giving back to the community. They allow schools to visit and provide educational tours, free of charge. They encourage high school students interested in agriculture to work with them so that they can learn the tools of the trade.

Diandra’s father, Jervis Rowe, is a foremost practitioner in the Caribbean on protected agriculture systems. He travels around the country assisting other farmers and schools in setting up farming programs, hoping to pass the Abbey Farm passion on to the next generation.

When asked about her daily challenges, Diandra cited a lack of professionally trained labour, fluctuations in the market price for produce and managing the temperatures in the growing environment as part of the regular list of problems. When asked about long-term challenges and needs she mentioned access to good land, enough water and necessary financing as her main concerns.
Moving Agri- MSMEs forward in the Caribbean
As part of the Caribbean Action under the APP, there is focus on development of agri- MSMEs in the areas where they need it the most. One such immediate need is financing and investment.
“The truth is, money is needed to make money”, says Kamarsha from Taste of Eden. She understands the importance of getting more land, increasing the amount of raw material produced, investing in faster and more efficient machinery and as a result, getting more product on the shelves.Caribbean Action under the Agricultural Policy ProgrammeComponent 3 – Enterprise Development through Market LinkagesAction 1: Facilitate improved governance frameworks and organizational capacity of National producer groups and Regional Networks.Action 2: Support small CARIFORUM producers/entrepreneurs to improve marketability (presentation and market opportunities) of select agri-food productsAction 3: Enhance CARIFORUM financial service providers’ understanding of innovative agri-value chain financing schemes for MSMEs.

Agriculture projects are seen as high risk though. They are challenged by produce theft, poor infrastructure, variable weather and climate change, which are beyond the control of the business owner. In developing countries there is often limited know-how, or education and technology to support and grow these businesses. And, competition from bigger, global competitors makes investors nervous.
Action is being taken under Component 3 of the APP in the Caribbean that seeks to directly tackle this challenge. One of the goals is to improve finance schemes to support commodity value chain development.
“They need the support of finance experts who understand and have experience in agri-value chain financing schemes, risk management, and facilitating engagement with financing institutions which are inherently cautious to finance agribusiness enterprises”, says Robert Reid, Agribusiness and Commercialization Specialist with IICA.
The APP is working with financial institutions to develop financing mechanisms which provide more targeted support to agricultural MSMEs. Small producers and processors have been requesting this type of help for some time.
The most recent action was taken on this initiative in April of this year. The focus was on reaching agriculture Enterprise and Producer Groups. These groups met with representatives from the Financial Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST), a Canadian-based entity. FAST experts shared knowledge on capacity building tools in the areas of credit-readiness, investment profiling, and engagement with banks. The local enterprise and producer groups were then tasked with taking this information back to their members.
The success of these Regional, National and Local agriculture groups is also a key to the success of individual agricultural MSMEs. An additional goal of Component 3 of the APP is to strengthen the governance frameworks and organizational capacity of enterprise and producer groups.
“We have proven that when small farmers are clustered into groups, like if you take 10 small farmers with three acres, the output is three times that of a person with the same single acre because of the intensity of management, coordination, production, family labour, etc.” commented Jethro Greene, Chief Coordinator of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), in an interview with the CTA on how farmers in the Caribbean can best be helped.
Mr. Reid of IICA agrees, “These groups play the role of sources of information about product availability and market opportunities, coordination of production to meet market requirements, stabilization and competitiveness of prices, reduction in transaction cost to buyers, and most importantly, achieve a level of bargaining power relative to other chain actors that will secure greater equity in the portion of the consumer dollar that they receive.”
Kamarsha from Taste of Eden also understands both the practical and motivational support that these groups offer. “Advice is given about how to care for crops. Information is shared and solutions to problems are given. This leads to an increase in crop production and in turn an increase in the products”, she says. “No longer am I alone in this. We’re all in it together.”
The APP has been carrying out workshops with members from these groups on green farming technology, improving market infrastructure, strategic business and chain facilitation and more. Further initiatives are underway to link enterprise and producer groups with supermarkets, restaurants, traders, exporters, agro-processors and input suppliers through the publishing of a directory. And, a ‘Producer, Enterprise Group & Network Governance and Dynamics Workshop’ was held in Saint Vincent & the Grenadines in April which sought to improve the governance processes and organizational competencies of these groups so that they could better deliver services to their members.

Clearly, it is important to have reliable financial backing and solid groups and networks in place to support the creation of your product, but in the end none of it will matter unless you can get your product out to market and attract buyers. Action under Component 3 of the APP also aims to improve the marketability of agri-food products from small entrepreneurs.
Large companies have money to spend and resources to access to bring their products up to international standards and make them stand out. This is not so for most small businesses in the Caribbean.
This problem was the impetus for the ‘Product Development, Marketing, Food Safety and Good Manufacturing Practices Workshop’ that was put on by the APP in March of this year. Agricultural entrepreneurs and producer group leaders from around the Caribbean attended informative sessions on Health and Food Safety, Food Marketing, and Packaging and Labelling. They visited a well-known Caribbean supermarket chain to see what successful products on their shelves looked like and they were given the opportunity to meet one-on-one with experts who gave them advice on how to improve their current packaging and labelling.

“All in all the workshop enlightened me on a whole new level, allowing me to see exactly what I should do in order for me to meet international standards,” shared Kamarsha. “The experts who spoke at the workshop were very helpful. In fact I got great advice from them and presently some of them are assisting me in getting my labels and logo redone.”
This reflects, in large part, the attitude and effort being put forth by the APP. By bringing existing organizations, producer groups, entrepreneurs, farmers and even financiers together, they hope to strengthen MSMEs and encourage the people who run them.
“The APP program has allowed me to connect and network with young farmers like myself and experts within the profession throughout CARICOM,”says Diandra from Abbey Garden Farms. She had the opportunity to attend the Youth in Agriculture Business Forum put on by the APP as part of the Dialogue for Development (D4D) Forum in January of this year. “I would not have otherwise had the pleasure of meeting such a supportive and very passionate group young of entrepreneurs…and gained a wealth of knowledge from the various presentations. I left the workshop feeling positive, very inspired and reassured.”
So, while Diandra Rowe spends her day managing staff, planting, reaping and doing the books; and while Kamarsha Sylvester spends her day drying leaves, stuffing tea bags and dreaming of conquering there tail world, they know that they each face constraints. With a little bit of help though, they might just reach their goals and in the process make a meaningful mark on the community around them.
“Because if I plan on conquering the world”, Kamarsha says, “I can’t do it all by myself now can I?”
In 2012/2013 women represented 55% of business owners that became involved in development activities to support MSMEs which were offered under the 10th EDF.

Taste of Eden teas. (Photo APP)

Diandra Rowe working with strawberries (Photo: Abbey Garden Farm)

This is the first in a 4-part series of Thematic Features with a focus on MSMEs, produced under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, highlighting work under Component 3 – Enterprise Development and Market Linkages. The APP is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as Executing Agency and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as Implementing Partners.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

TF#2 Info for AgriMSMEs

Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, with funding
by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF)
APP Thematic Feature No. 2 • August 2016


Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme (APP)

APP Thematic Feature No. 2

Meeting Food Safety & Consumer Expectations: What Every Agri-MSME Needs to Know

Thriving as a Caribbean Agricultural MSME in a Competitive, Retail World Means Understanding Regulatory Food Safety Requirements & Unique, Targeted Marketing Strategies.

Unless they are shopping at a local farmers market, very few sellers and buyers are in direct contact with each other anymore. Between them is a multifaceted world of food safety requirements, product planning, packaging, labelling, merchandising and more.
Before a customer can pick up a product and take it to the cash register to put money in the pockets of producers, there are many expectations that need to be met. From ensuring that a product is safe and meets national food safety standards, to making a product stand out from all the rest, navigating the world from crop to cash requires know-how. Large corporations spend millions of dollars each year to get their products on the shelf, and then off the shelf into hands of consumers. Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) traditionally don’t have the same money to spend.

This Feature highlights the importance of understanding what it takes to meet food safety and consumer expectations in the marketing of agri-products in the Caribbean. Agri-MSMEs have many elements to consider and decisions to make on their way to a competitive retail market.
Marketing has changed. No longer do people buy based on the products that their mothers were loyal to, or simply out of habit. Today, consumers are overwhelmed with choice. Organic, locally grown, low fat, low sugar, gluten free, quick and easy, fresh, frozen, single-serve, family size…and the list goes on.
In order to make it off the shelf, a product needs to get noticed. “People’s brains are hardwired to notice what stands out”, said Derek Waddell in his presentation to MSMEs on ‘Understanding your Market and Meeting Expectations’ at an APP workshop. “They see what is different .”
However, making a product different is only one facet of the process. According to the European Food Information Council in an article on ‘The Determinants of Food Choice’, other factors which affect consumer choice are economic, such as cost, income and availability; or social, such as culture, family, peers and meal patterns. Even psychological factors such as mood, stress and guilt can come into play, along with a buyer’s attitudes, beliefs and knowledge about food.
Reputation is also a key factor. “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product”, says Derek Waddell. “We buy based on trust.” When consumers reach for your product, they have an expectation, indeed a right, to safe food that is free from harmful elements.

So how does a small Caribbean agri-business tackle such a vast array of factors in the marketing of their products? It was this question that inspired an APP joint Component 2 and Component 3 regional workshop on Product Development, Marketing, Food Safety and GMP for SMEs in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad earlier this year. Thirty-nine agri-business owners representing 15 Caribbean countries took part in the workshop that addressed important issues such as marketing, labelling and food safety, as well as fostering networking amongst Caribbean business owners and food industry professionals, all with the goal of helping MSMEs sell their products and grow their businesses.
Getting Products On the Shelf – Meeting Food Safety Standards
Health and Food Safety Specialists, as well as a Food and Drug Inspector from Trinidad & Tobago, were invited to present at the APP workshop. Getting your product off the shelf requires getting it on there in the first place. That means knowing and meeting consumer expectations, as well as regulatory standards for food safety in each country across the Caribbean. These standards must be met before a product can even get to market.
Food Safety
“Food safety is an important part of public health, linking health to agriculture and other food production sectors. For over a century, developments in food production and new control philosophies have contributed to food safety systems in most developed countries perceived by many to be efficient in the prevention of foodborne disease”, says J. Schlundt in the article, ‘New directions in foodborne disease prevention’.
Today, food safety is one of the World Health Organizations (WHO) top priorities. They have called for systematic and aggressive steps to be taken to reduce the risk of foodborne diseases. Unfortunately, however, the WHO estimated that at least one-third of individuals in developing countries are likely to contract a foodborne illness each year.
As part of her presentation, “Food safety in Trinidad and Tobago: should we be concerned”, Dr. Lisa Indar of the Health and Foodborne Disease Surveillance Programme, Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) revealed that foodborne diseases in the Caribbean region had increased by 26% since 2015.
According to Dr. Lisa Harrynanan, an Agricultural Health and Food Safety Specialist with IICA, “Food safety is defined as the assurance that the food will not cause harm to the consumer when it is prepared and/or eaten according to its intended use…as well as the action of monitoring food to ensure that it will not cause foodborne illness.”
Dr. Harrynanan presented on ‘Food Safety Management Systems’ and an ‘Introduction to HACCP & Its Prerequisites’ at the APP workshop. The Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) system, has become the reference for international food safety requirements. It is supported by Ministries of Health, Agriculture & Trade, Bureaus of Standards, Public Health and Private sector agencies throughout the Caribbean.
The HACCP system was created to install preventative measures to eliminate or reduce hazards in food. It is a proactive rather than reactive approach to minimizing, preventing or preferably eliminating the risk of food borne illnesses. Many industries now consider the HACCP, or HACCP-based system, to be mandatory.
HACCP is designed to understand what hazards can enter into the food and food system; how they occur and how they can be controlled or eliminated. HACCP training is important at all stages – from the growing, handling, receiving, storage and holding of raw produce to value-add product preparation, labelling, storage and distribution.
“Many persons are unaware of the importance of HACCP”, said Dr. Lisa Harrynanan in her presentation, “they may know about HACCP, but lack the technical competence and business skills necessary to operate an effective prerequisite programme and set up an HACCP system.” She points out the importance of making it as user-friendly as possible.
A simple diagram shows the important elements that make up the HACCP Food Safety pyramid. The strong structure of HACCP is upheld by management’s commitment to the program, training and hazard identification. The pre-requisite practices which make up the foundation of the pyramid are Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) such as Food Temperature Control, Cleaning and Sanitizing, Personal Hygiene and Pest Control. Establishing these, along with the applications of the Seven Principals of HACCP will create an efficient and effective food safety management system.
The results of HACCP in preventing food borne illnesses are obvious. However, since it is not mandatory in all industries, it is also important to highlight the additional benefits of putting this system in place. A food safety management system based on HACCP principles can also reduce product loss due to spoiling, increase product value, foster consistency in product preparation, which is important to the end customer. It can also result in an increase in profit, not to mention that when it comes to food safety, the reputation of a product depends on it.
Responsible agri-SMEs will recognize that before getting their products to the shelf, they should understand the HACCP system and apply the GMPs necessary to support it. Then, they need to assign and train a team to ensure that any products leaving their hands are safe for the final consumer.
Food Regulations: A Quick Tour
Wayne Watts, a Food & Drugs Inspector for Trinidad & Tobago, told MSME participants at the APP workshop that “every citizen and resident of the Caribbean has the right to safe food.” Mr. Watts is part of the Food & Drug Inspectorate (FDI) in Trinidad which monitors all aspects of importation, manufacturing, processing, packaging, storage, labelling, advertising, sale and distribution of food, as well as food quality, fraud and hygiene.
HACCP is not mandatory in all industries, however most countries do have food regulations that must be met. A review of the Trinidad and Tobago Food and Drugs Act and Regulations provides an excellent baseline for understanding the general kinds of regulations that can be expected in any Caribbean country. The Act deals with many aspects of Food Control, including:
Labelling your product:
Many countries have specific requirements for labelling such as the inclusion of brand name, common name, weight, volume, expiry date, a list of ingredients, safe handling and much more. MSMEs need to be aware of the requirements for their product type and include all relevant requirements on their labels. It is also law that no food be described or presented in a false, misleading or deceptive manner. Producers must be able to justify all claims on the label that are made about their product. Common misuse of terms includes “natural”, “organic”, “fresh” and “home-made.” In these cases, terms must be consistent with regulatory requirements and the standards associated with them.

Meeting Food Standards:
All food producers must meet and maintain standards for food production as well as for the actual products themselves. By law, they are also prohibited against the sale of harmful, unfit, adulterated or unsanitary food. These two elements relate back to HACCP and the standards for food safety that should be put in place by all agri-SMEs.
Keeping your Facilities Clean:
There are also standards to guide the conditions under which you operate your facilities. According to Dr. Lisa Harrynanan, a good operation includes Good Agricultural Practices, Good Manufacturing Practices and Standard Operating Procedures.
Good Agriculture Practices (GAPs) are a set of voluntary guidelines or practices that are followed at primary production to reduce food safety hazards. The risk of produce contamination during growing, harvesting and packing can be significantly reduced by following health and hygiene procedures during field production and postharvest water use, soil amendments, cleaning and sanitizing, packaging and transport and record keeping and traceability.
Good Manufacturing Practices (GMPs) apply to all segments of the food industry and describe a set of conditions and practices that must be observed during manufacturing to ensure that food is safe and produced under sanitary conditions. These operations include elements such as pest control, building design and construction, sanitary facilities and controls, equipment and utensils, employee health and hygiene, raw material ingredients and storage, and handling and shipping of the finished products.
Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and Sanitation Operating Procedures (SSOPs) are the steps that a processing facility takes to ensure that the GMPs are met. These practices should include the purpose and frequency of doing a task; who will do the task; the description of the procedure to be performed, including all the steps involved; cleaning and sanitizing a piece of equipment, and corrective actions to be taken if the task is performed incorrectly.
Allowing Inspection of your Premises:
All agri-SMEs must be prepared for and allow inspection of their manufacturing, processing, storage and packaging facilities at any given time by various inspection agencies in their country. This could include extension officers, pesticides and toxic chemical inspectors and public health inspectors.
Storing and Distributing Food:
Storage and packaging includes a means of providing the correct environmental conditions for food during the length of time the food is stored and/or distributed to the consumer. Good packaging is expected to keep products clean and safe, provide protection against different types of hazards in transport and handling and different types of pests and other elements could harm the product. The packaging and labelling must also provide accurate information about a product.
It is clear through examination of HACCP principles and common food regulations that there needs to be a priority in focusing on public health and ensuring that food is untainted and honestly presented when offered to the consumer. Agri-SMEs will benefit greatly by understanding these principles as they begin their products journey on the road to the consumer.

Getting Products Off the Shelf – Grabbing the Customer’s Attention
After all of the hard work planting, harvesting and safely processing a product according to food standards and expectations, it is finally ready for market…or is it?
Most successful products have been tried and tested, worked and reworked, and subject to many iterations before they make it to a store shelf and then into the hands of a customer. From taste testing to visual appeal, safe and attractive packaging to an eye-catching label, there is a lot of work to be done to grab the consumer’s attention.
“Point of sale (POS) is where the business is won or lost”, said Derek Waddell in his presentation to MSMEs at the APP workshop. “More than 70% of purchase decisions take place at the point of sale.” He acknowledges that understanding who the shopper is, how they think and behave and why and when they shop is key to sales success. Waddell says that “having the right product and package, in the right place in the store, in the right position on the shelf or in the cooler…with the right communication material and message” is crucial, and that all begins with planning.
Customer Research
In her presentation on ‘Improving your Product’ at the APP workshop, Food Product Development expert Vidia Doodnath laid out the considerations that should be made when planning for, creating or seeking to improve a product. From the very beginning MSMEs must ask some questions:

Is there a need for this product in the market?

Will my product sell?

Will my product be profitable?

Does my product include desirable ingredients?

Can I mass produce my product?

Do I already have, or have access to the equipment required to make my product?
To know the real answers to these questions producers must do customer research. According to Julia Cupman in her article on ‘Using Market Research for Product Development’ (2016), she states that “market research can play a role in determining the need for most new products.” She says that expenditure on R&D for most companies is somewhere between 2% and 5% of sales. Cupman states that “the most effective types of market research studies for product development are needs assessment research studies in which the usage of existing products are examined and unmet needs are explored, and concept screening in which a new concept can be shown to the target audience for feedback on the product.”“Point of sale (POS) is where the business is won or lost”, said Derek Waddell in his presentation to MSMEs at the APP workshop. “More than 70% of purchase decisions take place at the point of sale.”

So, a little planning and research can go a long way to ensure that MSMEs hit the market with a product that is likely to succeed.
Choice of Packaging
Once a product has been developed and perfected, it is time for packaging. Glass or plastic, vacuum pack or loose, see-through or opaque – there are many elements to be considered and decisions to be made when selecting packaging.
The first elements are the regulations discussed earlier. Good packaging must keep products clean and safe, provide protection against different types of hazards and be appropriate for the storage of a particular product.
Next, a business owner must determine if they have the sanitation and filling technologies required to accommodate a particular type of packaging. If not, they need to decide if they will invest in those technologies, or if they will outsource the packaging which opens up many other questions on items such as transportation and contracts.
Lastly, decisions must be made on the goal of the packaging. Does the product require, and is the customer looking for, packaging that is practical, usable, attractive or environmentally friendly? Or, perhaps all four?
Label Design
Next to be considered is labelling. According to Wayne Watts, Ministry of Health, Chemistry Food and Drug Division, a label should “let the product to speak for itself”.

Richard Lewis and the team from Label House made presentations on ‘Packaging and Decoration’ (Stuart Maingot) and ‘Label Design’ (Carolyn Chu Fook), before taking workshop participants on a journey to see packaging, label design and printing in action at the Label House Facilities. Participants received expert advice on labels for their products. They were able to see, touch and asses many examples of how they could make their products stand out.
After the standard considerations of paper or plastic labels, sleeves or stickers and varied inks, participants learned about different colours and the message that they convey. They were encouraged to use colour to capture the feeling of their product. For example, yellow is said to be optimistic and youthful, while red speaks of energy and urgency.
Fonts were also discussed. Does a particular product require that information be simple and easy to read, or does it cry out for more of a unique look, with hand-written font or text embossed with foils?
Label House experts also encouraged the agri-SMEs to use their labels for more than just the practical requirements such as nutritional information and ingredients, bar codes and expiry dates but also to tell the product’s story, link to social media and websites, and even to make a call to action. According to the Label House experts, “You made the product, now, give it a voice!”

The final step in the marketing of a product is merchandising. Hopefully by this point, business owners have created a product that tastes good, is safe, looks great and will sell. Now, according to Derek Waddell, the product “must be visible” or the rest of the work may not be enough.
Waddell encouraged workshop participants to “be a shopper to generate new ideas”; to see how they shop and what they notice in the stores. He noted the “Hot Spots” as prime merchandising locations where people stood around waiting for services such as the cashier, deli and bakery. He also pointed out “adjacencies” where products were paired with other products that made sense for suggestive selling like birthday cards with chocolate and soft drinks with salty snacks.
Participants examined supermarket traffic patterns of the “routine stock-up”, “traditional daily needs” and “urgent items” shoppers. They looked at time of day traffic, shelf locations and end of row opportunities all to understand the greatest merchandising potential for their products.
Clearly, marketing is not what is used to be. Consumers have more choice, but then again, so do producers. With a little bit of focused attention, MSMEs in the Caribbean today have excellent opportunities to put safe, unique and quality products on the market. “You made the product, now, give it a voice!”

According to the recently drafted 2016 CARICOM Regional Policy on MSMEs “the MSME sector makes a significant contribution to the economic development of the region and must be systematically advanced”; that MSMEs aid in “poverty reduction, wealth creation and supporting sustained economic growth.” CARICOM acknowledges that an important part of creating a vibrant MSME sector is skills development, knowledge sharing and better use of resources and appropriate technology.
In short, there are many things that MSMEs need to know in order to succeed but armed with information, connections and know-how they can go a long way in advancing Caribbean products in domestic, regional and international markets and in turn, supporting and growing the regional Caribbean economy.
See also:
TF#1: What’s the Big Deal About MSMEs? (June 2016)

“People’s brains are hardwired to notice what stands out. They see what is different.”
PRINCIPLE 1: Conduct a Hazard Analysis (HA).
PRINCIPLE 2: Determine the Critical Control Points (CCPs) in the process.
PRINCIPLE 3: Establish Target Levels & Critical Limits.
PRINCIPLE 4: Establish System to Monitoring CCPs.
PRINCIPLE 5: Establish an appropriate Corrective Actions Plan for each CCP.
PRINCIPLE 6: Establish Verification Procedures to confirm that the HACCP is working effectively.
PRINCIPLE 7: Establish Record Keeping concerning all procedures & keep note of their application.
Providing technical advice on packaging and labelling options at the APP ‘Product Development, Marketing, Food Safety and GMP for SMEs Workshop’ (Photo: APP)

This is the second in a 4-part series of Thematic Features with a focus on MSMEs, produced under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, highlighting work under Component 3 – Enterprise Development and Market Linkages. The APP is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as Executing Agency and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as Implementing Partners.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

TF#3 AgriMSME Financing

Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, with funding
by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF)
APP Thematic Feature No. 3 • September 2016


Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy Programme (APP)

APP Thematic Feature No. 3

Unlocking Opportunities in Caribbean Agriculture Through Knowledge, Relationships and Investments

Connecting Agricultural MSMEs to Financial Institutions is a Must in Order to Strengthen Agriculture in CARIFORUM Member States.

Neil Gomes has been a crop farmer for over 20 years. Like many Caribbean farmers, he loves what he does, growing tomatoes, cabbages and other produce at his farm in Antigua. He is committed to the success of his farm and also to the agriculture industry as a whole. As vice president of the local chapter of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), “Team Fresh Produce”, he works with other farmers to try and tackle the many challenges in a declining yet vital industry in the Caribbean. Neil cites access to financing as one of those challenges.

“Immediate cash flow is the most important need”, he says. “We need revolving funds to keep our businesses going but, we also need financial institutions that are willing to consider long term investments in order for us to advance production with good equipment and infrastructure.”
Mr. Gomes is particularly interested in supporting young farmers. He wants to see more of them come into the industry and bring their passion, energy and ideas but he worries that without access to financing they won’t be able to grow, let alone maintain their new enterprises. “I want to be able to tell them to hold on and keep the faith. That it will work out”, he says, and he is hoping that the financial industry, both in the Caribbean and around the world, can help.
This feature stresses the need for access to financing in the Caribbean for agricultural Micro, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (MSMEs). It also highlights the initiatives that are being carried out under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) that are working towards meeting that need. “We don’t have a voice, as the greatest stakeholders, with policy makers and others who can assist us in making agriculture a driving force in the Region.”-Neil Gomes, VP Team Fresh Produce, CAFAN

The overall goal of the APP is to improve regional food and nutrition security and reduce poverty through the sustainable economic growth of agricultural MSMEs in the Region. One of the priority actions that is being taken to work towards that result is improving financing schemes and access to financing in support of the development of commodity value chains involving agri-MSMEs.
“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work” — Thomas Edison
Agricultural MSMEs make up a large part of the Caribbean’s GDP. They contribute to food and nutrition security by providing fresh, healthy and local foods at market and, they are significant source of employment, especially in rural areas. In short, they are very important players in the well-being of the Region.
However, many agricultural enterprises don’t feel that they are getting the support they need to succeed. “I find we are not taken seriously in terms of GDP contribution”, says Mr. Gomes. “We don’t have a voice, as the greatest stakeholders, with policy makers and others who can assist us in making agriculture a driving force in the Region.”
Robert A. Reid, an International Consultant on Agribusiness, recognizes this very challenge. “MSME’s in the CARIFORUM region, and specifically those in the agricultural sector, are in most cases run by one or two persons”, he says. “They face challenges of accessing adequate resources and having an enabling environment that will allow them to maintain and grow their enterprise in a profitable manner.”
In the area of access to financing, Mr. Reid sees the source of the challenges but also suggests that these obstacles can be overcome. “The difficulty in obtaining finance stems from a general perception on the part of Financial Institutions of the level of risk in lending to agricultural SMEs that are known to experience production and market failures due to factors outside of their control such as adverse climatic conditions, theft of crop, unfair market competition, and failure to collect sales receipt from buyers in a timely manner,” he says. But he also acknowledges that “FIs have not been proactive in looking at innovative financing schemes where the exposure of the MSME and themselves to high levels of risk can be reduced.” He is encouraged that once FIs have a good look at agriculture investments in the Caribbean that offer innovative risk-mitigating practices, they will be excited about the opportunities that are put before them.
“An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”
— Benjamin Franklin
In recognizing these challenges for farmers and agro-processors, and opportunities for FIs, the APP has carried out several initiatives to bring agricultural business owners, and those who can assist with their businesses, together. One such initiative was a Regional SME-DFI (Development Financial Institution) Working Capital Development Meeting that was held in Trinidad in November 2015.
Participants of the meeting included farmer and agro-processing group representatives from organizations such as CaFAN, the Caribbean Network of Rural Women Producers (CANROP), the Caribbean Agribusiness Association (CABA) and the Caribbean Agri Youth Forum (CAFY), as well as representatives from financial institutions from across the Caribbean, and around the world. They gathered for the purpose of engagement and exchange of ideas for practical, workable plans to bring much needed financing to the agriculture industry.
The meeting was focused primarily on knowledge sharing. Farmers groups were able to share with financial institutions (FIs) about the specific and informed benefits of investing in roots and tubers initiatives in the Caribbean. They came prepared and laid out specifics on the current situation and immediate financing needs, as well as plans for the way forward and long-term expected results. After a valuable time of questions, discussions and idea sharing, an action plan was drawn up to map out next steps in providing financing for these initiatives.
Following the farmer group presentations, FIs were able to share with business owners on how they could support them, but also what they needed from them in order to help. Mr. Reid acknowledges that “while most MSMEs express a dire need for finance, more than 90% of them do not put themselves in a position to be ‘credit worthy’ and attractive for investment. They have no businesses plan; no organized accounting records; no proper governance structure for decision making; no credit-readiness assessment or investment profiles that can be used to leverage their access to finance.”

With this in mind, FactorPlus, an organization that offers a micro-factoring product, presented at the meeting. Their service provides immediate cash flow, limited credit risk collection and debt management by buying small invoices from businesses. The participating company receives 80% of the value of invoice and the remaining 20% is paid, minus the factoring fee of about 5%, at time of receipt of funds from the purchaser.
This would be an excellent solution for the problem of immediate cash flow identified by Neil Gomes. However, there are certain conditions that must be met before a business can work with FactorPlus. Paul Dijkhoffz, the FactorPlus representative, stressed that a company must be able to show due diligence in their everyday business practices. They cannot submit invoices that are older than two months or from business to consumer. They can only submit current invoices that are from business to business or business to government. Lastly, funds will only be paid to a company after the delivery of good and services. Any MSME that desires to work with FactorPlus must be able to meet these requirements.
“People want guidance…They want to be given responsibility to help solve the problem and the authority to act on it.”
— Howard Schultz, Starbucks
The Financial Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST) was also invited to present at the meeting. FAST is Canadian organization that works with MSMEs to facilitate their access to financing. They identify credit needs, promote tools to improve their readiness to access credit, pair the most suitable financial institution to the particular MSME, and carry out follow up action to ensure that the MSME is successful in getting a loan.
For credit readiness assessments, businesses are required to provide core information on their company based on the five Cs namely, capacity, capital, conditions, character and collateral. Once Credit Readiness Assessments are complete, FAST is able to categorize companies accordingly, and prepare Investment Profiles.
There are several key factors that determine the Level in which a company is placed. Level A companies are ready to be presented to financial institutions, advising what types of loans and/or grants are required. Level B and C Companies need to come up to the level of Level A companies before they too can be presented.

After the FAST presentation, meeting participants had a clear view of what would be required of them to qualify for pairing with an FI for financing, as well as a list of initiatives that could be taken to increase investor confidence. They were excited about the possibilities that these partnerships could bring and as a result, established a roadmap for achieving credit readiness for identified MSMEs.
Belle Vue Cooperative in Saint Lucia is one of the groups that has been identified as a finalist for the FAST Credit worthiness assessment. Belle Vue has been in existence for 32 years. They are a group that provides training in farm techniques and practices, sell inputs and plantlets and provide a place for farmers to sell their goods. They have just recently completed the application process and are now on the road to obtaining financing through the FAST process, and with the help of the APP. Euthalia Philigence, the National Value Chain Facilitator (NCVF,) assisted Belle Vue with their application. She is excited about supporting the FAST process and sees the benefits for Caribbean farmers.
“Farmers need support throughout the financing process”, she says. “Most of them see paper work as daunting and tedious. They would rather spend the time in the field so it is necessary to have a support system that will coach them in every aspect of farming”, which includes paperwork and accessing financing.
If Belle Vue is successful in obtaining financing, they will use it to provide loans to farmers to improve infrastructure, which can help them meet standards for the purpose of export, as well as increase the quality and capacity of their crops for local markets.
“Our future is only limited by our commitment to keep the momentum going” — Anne Sweeney, Disney
Following the initial discussions and meetings on facilitating financing for Caribbean agriculture, much work has been done to keep the momentum going. An agreement was signed between IICA and FAST to support APP Beneficiary organizations in determining and improving the credit-readiness of agricultural producers, processors, women and youth enterprises, and the development of investment profiles to be used in supporting their engagement with FIs. Investment plans are underway and are expected to be completed shortly. Three different enterprises representing Saint Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda, and six individual candidates have been selected for FAST support.
As a further result of the APP work and this new relationship with FAST, FAST and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) have also entered into a contract to continue moving forward in this area. They have plans for the development of an Investment Guide for the Sweet Potato Sector in the CARIFORUM Region which will be shared with FIs. Also, FIs and five MSMEs have been identified and profiled in the FAST Access and eXchange for Impact Investment and Sustainability (AXIIS) platform. Through the platform, MSMEs and FIs will create a profile with key indicators that facilitate matchmaking, coaching and follow up. The platform will also serve as a collection, aggregation, and data analysis tool, by gathering key financial indicators and investment trends related to the agriculture sector which can be shared with potential stakeholders.
In August of this year the APP also carried out a ‘Working Capital Focus Group Workshop’ where perceptions and opinions about the design parameters for a proposed model of a Working Capital Fund (WCF) were discussed. The details of the WCF will be presented to an agri-value chain financing forum in September where input of additional stakeholders’ will be solicited and the plan will be further refined. Initially, the WCF will be targeted at the Roots and Tubers value chain and will be managed by a domestic FI. However, the hope is that the WCF evolves to include other fresh and processed agri-value chains, over several territories, and includes a composite fund of FI investors with an independent fund manager.

It is also the hope that in each CARIFORM country, a national public-private partnership entity called the National Agricultural Trading Trust (NATT) would be established, as a policy think-tank mechanism to stimulate the growth of the WCF.
So, farmers and agro-processors can be assured that work is being done to try and help them overcome some of their challenges in the industry, especially in the area of access to financing.
“A sustainable world means working together to create prosperity for all” — Jacqueline Novogratz, CEO Acumen Fund Inc.
It isn’t just the Caribbean that faces these kinds of challenges though. The conditions for agriculture production in the Pacific are very similar to the Caribbean. Both regions face difficulties from natural disasters, high food prices, small domestic markets, climate change and reliance on an export market with preferential market access to the EU for commodities and limited access to financing.
The Caribbean Action under the APP is in fact part of a wider project, the Intra-ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) APP. The Action plan for this project is to simultaneously address the concerns of rural communities and small holders in both the Caribbean and Pacific regions, through knowledge sharing, in order to build sustainable capacity for the development of viable agricultural systems in both regions.
That is why key individuals from the Pacific Region have been invited to the final Agri-Value Chain Financing Forum that will be held in Jamaica on September 26th and 27th of this year. The forum will provide an opportunity for the APP to wrap up the work that has been done in facilitating better financing opportunities for agricultural MSMEs in the Region. Lessons learnt and recommendations for moving forward will be shared with all participants, including those from the Pacific, in hopes that they too can benefit from the information that has been gathered.

In addition to reviewing and finalizing plans that came out of the SME-DFI and WCF meetings, the forum aims to pursue an agreement for the establishment of a CARIFORUM FI Platform for Agri-Value Chain Business Development and identify a group of Champion FIs that would be charged with the task of overseeing future agricultural initiatives related to financing.
Neil Gomes has positive hopes for this forum. In the long run, he would like to obtain financing for his own business as a result of working with FIs at the forum but he also sees it as an opportunity to show young farmers that it is not just “doom and gloom”, as he puts it, but that farming can be a decent business opportunity and a good way of life.
“Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant”.
— P.T. Barnum
Farmers, agro-processors and others in the agricultural value chain don’t want to be mastered and overcome by the need for money. They want to move the industry forward by using new technologies and tools that result in higher yields, better quality and lower labour costs, but new technologies cost money. They also don’t want to be ruled by debt. They need to have a good, informed plan for investment and repayment that allows them the freedom to make a decent living and still grow their business.
Money needs to be their servant; another tool in their belt that can be used to support their businesses and in turn, benefit the Region. Higher yields, better quality and lower labour costs all result in greater food and nutrition security and lower food prices in a Region; more young farmers joining the industry due to profitable business opportunities means greater levels of employment and more money being put back into communities.
In short, investing the agricultural value chain in the Caribbean is a must if we want to see the Region as a whole thrive, and if we want to be able to say to our agricultural MSMEs, “hold on, keep the faith, it will work out.”
See Also:
TF#1: What’s the Big Deal About MSMEs? (June 2016)
TF#2: Meeting Food Safety and Consumer Expectations – What Every Agri-MSMEs Needs to Know (August 2016)
Presenting the plan at the SME-DFI Working Capital Development meeting (Photo: APP)

Farmer Group Roots & Tubers Initiatives in the Caribbean:
CAFAN – Coordinated Regional Fresh Roots and Tuber Exports Packaging & Decoration
CABA – Composite Baked Roots and Tuber Products
CANROP – Wowetta Women’s Cassava Project
Belle Vue Farmers’ Coop, Saint Lucia. (Photo: IICA, Saint Lucia)

Initiatives to be taken to increase investor confidence:

A Cluster Approach, which supports the practice of interdependence for success

Training and Education programmes supported by CABA, CAFAN and CANROP

Provision of Value Chain Facilitators and Business De­velopment Officers by IICA

Use of the Caribbean Development Bank (CBD) Loan Insurance facility

Willingness to use existing finance houses

Proper legal status for agencies involved and their existing and functional governance structures

A working relationship between CAFAN (production) and CABA (processing and marketing)

Technical and other support from CARDI, FAO and IICA in the cultivation of roots and tubers

This is the third in a 4-part series of Thematic Features with a focus on MSMEs, produced under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, highlighting work under Component 3 – Enterprise Development and Market Linkages. The APP is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as Executing Agency and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as Implementing Partners.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

TF#4 Youth are Interested

Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, with funding
by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF)
APP Thematic Feature No. 4 • October 2016


Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP)

APP Thematic Feature No. 4

YES! Youth Are Interested,Engaged and Ready to Get Agriculture Moving

Examining the Importance, Interest and Engagement of Youth in Caribbean Agriculture and Exploring Actions to Further Empower Them

Ask any child in grade two what they want to be when they grow up and you will get some fairly standard answers; a doctor, a fireman, a soccer player, or perhaps even a superhero. Rarely do you hear farmer.
With an aging farming population, challenges in agriculture due to climate change and competition from global imports, it will be challenging to meet the expected 70% increase in demand for food by 2050. If the Caribbean is going to keep up, we need to engage the bright minds and innovative spirits of our youth.
Michael Bowleg didn’t know exactly what he wanted to do when he was a child, but after starting a garden with his mom at the age of 12, he was hooked.

“We grew tons of watermelons”, he said when asked why he became involved in agriculture. “We had so much we gave melons to neighbours, family, and friends. The sense of pride that I felt from growing a product that I can eat in my own back yard, not having to buy it at a food store was a special feeling. It was that special experience that I feel promoted me towards becoming involved in the agricultural and food production sector.”
This feature highlights the importance of attracting youth to careers and entrepreneurial opportunities in agriculture. It also illustrates the fact that youth are indeed interested by introducing several enthusiastic, committed, young agripreneurs. It tells their stories which reflect passion for an often under-rated and under estimated industry. Finally, this feature examines the important work of the Caribbean Action under the Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) to support youth in this vital industry, and the continued focus that is required to ensure the future success for agriculture in the Region.
In the forward to an IICA-CTA 2012 publication, ‘Choices: Caribbean AgriCulture Our Way’, Steve Maximay admits that he used to view farming as a poor career choice for young people. “Back then”, he says, “I suggested that to choose a career in agriculture was to publicly admit that you were not bright enough for the glamour professions.”
He has a different view point today. “Agriculture and food production should not be about occupations of last resort”, he writes. “There are many bright, well-educated, unheralded young people and seniors choosing to earn a very comfortable living from the provision of agricultural goods and services.”
A 2012 ‘Institute for Development Study’ suggests that this positive perspective on agriculture as a profession has not yet made its way into the general youth population. Jennifer Leavy and Naomi Hossain interviewed 1500 people in 10 countries and found that young people wanted formal sector employment and modern urban lifestyles instead of the rural, entrepreneurial life of a farmer.
A concerted effort to determine and document the percentage of youth involved in agriculture in the Caribbean, or what percentage of agricultural enterprises are led by or employ youth, is yet to be undertaken. A 2010 FAO/CDEMA study puts the number at 3.2%. However, an APP Baseline study carried out in 2014 puts youth participation in the industry at less than one percent.
Many plans and projects are underway in the Region to build resiliency into Caribbean agriculture; addressing climate change adaptation, improving crop varieties and facilitating access to financing are just a few. Including youth in those plans is a must to ensure the sectors health and survival.

We cannot afford for the industry to shrink as the current farming population ages. The Region does not boast mega-farms, which produce mega-tonnes of food from one business. Instead, small family farms characterize the Caribbean industry. Agro-processing is also underdeveloped in the Region, which limits options for creating value-added products.
There is hope on the horizon though. Rather than look at all of these factors as negatives, there are youth in the Caribbean who see them as opportunities; opportunity to capture a large part of the market that is available to them; opportunity to apply exciting innovations and technologies to grow the sector; and opportunity to help build a vibrant and important industry in support of Caribbean well-being.
“Agriculture in all its dimensions, is once again being promoted as a viable career choice, an under-exploited investment opportunity and an industry of strategic importance to national and regional security” , wrote Diana Francis in her introduction to ‘Choices: Caribbean AgriCulture Our Way’. Diana is the Officer-in-Charge of the APP PMU. Her passion for supporting youth in agriculture is tangible.
“The concept of sustainability rests heavily on the issue of ‘for future generations’”, she says. “These future generations emerge from the youth of today. Therefore, it stands to reason that the policies, platforms and actions that we, the current crop of senior leaders, planners, professionals and entrepreneurs, put in place now, are intended to allow and enable the ‘future generations’ to continue and build on the development process. To effectively do this, the youth, who make up the future generation of leaders, planners, professionals and entrepreneurs, must be part of and invested in the process, from now on.”
Ms. Francis notes that for decades the Region has lamented the ‘lack of interest’, ‘lack of involvement’ and ‘lack of engagement’ of youth in agriculture. There is a long held view that due to the drudgery of farming, and its associated stigma to the uneducated, unskilled and unambitious in society, that youth are not and will not be interested. “However, farming” she says, “has advanced in systems, technologies and practices that act as a serious pull factor for today’s youth. There are several examples in every country of the Caribbean that show that youth have embraced these advances, have become themselves, home-grown innovators, finding solutions through their own applied research, trials and error, to overcome some of the challenges they face, and excel in their chosen agri-enterprise, including farming.”
Engaged in Aquaponics
Michael Bowleg is one of those youth that has embraced technology advances in agriculture and is excited about applying them for the betterment of the industry.
“Living in a small island developing state”, he says, “has allowed me to be exposed to an array of sustainability issues, primarily those affiliated with food security, as The Bahamas is heavily reliant upon foreign imports where more than 80% of food is imported. The need for good and healthy locally produced food is not only apparent but should be in the forefront of everyone’s mind. Personally, the ability for me to not only be able to have the opportunity to work directly in aquaponics but to also spread the word on its benefits and how it can be utilized in the agriculture industry to sustainably produce food is rewarding”, he said.

Michael has been the aquaponics manager at the Center for Sustainable Development at The Island School on the island of Eleuthera in The Bahamas for the past two years. According to, aquaponics is basically the marriage of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants). The system grows fish and plants together. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants and the plants in turn purify the water, allowing for limited monitoring and measuring, reduced land use and no requirements for environmentally harmful fertilizers.
As part of his duties, Michael manages a 20,000 gallon aquaponics system, co-advises a research class and teaches educational programmes about sustainable food production and aquaponics, and how they can benefit in supporting green food production on a small island like the Bahamas. He is passionate about the future of agriculture and food security on his home island.
“For agriculture to build traction in The Bahamas it must start with education and giving persons a reason to care not only what they consume but where it is produced, how it is produced and who is affected in the production process”, he says. He admits that farming has gained a negative connotation amongst the younger generation in his country and that needs to change. “I hope, as a young Bahamian, to lead a paradigm shift and influence that change in the food production sector in The Bahamas; to strive for a more food secure nation, effecting change on the local and national level. I view attempting to create that change as my greatest challenge.”
Engaged in Agriculture
Food security is also important to Raveen Ramtahalsing. His business started as a hobby with his father. They wanted to have a safe, reliable food source for their family and so they built a greenhouse. When friends and extended family found out about their healthy, local veggies they started to buy from them, and they kept buying.
“We had to build another greenhouse”, says Raveen, “and still that was not enough, so we expanded. We now have seven greenhouses, have expanded to commercial sales and are planning our fourth and fifth expansion programmes.”
No longer a hobby, Raveen now runs Spirits Grun2 N.V, a horticultural company located in the Lelydorp district of Wanica, Suriname. The mandate of the company is to grow fruits and vegetables in a safe and sustainable way that guarantees continuity and quality for consumers at an affordable price. Today, they use both open field and greenhouses in the cultivation of their crops and, their customer list has grown from friends and family to now include supermarkets, butcheries and corporate clients such as, international franchise hotels and restaurants. Raveen is convinced that agriculture can be an extremely viable and attractive opportunity for Caribbean youth.
“Youth need to know how big the profits in agriculture can be and that the modern way of agriculture is not as it once was”, he says. “But, the first thing that youth should learn is how to efficiently run a business.” He stresses the importance of understanding basic finance and financial options, as well as labour and human resource issues. “If you don’t understand the basic rules, you will get frustrated and lose your motivation”, he says. “To be successful in agriculture you should have a lot of patience and be prepared for failures…you must keep investing in your business and in yourself.”
And, Raveen is motivated to do exactly that. “Agriculture is a business that counts for the future”, he says, “especially in the Caribbean. We have to feed more mouths everyday with less resources”, and to Raveen, that should be motivation enough for the youth of the Caribbean to get involved.
Engaged in Agro-processing
Vanessa Grootfaam is also from Suriname, and though it wasn’t a motivation to feed other people that brought her into an agriculture related business, it was the desire to help. Vanessa is a hairdresser by trade. When a good friend of hers became ill and started to lose her hair, Vanessa started looking for solutions.

“I wanted to know what I could do to help her get her lustrous hair back,” she said. “I started to read about the benefits of natural products such as onion, garlic and aloe vera. I even consulted a chemist to explain to me what dangers a lot of chemicals can do to your hair.”
That is what motivated Vanessa to begin working with farmers who grow herbs. She started out by making organic hair products and then added smoothies to her line of products. “The most rewarding part to me is when I see that people get their hair back and are happy again, and when they have a healthy lifestyle by eating nutritious food”, she said.
Vanessa never imagined that she would become involved in agro-processing however she has always wanted to become a famous entrepreneur. “I have always kept that dream alive”, she says, “and I foresee a bright future. With young people becoming involved in agriculture, it means the creation of jobs and a country that can import less and export more.”
These are but a few encouraging stories of how the future of Caribbean agriculture could look. Determined, creative, hard-working, dedicated and passionate are just a few words that can be used to describe these professionals and agri-preneurs. They have chosen a challenging yet rewarding career path that can have long-lasting impacts on the health of the Caribbean people and economy, and they deserve some help.

In 2011 a joint project was carried out by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and International Movement of Catholic Agricultural and Rural Youth (MIJARC) on ‘Facilitating Access of Rural Youth to Agricultural Activities’. The project identified six principal challenges to youth becoming involved in agriculture. These included insufficient access to knowledge, information and education; limited involvement in policy dialogue; limited access to markets, land and financing; difficulty accessing green jobs.
The Caribbean Action under the APP is working to address these concerns. The APP is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Intra-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as Executing Agency, and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as Implementing Partners.
The specific objective of the APP action is to increase the capability of Regional Agricultural Development Organizations of the Caribbean to address the development needs of smallholder agriculture, including targeted support to women and youth.
Improving Access to Knowledge, Information and Education
“Knowledge is power. Information is liberating. Education is the premise of progress, in every society” , said Kofi Annan, the former UN Secretary General. Providing all three of these elements to youth in agriculture will be essential keys to unlocking the door for more youth to join the sector.
“In order to get youth more involved in the agricultural sector; it must start with improving educational initiatives geared towards the importance of a strong agricultural sector and the benefits it can provide to the local community”, said Michael Bowleg.
The APP has sought to provide education and enhance knowledge through several training programmes offered to youth. The ‘Regional Training Workshop on Product Development, Marketing, Food Safety and SMPs for SMEs’ included 10 youth. Attendees of the workshop learned about proper product development, safe packaging, effective labelling and successful marketing practices. They also reviewed food safety and good manufacturing practices, which are vital for entrance to supermarkets and export markets.
Fifteen youth were also introduced to the modified Creativity for Employment and Business Opportunities (Agri-CEBO) training programme where they learned about the makings of a good business plan, the importance of the pitch, good marketing and responsible financial management.
Expert mentoring and hands-on experience was provided to 19-year old Mikkel Rodgers from Barbados as a direct outcome of APP actions. Veteran practitioner, Jervis Rowe, and his daughter Diandra, supported Mikkel in a 12-week internship in the constructing, operating and managing of greenhouses. It is anticipated that these protected agriculture structures will be an integral part of future farming practices in the Caribbean in response to the changing climate. With his new found knowledge, Mikkel is ready to become a part of that important movement.
In the realm of information sharing, a Youth in Agriculture (YiA) Business Forum took place at the Regional Dialogue for Development (D4D) meeting in early 2016. It included 35 youth representing 14 CARIFORUM countries. This forum facilitated peer-to-peer information sharing, with the goal of defining a practical approach to youth engagement and entrepreneurship in the agriculture value chain in the Caribbean.
Through the sharing of experiences and ideas, the young people carried out brainstorming and identified areas of opportunity in the agricultural value chain and how to open them up; thematic areas for YiA enterprise development; key support needs of youth enterprises; and youth mandated action to support future youth entrepreneurship.
Another exciting outcome of that forum was the creation of ‘Caripreneurs’, an informal group of young Caribbean agripreneurs. These youth are now connected through social media with an emphasis on networking for business development, information sharing about business ideas, training, investment opportunities and problem solving.
Facilitating Youth Involvement in Policy Dialogue
A more formal organization for engaging and supporting youth is ‘The Caribbean Agricultural Forum for Youth (CAFY). Through the APP, CAFY has become more deeply engaged in discussions with the wider agriculture community. Representatives from CAFY have been invited to the table at Regional Planners’ Forums, Technical Advisory Committees and workshops.

At a regional training workshop on Producer Group Governance, CAFY was part of the panel that discussed challenges involved in group governance and sustainability. Also, at the 9th Regional Planners’ Forum (RPF) on Agriculture, youth presented their “Vision 2030” plan which highlighted their hopes and ideas for the future of Caribbean agriculture.
Under support of the APP, two youth members of the University of West Indies (UWI) Agribusiness Society were supported to attend ‘Invest Caribbean 2015’, in Washington, D.C. This conference was part of an international dialogue on policy in agriculture. Additionally, four youth involved in apiculture were supported to attend the 8th Caribbean Bee Congress in September of 2016.
Encouraging ‘Green’ Jobs and Youth in Agriculture
Youth were also invited to participate in the Green Intensive Farming Technologies (GIFTS) technical planning meeting, sponsored by APP Component 2, which is led by CARDI. The APP sees GIFTs as an excellent opportunity to draw youth into agriculture through the use of innovation, technology and a concern for the environment.Suggestions as to How to Engage More Youth in Agriculture from the GIFT Technical Meeting:• Profile successful youth in agriculture and use them as ambassadors for agricultural entrepreneurship• Use ‘business incubators’ as a mechanism for developing entrepreneurship among youth• Provide ‘mentors’ or ‘shepherds’ to youth in agriculture• Promote agriculture as a business and career opportunity through youth oriented platforms• Retrofit abandoned structures for PA and use them to offer gainful employment for youth across the Region• Work to redefine the traditional image of the farmer

The forum hosted Brent Eversley, a Protected Agriculture (PA) Farmer in Trinidad operating under the name of ‘Green Nation’, who shared his experiences transitioning from a technician in agriculture to a young farm entrepreneur. Brent is building a successful business using PA for the production of lettuce to be sold in niche markets. Michael Bowleg also participated, sharing his excitement about the use of aquaponics as a potential solution for the lack of local food production and issues of sustainability.
In total, four Caribbean youth attended the meeting. They were able to share in the workshops, reviewing the potential for the use of GIFTS in regional agriculture, and were part of a panel that discussed challenges and opportunities in the industry. At the close of the meeting, both the youth and other participants provided suggestions as to how to better engage youth in Caribbean agriculture.
Supporting Better Access to Markets
For youth to be successful once they enter the industry, they will need to be able to access markets. The ‘Regional Training Workshop on Product Development, Marketing, Food Safety and SMPs for SMEs’ provided plenty of training however, it also contributed to opportunities for market access for the youth attendees. Participants were exposed to regulations which must be met to enter markets and direction on how to meet those regulations. They were also introduced to labelling and packaging experts who shared their knowledge on how to improve products for wider acceptance in the market. Youth were also introduced to opportunities in the hotel and tourism industry, as well as supermarkets chains.
The APP has also supported updates to the Caribbean Agribusiness Web Portal where youth can go and access relevant business tools, find buyers and sellers in the Region and link up with service providers, suppliers and marketing boards.
Taking Steps to more Accessible Financial Services
Getting ready to enter markets however, will require upfront funding. Developing and enhancing products requires capital, and access to capital is a very common roadblock for young agripreneurs. Agricultural enterprises are often seen as high risk and youth often do not have the collateral to put up for a loan.
Under the APP, members of CAFY attended a workshop facilitating engagement and exchange between Development Financing Institutions (DFI) and Micro, Small and Medium–sized Enterprises (MSMEs). During the workshop, practical, solution-oriented deliberations occurred on the formulation of pre and post-harvest financing schemes and working capital requirements, with the goal of creating tangible, workable plans for moving forward.
Additionally, National Value Chain Facilitators (NVCFs) and Business Development Officers are working with MSMEs, including those run by youth, to create business investment profiles and apply for access to funds through the Financial Alliance for Sustainable Trade (FAST) programme that pairs MSMEs with willing financial institutions.
Reaching the Youngest ‘Future Farmers’
And finally, the APP has also had the fun and exciting opportunity to reach out to the youngest potential crop of new farmers while working in collaboration with Why Farm, which stands for ‘We Help You-th Farm’. Why Farm is an organization that is focused on raising up ‘farmpreneurs’ as the ‘feeders of the future’, starting in primary and secondary schools.
Under the APP, students have been treated to the appearance of ‘AGRIman’, the agriculture superhero which is the flagship character of WhyFarm and defender and promoter of all good and sustainable farming practices.
AGRIman, which is the creation of UWI graduate Alpha Sennon, showed the students a fun and easy way to build a simple hydroponics food production system which could be used at their homes to grow a range of vegetables.
Students can also stay engaged with AGRIman though a comic book series and hashtags that promote positive messages for agriculture. The APP has further supported this initiative by sharing WhyFarm information and enhancing opportunities to widen their exposure and integrate into the formal agri-education curriculum. WhyFarm and the APP want kids to get excited about farming.
Michael Bowleg certainly doesn’t see agriculture as a profession of “drudgery” or “a last choice” as is the perspective of some. He sees it as an exciting opportunity for young people to change the Caribbean. “With the Caribbean being a Region significantly made up of countries which were once colonized, the ability to be agriculturally independent can provide young people of the Caribbean the opportunity to fill agricultural production and processing roles currently occupied by foreign companies. Freedom from food related, foreign imports allows not only more funds to stay within Caribbean countries, but governments will also have the ability to inject more funds into the local agricultural sector.”
In her response to a request for comment on the importance of youth in agriculture, Ms. Francis summarized the significance of youth involvement for the future of agriculture with passion.
“Youth are endowed with time, energy, a yearning for learning and a drive for answers and solutions that even in the worst of situations, often cannot be dampened. Youth also tend to be impatient, which under normal circumstances, is often seen as an undesirable quality. However, in a sensitive sector, such as agriculture, this impatience may be an asset since it has driven several young agripreneurs to start off on their own; to find ways to move faster than the current pace of the formal institutional framework and support systems; to actually start a business. These are the type of personalities, embedded in youth, that agriculture in the Caribbean needs”, she said.
The challenge, as she sees it, is “how to not fail them by adopting outdated youth engagement strategies, and designing and implementing ineffective youth empowerment programmes. And when these fail, by perpetuating the myth that youth are not interested in agriculture.”
This is a challenge, not for the youth, but for the current institutional framework and systems that themselves need to advance in terms of purpose and practices. “In the 21st century and beyond, the opportunities given to youth and the choices they make today, will make all the difference in how agriculture in the Caribbean evolves. The region needs to let them lead, now, not later.”
Malcolm Wallace of the APP PMU has been working with many youth in agriculture since the beginning of this year. He agrees whole-heartedly with Ms. Francis. “The notion that youth are not interested in agriculture or agri-related entrepreneurial activity is an egregious fallacy”, he says. This misguided perception has been debunked by national chapters of CAFY in the early 2000’s and most recently by the CARIPRENEURS, a diverse and dynamic group of young persons in the business of agriculture. I have had the privilege of chronicling the progress and successes of these young persons since our first engagement in January 2016 under the APP. Their vision, enthusiasm, selflessness, and drive for regional agribusiness development is boundless. I am proud to have been able to mentor this group and support their individual and collective advancement. They have made their mark; carved their names and opinions into the regional agriculture development agenda and they will be a force to be reckoned with!”
See also:
TF#1: What’s the BIG DEAL about MSMEs? (June 2016)
TF#2: Meeting Food Safety & Consumer Expectations: What Every Agri-MSME Needs to Know (August 2016)
TF#3: Unlocking Opportunities in Caribbean Agriculture through Knowledge, Relationships and Investments (September 2016)
Spirits Grun2 N.V operations in the Lelydorp district of Wanica, Suriname.

Youth Opportunities for Learning
under the APP:

Regional Training Workshop on Product Development, Marketing, Food Safety and SMPs for SMEs

Creativity for Employment and Business Opportunities (Agri-CEBO)

Internship on Greenhouses in the Caribbean

YiA Business Forum

Green Intensive Farming Technologies meeting

Regional Training workshop on Producer Group Governance

Invest Caribbean 2015

8th Caribbean Bee Congress

Regional SME-DFI Working Capital Development Meeting
Youth working in PA structures at Abbey Garden Farm.
(Photo: Abbey Garden Farm)

This is the last of a 4-part series of Thematic Features with a focus on MSMEs produced under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action highlighting work under Component 3 – Enterprise Development and Market Linkages. The APP is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as Executing Agency and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as Implementing Partners.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

TF#5 Climate Change

Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, with funding
by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF)
APP Thematic Feature No. 5 • October 2016


Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP)

APP Thematic Feature No. 5

Changing Climate,
Changing Farming Systems

Responding to Climate Change in Caribbean Agriculture with Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies

Traditionally, farmers around the world have been able to rely on predictable weather patterns and climate to know when they would be short on water and when they would get much anticipated rain. They would talk about rainy season and dry season, or planting season and harvest season. Today however, this isn’t necessarily the case. Farmers who would have expected rain in May, are not seeing it until July, if at all. Instead of dry season, they are dealing with prolonged periods of devastating drought, and instead of rainy season, they are battling the effects of flooding and intensified damage from hurricanes
“Instinctively, farmers have said exactly what recent data analysis has told us when looking at information from the Caribbean for 2000 to 2009”, said Dr. Lyle Barbara Graham, a Caribbean agriculture expert and consultant for the Caribbean Action under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP). “There are later peaks, later flowering and longer droughts.”
These factors are changing how farming must be carried out in the Caribbean in order to be successful. Higher temperatures, rising sea levels and intensified weather activity are also impacting usual traditional practices.
The cause of all these factors, though debated by some, is clearly climate change.
“Climate change is here; it has been and will continue to impact the Caribbean and the viability of farming systems in all countries in the Region”, said H. Arlington D. Chesney, the former Executive Director of the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI).
This feature highlights the already known causes and potential impacts of climate change, as well as the options for response in the Caribbean farming community. It also highlights initiatives that are being carried out under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP), funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th EDF, towards addressing these changes and resulting challenges. The main goal of the programme is to enhance the regional capabilities of the agricultural sector in eradicating poverty, and the specific objective is to do this through the support of smallholder agriculture. Addressing climate change impacts to agriculture is an absolute must in order to be truly helpful.
Understanding Climate Change
The temperature of the Earth is ultimately a balance between energy absorbed and energy lost. The sun’s rays enter the atmosphere, warming up the Earth and then the warming planet returns heat energy, called infrared radiation, back to space. Some of this radiation gets trapped in the Earth’s atmosphere and then reflects back down to earth causing the planet to be about 33 degrees warmer than it would be otherwise. This is called the natural greenhouse effect, and without it we could not live on this planet. It would be much too cold.
The problem of climate change comes about however, with the ‘enhanced’ greenhouse effect. This occurs when too much carbon dioxide is emitted. It rises into the atmosphere thickening the natural greenhouse layer, trapping more of the sun’s heat and warming the planet.
There are natural causes that lead to a warming planet such as changes in the Earth’s orbit that disturb the radiation balance, changes in solar intensity and volcanic eruptions. However, since the industrial revolution in the 18th century, human activity has created much of the change. The burning of fossil fuels and biomass have emitted increased amounts of carbon dioxide and agriculture outputs have increased the emission of methane and nitrous oxide. All of these factors alter the composition of the earth’s atmosphere and therefore trap more heat.
According to the 4th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), “There’s a better than 90% probability that human-produced greenhouse gases, such as, carbon dioxides, methane and nitrous oxide, have cause much of the observed increase in the Earth’s temperatures over the past 50 years.”
Signs of Global Climate Change
As temperatures rise there are a variety of side-effects resulting in changes to weather around the world. As the air becomes warmer, increased amounts of moisture evaporate from land and water into the atmosphere. This causes more rain and snow and heavier downpours in some locations on the planet. Conversely, as more water evaporates from the earth and air and ocean currents shift taking the atmospheric moisture elsewhere, some places on earth are left with dried up land and limited access to fresh water.Climate is the average weather conditions in given locations over longer periods of time, which may include average temperature, precipitation and wind patterns, as well as natural variability and extremes.Climate variability refers to inherent or natural fluctuations within the climate system. These fluctuations can occur on a variety of time-scales, from seasonal and annual, to longer term fluctuations. Examples of seasonal fluctuations are the phenomena of the El Nino, characterized by unusually warm oceanic temperatures affecting weather in several parts of the world and El Nina, which brings unusually cool oceanic temperatures in the central and the eastern equatorial Pacific.Climate change involves significant changes in the climate system over time.Source: United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Frequently Asked Questions about Climate and Climate Change

Also, as the earth warms so do the oceans. Hurricanes and other tropical storms get their energy from a warm ocean and so we are seeing these storms growing stronger, with heavier rains and increased wind speeds. As the oceans warm we are also seeing sea levels rise. Each drop of water expands just a little bit but over the vast expanse of the ocean this leads to a significant increase. Sea levels are also rising due to melting sea ice, glaciers and snow cover due to a warming earth.
According to a recent online National Geographic Article called ‘Sea Level Rise’, “Core samples, tide gauge readings, and most recently, satellite measurements tell us that over the past century, the Global Mean Sea Level (GMSL) has risen by 4 to 8 inches (10 to 20 centimetres). However, the annual rate of rise over the past 20 years has been 0.13 inches (3.2 millimetres) a year, roughly twice the average speed of the preceding 80 years.”
Rising sea levels lead to additional problems in the environment. Low-lying areas experience more frequent flooding. Storm surges during extreme weather events are higher and more powerful. Salt water from the sea is more susceptible to entering fresh water systems, further limiting access to sufficient water for human consumption and agricultural use. And, rising sea levels cause increased coastal erosion, leading to loss of essential minerals in the soil and harm to important coastal ecosystems such as mangrove forests and coral reefs .

The Caribbean and Climate Change
The Caribbean is particularly susceptible to the negative impacts from climate change. The Region is composed of mostly small island countries, with low-lying coastal zones that are essential to their socio-economic and environmental well-being.

They are highly dependent on rainfall for water resources, making them more vulnerable during droughts. They are also surrounded by the warming and rising oceans, exposing them to the increasingly intensified rains and high winds, coastal erosion and flooding. The already warm climate is getting hotter and there is noticeable climatic variability, both of which make farming in the Region more challenging.
A brief look back at the impact of hurricanes and other weather extremes in the Caribbean since 2000 illustrate an unnerving “new normal” for the Region. In 2004 Hurricane Ivan hit the Cayman Islands, Grenada, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines causing an estimated US $3.06 billion. Grenada alone suffered 100% destruction of its banana and vegetable crops. In 2008, Tropical Storms Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike affected 8% of Haiti’s population, wiped out 70% of their crops and caused damages of over US $1 billion.
Most recently, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti. It was the third strongest storm on record to make landfall in Haiti. It left over 500 people dead, tore out grapefruit, banana and avocado trees, damaged important root crops and killed livestock.

In terms of extreme weather, in 2011 intense rainfall in the normally dry season led to flooding and destruction of crops, livestock and infrastructure in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. A freak, unseasonal storm hit Dominica, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Christmas Eve in 2013. It was said to have been ‘like nothing ever seen in that part of the Caribbean, ‘causing severe damage from torrential rains and strong winds.
In 2010 and again in 2015, significant droughts impacted countries across the Caribbean. Important crop losses resulted from the severe droughts, further straining this food-insecure Region.
Caribbean Agriculture and Climate Change
With the tenuous link between the climate, the weather and agriculture, it is obvious that climate change will impact food availability across the globe, and specifically in the Caribbean. If climate change issues are not tackled and mitigation practices are not put in place in the agriculture industry, the sector will be further weakened, food import bills will rise and poverty will increase.
Agriculture accounts for approximately 7% of the Region’s total gross domestic product (GDP) and is the mainstay of the economies of Dominica, Guyana and Haiti. It creates employment in the range of almost 25% of the labour force in the Caribbean, earns export revenues and contributes to the development of rural economies.
Predictions of further drought and limited access to water in the Region will lead to new pests, diseases and weeds, not to mention the inability to water crops. Under these new conditions, many of the key crops traditionally cultivated in the Region could become impractical and uneconomical. Stronger winds, more rainfall and highly-salinized water are also very hard on crops. The traditional open-field agriculture practiced in the Caribbean is not ideal for these new conditions where crops are exposed to the effects of the weather.Agriculture in the Caribbean is sensitive to climate variability and future change because it is:• Dominated by a mix of small semi-commercial and medium sized commercial producers;• Mostly undertaken in open fields, on hillsides and fully exposed to the vagaries of the weather;• Predominantly rain-fed, with strong sensitivity to rainfall variability, which impacts water availability;• Dependent on cultivation of a limited range of commercial crops, grown under specific environmental conditions and farming systems.

Responding to Climate Change in the Caribbean
Meeting these challenges to Caribbean agriculture, and in fact the Caribbean on the whole, will require a creative, united and scientific approach. The core responses must be Adaptation and Mitigation, supported by Science and Communication.
Adaptation accepts the reality that the climate is changing and takes action to deal with it. As noted in a 2007 article on vulnerability and adaptation in South Africa by the Department of Environment Affairs, the best adaptation scenarios include resilience strategies to address the immediate effects of climate change and acclimation-type strategies to deal with gradual changes.
Mitigation, on the other hand, recognizes the fact of climate change but seeks to do what it can to keep it from getting worse. It is about tackling the causes of climate change such as reducing our carbon foot print and carrying out environmentally friendly activities.
A key element to the success of adaptation and mitigation strategies is good science. In order to make informed decisions, guide appropriate responses and take effective action, quality data and expert knowledge must be available and applied. That is why investment into the science of climate change adaptation and mitigation needs to be made a priority.
Communication is another key. It is essential to increase public awareness of the issue, including the resulting impacts. This will be the only way to change attitudes and consequently amend behaviours in order to lead individuals and groups to make more environmentally responsible decisions
The road to both effective adaptation and mitigation however, is not an easy one. Building climate resilient, low carbon economies in the Caribbean will required a transformational change by governments, regional organizations, development organizations, the private sector and the public. It will also require significant levels of financial and technical support.
CARICOM is responding. For example, they have created a regional framework for coping with climate change. Development institutions are working in agriculture to help advance and adopt new climate-smart technologies. The promotion of ‘Green Economies’ is being supported and many countries are pursuing low-carbon strategies.
Efforts to collect useful data for strategy creation are also underway. A Canadian-Caribbean partnership is working to create climate models for projection of future scenarios. The EU and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) are working to generate knowledge of likely location-specific impacts and hazards from climate change to guide policy and planning.
These are just a few of the ways that the Region as a whole is working to tackle climate change. One of the hardest hit industries though is agriculture. Those involved in this sector cannot afford to sit back and wait for external institutions to solve their specific challenges. The industry itself must take specific and definitive action to help themselves.
Getting Caribbean Agriculture Climate-Smart
It is clear that climate change and its resulting impacts will transform farming across the world. It must! When we understand what people are currently doing in agriculture and meld that information with new and innovative techniques to respond to climate change, we become climate smart. Climate-smart agriculture involves improving and adopting farming practices, policies, management, innovation technology and financing in order to increase productivity, enhance food and nutrition security and strengthen the public, production and business environments surrounding agriculture. Setting the policy framework also sets the stage for actions on climate-smart agriculture.
Under Component One of the APP, support provided to develop national agriculture policies and plans recognised the importance of building resilience to climate change as a top priority, particularly given the significant impacts on the availability of water for farming. Using an audit instrument developed under the APP, at least 5 countries in the Region have been assessed to determine if they are climate change ready. The Audit Instrument was applied to assess the extent to which the planning processes within a country’s agriculture sector integrated disaster risk management considerations, including impacts from climate change.
The assessment process began with the identification of risks due to climate change and natural disasters. From that, ten key pillars for strengthening responses were determined and a tool to assess a countries readiness to respond was created. Once assessments were complete, countries identified gaps in their planning and now they are working to fortify their plans to prepare for, and protect and recover from, climate change and disaster events. (see TF #9)

Under Component Two, CARDI has been taking actions to contribute to building a climate resilient farming sector by:
Working with scientists, development organizations and farmers to cultivate and distribute more climate resistant food crop varieties: This is an essential element to climate change adaptation. Current plant varieties are struggling to survive under the heat stress and lack or overabundance of water due to climate change. The new pests and diseases that have arisen as a result of climate change are also threatening the success of current plant varieties in the Caribbean. Technology is now available to build better, more resistant varieties of food crops that can withstand the fallout from these changes.
Providing hands-on training in germplasm improvement and direct support to farmers to produce and sustain their own quality planting material: Several propagation facilities and multiplication units in countries of the Region have been refurbished to almost double their capacity to produce and multiply improved germplasm.
Conducting climate smart crop evaluation trials for water stress to determine the crop varieties that are most tolerant to drought conditions including, sweet potato trials in Antigua & Barbuda and St.Vincent & the Grenadines, cassava trials in Trinidad & Tobago and corn in Belize.

Exploring the use of Green Intensive Farming Technologies (GIFTs) and practices aimed at optimizing production, reducing environmental impacts, addressing environmental changes and creating more sustainable farming systems in the Region: This includes Protected Agriculture (PA) systems, Irrigation, Hydroponics and Aquaponics. The focus of the APP has been on the construction of a Tropical Greenhouse in Trinidad and Tobago (see TF #7), and design and material improvements to an existing greenhouse in Tobago, both in collaboration with the Faculty of Food and Agriculture and Facility of Engineering, UWI. They are also carrying out experimentation with ‘Guinea grass’ as mulch to conserve soil water content for sweet potato production in St. Kitts and Nevis.
Evaluating the use of liquid fertilisers in the production of Taro (dasheen), with trials in Dominica for appropriate plant nutrition and method of application to enhance productivity in changing climatic conditions.
Using water more efficiently is an absolute necessity for farming systems in a changing climate. Since the majority of farming systems in the Region are open-field and rain-fed, the impact of climate change and its effect on water availability for agriculture is an issue that can’t be ignored. Irrigation, including advances in rainwater harvesting, is both a farmer traditional knowledge and an innovative practice under the general chapeau of a ‘GIFT’. In the broader context of climate change, innovation in water management systems for agriculture is being actively promoted to tackle the water for agriculture challenge. The aim is to ensure the most efficient use of all available sources, distribution methods and uptake of water by plants, whether grown in open-fields or in protected agriculture structures.

Rainwater harvesting and storage is an important aspect of farm water management and a source of water for irrigation. It involves collecting water from a prepared collection area and storing it in a tank or small reservoir for future use. The use of heavy duty pond liners in a man-made pond to collect rainwater is also an effective technique. Trickle irrigation can be used in conjunction with any of these water harvesting, collection and storage systems to make an efficient, environmentally friendly and climate resistant solution to water shortages.
Recycling runoff water is another way to use available water more efficiently. Run-off can occur due to over-watering or poor soil and can happen with both natural rain water and during irrigation. Run-off water can be stored in separate ponds or ditches and channelled back to a field when it is required.
The benefit of saving water with this technique is obvious, however it also goes a long way in protecting the environment. Agricultural run-off generally contains large amounts of chemicals from fertilizer. These can seep into the groundwater and pollute local bodies of water.
Efficient water use not only greatly decreases the impact of drought but also enhances the efficiency of fertilizer application, or fertigation. Fertigation is the injection of fertilizers, soil amendments, and other water-soluble products into an irrigation system. Such targeted fertilizer use, similar to the taro experiment in Dominica, can greatly reduce costs and the adverse impacts of excessive agro-chemical use on the environment.
Moving Forward Together
As part of the APP, partnerships have been strengthened and widened with a number of agencies working collaboratively towards the goal of a climate-smart agriculture. These agencies are coordinated under the Climate Change and Natural Resources Management (CCNRM) Thematic Group (TG), coordinated by the FAO and supported by the APP Caribbean Action. Meetings address issues and constraints related to the areas of Climate Change, Disaster Risk Management, and Natural Resources Management impacting the Regional Agricultural Sector.
In her opening remarks at a workshop to formulate a livelihoods resilience programme for Caribbean states, Dr. Lystra Fletcher-Paul of the FAO, and Coordinator of the CCNRM TG, shared some sobering information. “It has been estimated that in the Caribbean, changes in annual hurricane frequency and intensity could result in additional annual losses of US $446 million by 2080”, she said. “The agriculture sector in particular, has been severely affected, by these weather related and seismic events. Consequently, the region’s food and nutrition security has been impacted.”
There is much that is being done, still much to be done and much more that can be done to fortify Caribbean agriculture to adjust to the new realities of climate change. Clearly, inaction is not an option. With the physical and economic well-being of the Region at stake, efforts to adapt to and mitigate the elements of climate change in farming systems are indispensable. That is why we must continue to move forward together, using the strengths of individuals, organizations and governments, to ensure that Caribbean agriculture has the best chance to survive, and even thrive.
In moving forward together, the Region needs to heed the call of Dr. Lystra-Fletcher to “enable the environment, watch and safeguard, apply prevention and mitigation measures and prepare to respond.” These four thematic pillars are at the core of Disaster Risk reduction for Food and Nutrition Security.
See also:
TF#6: Are Farmers Still Planting by the Moon? (October 2016)
TF#7: 96° in the Shade: Cooling Things Down in Protected Agriculture Structures (November 2016)
TF#8: Farming Green: Using Natural Plant Material to Stimulate Crop Growth and Enhance Animal Health (November 2016)
The devastating effects of drought in the Caribbean. (Photo: APP)
“The Greenhouse Effect” in: Introduction of US EPA (Dec 2012), “Climate Change Indicators in the United States: 2nd edition, Washington, DC. USA: US EPA
Water Management Practices under New Climatic Realities:
Water Management – Rain Harvesting
Roof top harvesting: Storage in plastic, cement or ferro cement tanks which allows for water supply during the dry season or droughts for crops, forages and livestock
Soil surface runoff: Storage in dams, natural ponds and rivers, or soil storage including bunds or pits which allows for water supply during the dry season or droughts for crops, forages and livestock
Community harvesting: Farmers on contiguous plots of land can share the cost and construction of catchment or runoff systems, along with the storage tanks to be used by the immediate community.
Check Dams: These dams can be built by a community of farmers to ensure that the farmer at the very end of the farming area still has access to water for his operations. Farmers would need to agree on an arrangement for distribution lines, maintenance and watering times.

Soil Management Practices under New Climatic Realities:
Soil Management – The Benefits of Mulch
Soil water content: Water is both trapped in the mulch and held in the soil for use during low rainfall or drought, allowing for continued crop growth when there is no access to irrigation
Soil protection: Minimizes soil loss during high winds, reduces the damaging impact of heavy rainfalls, which causes erosion, and deflects direct sunlight resulting in lower soil temperatures
Plant growth: Promotes germination from the moisture resulting from condensation, keeps roots much cooler and suppresses weed growth allowing for better crop establishment and nutrient uptake
Soil Management – Contouring
This is the practice of plowing and/or planting across a slope, following its contour lines. It is a viable option to conserve rainwater by forming a water break and reducing soil loss from surface erosion.

Agriculture Management Practices under New Climatic Realities:
Management of Plant Varieties and Cultivars
Farmers across the Region are already fully aware of what works best in their fields however they can also benefit from improved cultivars that are more resistant to pests, disease, heat and drought in this new climatic environment.
Protected Agriculture
Greenhouses, shade houses and tunnels are excellent options for controlling the environment in which plants are cultivated. They allow for protection against sun and heat and pests and diseases, as well as better control over water and fertigation elements.

This is the first of a 4-part series of Thematic Features with a focus on Innovation & Technologies for Sustainable Farming Systems produced under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action highlighting work under Component 2 – Applied Research and Development and Innovation in Farming Systems. The APP is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as Executing Agency and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as Implementing Partners.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

TF#6 Traditional Knowledge

Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, with funding
by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF)
APP Thematic Feature No. 6 • October 2016


Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP)

APP Thematic Feature No. 6

Are Farmers Still Planting
by the Moon?

Traditional Knowledge Transfer and Modern Innovation Will Go a Long Way in Building Resilient, Small Farming Systems in the Caribbean

Some old time farmers insist that planting in accordance with the phases of the moon results in bigger, tastier crops. That may be true. However, farming isn’t what it used to be. Things have changed.
The crippling weight of competition from imports requires that farmers produce more crops per acre than ever before in order to be competitive. Producing more crops usually means needing more water, using more agro-chemicals and for some crops, using modified varieties designed for higher yields or resisting pests.

Water use for agriculture is already an area of growing concern which has been exacerbated by the significant impact that climate change has wrought through rainfall variability and altered seasons. The increased use of pesticides to tackle the usual pests, as well as new pests associated with climate change, is also a concern and an issue that has been flagged by policy makers. Increased chemical use is also a serious trade matter, linked to high residues and negative impacts on human health, as well as health and safety for farmers who handle the agrochemicals.
Clearly, practices have changed, they had to. But have they changed for the good?
“It is clear that a lot of the practices that we see now in small holder agriculture were not there ten to twenty years ago”, says Dr. Lyle Barbara Graham. Dr. Graham was tasked with converting information gathered in baseline surveys carried out by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) into a report on farmer traditional knowledge and innovative farming practices from around the Region. The report was commissioned under the Component 2 of the Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF).
The CARDI baseline surveys and the Graham report have reconfirmed previous conclusions about the current state of Caribbean agriculture, such as the fact that there is:
Limited on-farm research results with respect to climate adaptability of crops that are of strategic interest to the region,

Insufficient access to and use of appropriate farm machinery in general for small farming systems ,

Inadequate documentation and information dissemination on protected agriculture experiences and research results and;

Restricted production of wholesome local-based value-added agricultural products for local consumption and acceptance on foreign markets.
Validating traditional knowledge and the application of innovation into the industry dominated by small farms in the Caribbean must be an important part of farming systems solutions. “Understanding traditional (farming) practices is meant to allow us to see what farmers are doing so that we can understand appropriate improvements”, says Dr. Graham. Not only that, but these practices may be useful for sharing, amalgamating, publishing and streamlining. “We can improve the transfer of knowledge from farmer to farmer and within institutions for the purpose of increasing levels of production, hence addressing food security and poverty issues, as well as creating more environmentally friendly practices”, she says.
This feature highlights the value of both traditional (longstanding) and innovative methods of farming in the Caribbean, as well as the benefit of understanding current practices and systems to support a more resilient farm sector. It identifies what can be considered ‘traditional knowledge’ in current farming systems and practices, advances in technology and innovation that are available and being adopted by farmers, and gaps that need to be filled to meet present and future environmental, social and economic realities for food production in the Region.

Where Do We Begin?
Clarifying ‘Traditional Knowledge’
Farming in the Caribbean boasts a wide variety of longstanding and innovative practices. These practices vary from country to country and are often passed from generation to generation or neighbour to neighbour in the farming community. There is immense value to be had in understanding the role that these practices played in sustaining the farm sector across decades and how these have evolved over time.
In addition to the importance of sharing of these practices with a wider audience in order to benefit agriculture across the Region, establishing a baseline of how farmers currently operate will contribute to strategies aimed at transforming the multitude of small farmers in the Caribbean into sustainable and resilient enterprises. With a baseline established, NGOs, governments, farming organizations and farmers themselves will be better equipped to make strategic decisions on the use of existing knowledge and the gradual integration of the appropriate innovative technologies and practices.“Traditional farming systems may be considered a living body of agricultural knowledge passed on from generation to generation. It includes know-how and skills in food production practices that have been developed and sustained over decades. Its living nature also means that it is dynamic and innovative, yet resilient.”Source: “Towards Traditional Knowledge Transfer for Resilient Small Farming Systems in the Caribbean”, Dr. Lyle, Barbara Graham, 2016

The place to begin is a proper understanding of the definition of Traditional Knowledge. This concept is often misunderstood and needs to be defined before it can be investigated and catalogued. According to Dr. Graham in her report to the APP, “Towards Traditional Knowledge Transfer for Resilient Small Farming Systems in the Caribbean”, traditional knowledge in agriculture refers to the “knowledge, innovation and practices of indigenous people and local communities, “maintained, developed and passed on, through centuries from generation to generation.” It is important to note the reference to the concept of “innovative” in the definition. Contrary to common thought, the word traditional does not mean “old” or “out-dated”. In the context of continuous learning and improvements, ‘traditional’ practices need to be interpreted to describe ways in which local farmers have modified their ‘longstanding’ ways of doing things that allow them to adjust to new realities through innovation. This innovation can either be ‘home-grown’ or adapted from other parts of the world.
The report acknowledges that the wider development community has long understood and appreciated the value of traditional knowledge. It has been considered a critical resource base by organizations such as the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the Centre for Indigenous Knowledge for Agriculture and Rural Development (CIKARD), both of whom have used it as the platform for the development and design of sustainable agricultural systems.
The APP implementing partners have also recognized the value of traditional knowledge and its proper documentation and validation in the Caribbean. This is why one of the first activities undertaken under Component 2 was the 2014/2015 baseline survey on farmer traditional knowledge and innovative practices, which set the stage for the preparation of the Graham report. Information was collected from seasoned farmers, including women, young farmers and small-scale agro-processors in 15 participating CARIFORUM countries. The surveys gathered production and bio data, and information on the use of new technologies, climate change adaptation capacity and other practices that are being applied on farms across the Caribbean.
Where Are We Now?
Examining Current Approaches & Challenges
The land that the Caribbean has to offer for farming, in terms of quality, is not going to change. However, the environment, technology, increasing populations and food demand, and competition from outside sources have already brought changes and will continue to drive change in farming and food production systems in the Region. Land for farming is being lost to houses, highways and hotels in most countries, and a changing climate is making open field farming conditions more and more challenging.
Farm Sizes are Still Small and Small Farmers Still Dominate
For many decades, the Caribbean agricultural industry has been dominated by the small farmer. Described in Dr. Graham’ report as being risk averse due to the fact that agriculture was often the sole source of income for a family, they had limited use of chemicals to combat pests and weeds and limited use of veterinary assistance for livestock. ‘Traditional’ complaints from small farmers have been of water shortages, increased incidences of pests and diseases, limited access to land and credit, weak access to markets and inadequate technical advice due to limited availability of extension personnel. For years, many small farmers have relied heavily on informal meetings with other farmers and the annual 187 year old MacDonald’s almanac to guide many of their farming decisions.
Not a whole lot has changed in terms of the size of farms and quality of farmland. The farming base is still dominated by small sized and fragmented farms operating on lands with compromised soil fertility or on hillside terrain. This makes small farmers vulnerable to risks from the vagaries of the weather and natural hazards, including heavy or no rains and high winds. Many farmers are also still struggling with limited access to water and reliance on rain, as well as under-developed systems for irrigation. To top it all off, adherence to good agricultural practices requires small farmers to upgrade basic practices and on-farm sanitary facilities, which also depend on access to adequate water. Farmers have no choice, but to adjust their farming systems, operations and practices to either work around or adjust to these challenges.

Traditional Knowledge and Practices are ‘Innovating’
Today, farmers cope with these common conditions using practices based on traditional knowledge. For example, to address the challenges of hillside planting they use grass barriers and plant on contours to control soil loss and water runoff. They use mulch and compost to improve soil structure, and they use runoff from fields stored in man-made basins as a source of much needed water during the dry season.
Some specific ways of adjusting are also illustrated in the practices used for growing cassava and sweet potato. Traditionally, not much fertilizer was used on these crops, however practices today show that farmers are using different types of fertilizers and herbicides to enhance soil and battle weeds. They are also taking a non-fertilizer approach by applying compost and mulch to manage their fields. Intercropping, fallowing, crop rotation and vetiver grass are also being used to improve soil conditions and create barriers against soil loss and erosion.
For hot pepper production, innovations, new-technology and improved weather-related practices have also been added to the traditional knowledge base. Protected agriculture is now seen as a viable and good practice for growing this commodity. Seeds are still planted directly in the ground however, shade houses can be used to protect vulnerable plantlets. Other adjustments that small farmers have made which have improved the productivity of traditional practices, is the spraying of crops in the evening to avoid chemical burn from high day-time temperatures.
Farmers Going Beyond Just Coping to ‘Adapting’
It seems that high temperatures are the new reality, along with the many other effects of climate change in the Region. It is no longer disputed that climate change is becoming the largest determinant of agricultural practices. The Graham report cites significant impacts on water availability, a change in planting seasons due to a shift in rainy peaks and different diseases and pests all due to a change in climate. These factors affect land use and traditional methods of land preparation, the choice and application of chemicals and ultimately the capacity to meet the requirements for trading these commodities in both traditional and emerging markets.
“We need to understand how climate change is benefitting or influencing traditional practices”, Dr. Graham says. “We need to get a better feel for what is happening in terms of how farmers are responding and adapting to climate change in order to allow them to maintain production levels, but ensure that what is being done is safe for the soil and environment, and for people’s health.”

And to be sure, they are adapting. As noted by Dr. Graham, “traditional practices in farming systems are being impacted by …climate smart practices, though ad hoc”. These coping mechanisms are evolving into new and improved practices that are becoming an integral part of the innovative traditional knowledge that drives small, local and indigenous farming systems.
Survey results show that among the crop farmers interviewed, the greatest area of coping has been in relation to preserving water for agriculture. This result is fully expected and understandable for without water, whether rain fed or through irrigation, there is no farming. After water, rotating crops and an associated increase in the use of agro-chemicals, are the next best means of adjusting to changing weather.
Interestingly, the number of farmers resorting to protected agriculture (PA), as well as organic farming, was relatively low, though these are significant elements being supported by regional development. This may be associated, in part, to the types of crops which formed part of the survey. For example, roots and tubers are a common crop in the Caribbean and generally, they are grown in open fields using conventional farming practices.
At-a-Glance: Traditional-Knowledge and Innovative Practices Across the Caribbean
The end goal of investigating and cataloguing traditional knowledge and innovative practices across the Caribbean was to gain a better understanding of what is happening in regional agriculture in order to foster sustainable improvements in productivity and resilient farming applicable to: cassava, sweet potato, corn, rice, hot peppers and vegetable, and the health and productivity of small ruminants. In her report, Dr. Graham selected several main priorities based on the CARDI survey results, further analysis and supporting research. This section provides an at-a-glance overview of the options for improvements in good practices in the noted priority areas.
Water Management
Traditional Knowledge: According to the Graham report, “Water harvesting for use on the farm for crops and livestock has been used traditionally through the centuries, dating back 4000 years or more. The practices involved the clearing of hillsides from vegetation to increase runoff.”
Innovative Practices: Rainfall Collection Efficiencies (RCE) will be dependent on the catchment surface of the area (bare soil, concrete, rooftop) used to collect water, the conveyance system for the collected water (gutter, tube, etc.), the storage capacity of the collection unit and fittings for distribution of the water (eg. irrigation techniques), and knowledge of rainfall patterns, as well as the design rainfall for the site. Many advances have been made in each of these areas to increase the RCE potential. Specific details, including design specifications, can be found in the Graham report.
Roof top harvesting:

Storage in plastic, cement or ferro cement tanks

Allows for water supply during the dry season or droughts for crops, forages and livestock
Soil surface runoff:

Storage in dams, natural ponds and rivers, or soil storage including bunds or pits

Allows for water supply during the dry season or droughts for crops, forages and livestockA Bund is a small barrier to runoff designed to slow down water flow and the ground and encourage filtration into the soil to improve soil moisture.

Community harvesting:

Farmers on contiguous plots of land can share the cost and construction of catchment or runoff systems, along with the storage tanks to be used by the immediate community.
Check Dams:

The dams can be built by a community of farmers to ensure that the farmer at the very end of the farming area still has access to water for his operations

Farmers would need to agree on an arrangement for distribution lines, maintenance and watering times.

An excellent example is the Cades Dam Irrigation System which serves eleven vegetable farmers on the island of Nevis. Details can be found in the Graham report.
Given the importance of providing a long-term solution for water for agriculture, and the competing demands of industry and domestic uses for water, some governments have included considerations for public infrastructure for rainwater harvesting. However, this too must be coordinated at policy level to manage conflicts that already exist for this increasingly scarce water, which is a resource for some and a commodity for others, but for farming, an absolute necessity.
Soil Management
Traditional Knowledge: According to the APP Baseline survey, many farmers are increasing their use of chemical fertilizers and herbicides for higher yields, better control of pests and diseases in crops, and to combat the leaching of fertilizers into soil. However, higher chemical use leads to a reduction of microbial life in the soil which over time reduces the ability of the soil to generate its own organic matter.
The Graham report acknowledges that excellent traditional knowledge and practices exist that can create organic matter in the soil, such as, the application of green plant material often mixed with eggshells, coffee grinds, banana peels and more. This “results in the ultimate return of soluble organic nutrients to the soil for use by plants for growth, and creates a soil structure that holds more water in the profile.”

Innovative Practices: Mulch and compost are sustainable alternatives to chemical fertilizers that have been used by Caribbean farmers for some time. However, recent research provides new information on improvements to these practices using new natural materials and processes. Mulch will eventually breakdown and become compost.
Compost consists of decomposed plant or animal organic material that is applied in solid or liquid form. In its solid form, compost looks like soil with some moisture. It is incorporated into the soil when the beds are being prepared and interacts with soil micro-organisms to release minerals, carbon and nitrogen to increase soil fertility and enhance plant growth. Mulching and composting both improve the nutrient quality of the soil and its capacity to absorb and retain water.
The benefits of Mulch on:

Soil water content: Water is both trapped in the mulch and held in the soil for use during low rainfall or drought, allowing for continued crop growth when there is no access to irrigation

Soil fertility: Contributes to organic matter enhancing nutrients in the soil

Soil protection: Minimizes soil loss during high winds, reduces the damaging impact of heavy rainfalls, which causes erosion, and deflects direct sunlight resulting in lower soil temperatures

Plant growth: Promotes germination from the moisture resulting from condensation, keeps roots much cooler and suppresses weed growth allowing for better crop establishment and nutrient uptake
If not properly managed however, mulch can introduce unwanted pests and diseases into the soil and compete with the plant for nutrients, ‘stealing’ important micro-organisms from the soil to assist in its decomposition, temporarily hindering plant growth. Best practice require that old or rough plant materials be applied to the soil at least two months before planting or sowing the main crop.
Specific details on mulching and compost types, as well as instructions for making compost, can be found in the Graham report.

Contouring: is the practice of plowing and/or planting across a slope, following its contour lines. It has been a traditional knowledge practice for decades. Stone walls can still be seen on several old estates in the Caribbean. In modern farming systems, contouring is still a viable option to conserve rainwater by forming a water break and reducing soil loss from surface erosion.
Management of Pests and Diseases
Traditional Knowledge: Pests and diseases have been a long standing reality for farmers in the Caribbean. However, while farmers have found ways to cope, many farmers are now complaining of increased and new incidences of pests and diseases, some of which are not currently documented. There is wide spread evidence that farmers are responding by significantly increasing the use of chemical pesticides with lesser inputs of organic pesticides.
Innovative Practice: Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is guided by three types of control measures: cultural, biological and physical. The more farmers examine their plants and increase their knowledge of pests and diseases, the more effective the controls will be.

Cultural measures: Creating an unfavourable environment for the pest to survive or reproduce–
Crop rotation: most effective when the follow-up crop in the rotation is from a different family and not a host crop to the pest that is to be controlled

Companion planting: growing particular plants together to provide nutrients, shade, or support and/or attract beneficial insects to repel pests

Flour preparation: an inexpensive yet effective flour and soap mixture to deter aphids and spider mites, thrips, whiteflies and downy mildew

Cultural control also includes field sanitation, selection of clean cuttings, prevention of root exposure on plants grown on hillsides and keeping soil moist to prevent cracking. In addition to the highlighted practices above, the timing of plant growth stages can also be important. For example, allowing young plants time to establish to a tolerant stage before an attack occurs, or for the crop to mature before a pest becomes abundant, and to avoid the egg-laying period of a particular pest.

Biological measures: Using biological control agents, or natural enemies, to naturally feed on and kill pests–
Bio-fumigation: introduction of fresh bio-mass and manure into the soil which starts a biological process that releases a chemical substance, suppressing soil borne pests and diseases. Plants from the cabbage family release the largest amounts of chemicals and are considered the best material for bio-fumigation

Plastic covering of bio-mass/manure pile: prevents the escape of gasses released by bio-degradation

Natural plant extracts: some plants are, Neem – commonly used with sweet potato to combat pests; Garlic -effective against a wide range of disease causing pathogens

Physical measures: Creating an unfavorable environment for pest growth and/or destroying pests —
Solarisation: covering of soil with plastic sheets for about 4 to 6 weeks during which heating levels can kill many disease causing organisms and pathogens

Trapping and bagging: planting of a crop on infested land so that the pest is stimulated to attack. The infected crop is either removed before the pest can complete its life cycle or the crop will not provide all the requirements necessary for the completion of the pest’s life cycle

Management of Plant Varieties and Cultivars
Traditional Knowledge: Farmers across the Region are already fully aware of what works best in their fields. They are indeed the experts. The APP baseline survey found that there were many well-informed producers that were ready and willing to share information and experiences on the best cultivars for their area, including suggestions on how and where the material could be sourced and offers to provide samples of the cultivars if asked. Such ‘informal’ transfer of traditional knowledge and practices and ‘home-grown’ innovation can contribute to the ongoing efforts to validate best practices, improve productivity and lead to increased yields in a more sustainable manner.
Innovative Practice: While definitely a good start, success in sustaining yields under increasingly difficult conditions will require that farmers have ready access to adequate amounts of quality planting material and animal breeding stock. The improved material and stock must be able to withstand new environmental realities in order to produce a product that is profitable, either as a fresh or value-added product..“How to improve agriculture? Take everything we know and make good investments.”Jethro Greene, Chief Coordinator, CaFAN, TAC, August 2016

Creating resistance to pests, disease, heat and drought is all important in this new climatic environment. Research into improved plant germplasm and efficient techniques for multiplication of plantlets will be required to create more resilient crop varieties. This will require strategic policy direction and support, as well as a substantial increase in technical, infrastructural and institutional capacity in germplasm improvement and management across the Caribbean. For best results, validation trials should be carried out using both monoculture and mixed systems, under both open field and protected agriculture systems.
“There is sufficient evidence of the significant role that traditional knowledge can play in sustainability and resilience in small farming systems through adaptation to climate change, by simply exploiting some of the principles of traditional knowledge with which they are already familiar”, says Dr. Graham in her report. Jethro Greene, the Chief Coordinator for the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), echoed Dr. Graham’s comments in a simple statement at the APP Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) meeting. “How to improve agriculture”, he said. “Take everything we know and make good investments.”
Where Are We Heading?
Contributions of the APP
The question is, ‘where to invest’? CARDI, enabled under APP Component 2, has intensified its applied research in the priority areas noted in the Graham report, as well as other important areas:
Water and Soil Management: Under the joint support of the APP and Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA), 16 agriculture stakeholders from seven different Caribbean countries were sent to the mid-western United States to take part in an International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC) International Training and Study Tour on Technology Advances in Agricultural Production, Water and Nutrient Management.

The tour offered information, research and interaction with the latest technologies related to soil fertility and water management. Participants observed first-hand how these technologies can be applied to farming systems in developing and developed countries’ agriculture. They were challenged to return home and share this new information through the various avenues available to them, such as educational institutes, extension services, farmers’ groups and development organizations. The hope is that the knowledge sharing will lead to updated traditional practices and improved productivity and sustainability. The hope is that the knowledge sharing will lead to updated traditional practices and improved productivity and sustainability.

CARDI is also carrying out climate-smart evaluations of sweet potato using guinea grass for mulch which promises several benefits including, increased water retention capacity in the soil and improved soil structure.
Improved Plant Varieties and Cultivars/Pests and Disease: CARDI activities under the APP have also included crop varietal research and management of improved plant varieties and cultivars. They have carried out climate smart trials to evaluate crop performance for water stress for cassava, sweet potato and corn in countries around the Region to evaluate improved local and imported varieties of these crops and their ability to withstand new climatic realities. Support has also been provided to countries to build and improve facilities that enhance research and management of improved germplasm, based on identification and acquisition of high-performing varieties that offer greater resilience to the increasing threat of pests and diseases and climatic variabilities.
CARDI has also carried out several trials to test ‘green’ options for combatting worms in small ruminants. Early results show promise for a natural remedy made from neem, aloe vera, moringa and garlic.
The APP-support has enabled CARDI to increase national capacity to multiply and make these improved varieties available to small farmers, including training in improved propagation and management techniques, building on the system of traditional knowledge.
Adaptation to High Temperatures: Pioneering work is also being done in the area of Green Intensive Farming Technologies (GIFTs) in the establishment of an innovative, energy efficient ‘tropical’ greenhouse structure, as well as improvements to traditional protected structures such as, shade houses.
Transitioning from Manual to Mechanised Farming Systems: Appropriate and small scale machinery has been obtained under the project. This includes hand-held walk-behind tractors with automated tillers. The benefits of their use in saving on time and labour and improving land preparation are being demonstrated to small farmers.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Transferring Knowledge and Innovation
The APP Partners want to get the word out. Baselines have been established and catalogued. Action is underway to address gaps and update traditional knowledge with innovative practices and, once that has been done, the updated practices need to be shared.
CARDI and its APP Partners and Collaborators are currently defining the best modes of disseminating the information. This will include, but is not limited to, national and regional workshops and circulation of knowledge products in print and electronic form through national and regional producer organisations and extension services in Ministries of Agriculture and national research and development entities.
“Traditional knowledge transfer in farming is a systems approach,” said Dr. Graham. “The combination of know-how and skills is intended to achieve longer-term generational objectives for agro-ecosystem functionality in sustainable food and livelihoods.” She acknowledges that the mix of traditional knowledge and technologies has the potential for good practices leading to productivity and sustainability however, she is concerned about the barriers to progress in this area.
Weak financing opportunities, poor protected agriculture choices and weak technical support make the top of her list of concerns. Dr. Graham also acknowledges that the acceptance and application of new practices is not always an easy change for farmers. New practices, in the beginning, can be labour intensive, slow-going and sometimes expensive. It can often be difficult to see the benefits to natural resources and productivity in the new practice over conventional ways. Farmers also need to be persuaded that relationships with enterprises and markets, as well as commercialization, are beneficial and can be made in harmony with traditional knowledge application.
Any “approach to traditional knowledge transfer”, Dr. Graham says, “should focus on removing some of these bottlenecks in the farmer systems.”
Removing the bottlenecks will take collaboration amongst development institutions, governments, financial and research institutions, farmers groups, agro-processors and farmers themselves. With the pressing needs of the people for food, and the economy for stability, along with the impact of a changing climate, we cannot afford delay.
Work carried out under the APP enhanced the Regional efforts and process to strengthen institutional relationships, which have historically been strained in the Caribbean. “We have achieved one basic thing that hasn’t been done for years”, said Jethro Greene at the TAC, “everyone is sitting around the table and farmers now have a voice.”
Winston Rudder, the CEO of the Agricultural Development Bank agreed. “Too much effort and energy has to be expended to dismantle siloization”, he said. “The APP is a model for those responsible for development. There is a need for this kind of institutional alignment to succeed.”
The APP has also renewed the vigour of the Agriculture Food and Nutrition Cluster, previously the Agricultural Institutional Cluster (AIC) and the Regional Planners Forum (RPF). Virtual and face-to-face meetings are now being held regularly, ensuring that Ministry of Agriculture and farmers group representatives, along with other agriculture organizations and invited members of the private sector, gather together to align plans and priorities and discuss solutions to the challenges facing agriculture.
The Activity Integration Matrix (AIM) database, which has also been updated under the APP, will also help with this process. It has been reorganized and information on agricultural projects in the region is being acquired to create a single knowledge-sharing space to facilitate more efficient decision making and institutional collaboration for agricultural development in the Caribbean. It will include information on country strategies, multinational institutional programmes, externally-funded programmes and institutional projects.
What Else Can Be Done?
Broader Integration of Traditional Knowledge in Caribbean Agriculture
Dr. Graham is passionate about Caribbean agriculture. She is respectful and appreciative of the traditional knowledge being applied in Caribbean farming today and excited about how it will look in the future. Her report takes an even deeper look into possible applications of traditional knowledge, reinforces previous calls and offers additional suggestions as to how it can be even more broadly integrated, including.
Continued promotion of and learning from successful Regional experiences in:a.
organic farming as an enterprise, with traditional knowledge approaches as the brand under which farmers will operate and work towards standards that satisfy certification of organic farms.

agro-parks, based on traditional knowledge production practices and using climate smart approaches such as solar and wind.

a landscape approach to traditional knowledge practices, especially in watersheds and in protected areas, the creation of legume parks and the promotion of permaculture as part of forest protection.

selective and interesting traditional knowledge practices for introduction into school garden programs and competitions such as, companion planting, crop rotation, tiered planting associations, integrated farming of livestock and crops, legume farms for forage using trees with attractive legume flowers. These need little maintenance and will be more suited to young people.

research on the economics of traditional knowledge application in small farming, including extension to the entire enterprise (plant-livestock associations) and not just on individual commodities.
The creation of incentives for agri-chemical suppliers who sell bio-pesticides and encourage standards for labeling of natural pesticides, and the promotion of research and development in plants with possible bio-pesticide properties at the level of institutions.

The development and implementation of a Communication Strategy to effect a participatory approach to encourage farmers to adopt best practices in farming systems based on the understanding of the principles of resilience and productivity in agro-ecosystems.
These practical options illustrate promising possibilities for the future of farming. A resilient Caribbean agriculture industry built on small farming systems, will benefit from validating and institutionalising the wealth of traditional knowledge in the Region. This knowledge should then be augmented with lessons learned, and the application of best and emerging good practices from advances and innovation within and outside of the Region, as appropriate preparation for the future.
“Resilient farming systems will also require a succession of youth capacities in farming”, says Dr. Graham. “Currently they are virtually absent so there needs to be a discussion and a plan to involve youth in resilient small farming systems.” Passing on traditional knowledge and innovative practices from one generation to the next will be a key to future success.
She also points out that the idea of good practice is not just important at the farmer level but also in the management of the programmes that change practices. “There needs to be focus from the programme level among CARDI, IICA and partners including the FAO, UWI, Ministries of Agriculture, and farmers’ organizations, on critical areas of traditional knowledge-innovative practices, and their benefits to sustainable and reliant farming systems.”
See also:
TF#5: Changing Climate, Changing Farming Systems (October 2016)
TF#7: 96° in the Shade: Cooling Things Down in Protected Agriculture Structures (November 2016)
TF#8: Farming Green: Using Natural Plant Material to Stimulate Crop Growth and Enhance Animal Health (November 2016)

Design Rainfall for rainwater harvesting for agriculture is defined as the total amount of annual rainfall received by the farm at which or above which the catchment area will provide sufficient rainwater runoff for harvesting and storage to supplement crop water requirements. This rainfall amount is based on series data of 30- 50 years and is available for all the countries. Of note, the catchment is not the watershed but the localized area impacting the farm.
Source: Towards Traditional Knowledge Transfer for Resilient Small Farming Systems in the Caribbean, Dr. Lyle Barbara Graham, 2016.
Schematic Representation of Farming Systems modified with Climate Change

This is the second in a 4-part series of Thematic Features with a focus on Innovation & Technologies for Sustainable Farming Systems, produced under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action highlighting work under Component 2 – Applied Research and Development and Innovation in Farming Systems. The APP is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as Executing Agency and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as Implementing Partners.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.


Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, with funding
by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF)
APP Thematic Feature No. 7 • November 2016


Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP)

APP Thematic Feature No. 7

96° in the Shade: Cooling
Things Down in Protected
Agriculture Structures

Improving ‘greenhouse’ technologies to grow safe, healthy foods, protected from the weather, is possible… even in the tropical Caribbean heat

The Caribbean Region is known around the world for being hot. That is what brings flocks of tourists to its beautiful, sunny beaches when the whiles of winter hit other parts of the globe. But with a changing climate, the Caribbean is getting hotter, and that’s not always a good thing. A warmer climate leads to rising sea levels, droughts and floods, new pests and diseases and other challenges that test the tolerance of our agriculture industry.

While some may still think that ‘climate change is a farce’, the world’s scientific community has generally concluded that climate change is happening beyond any doubt, and the evidence is there for everyone to see. The Caribbean is certainly seeing and feeling its fair share of the new realities of a changing climate. For Caribbean farmers, the not-so-pleasant unfolding climate changes are forcing them to examine their current practices and look for new ways of doing things in order to adapt to the new reality. At the same time, they must also reduce the environmental footprint left by traditional agriculture practices.
Change must also come to Regional systems responsible for food and nutrition security in the Caribbean. With a food import bill of approximately US $5 billion dollars a year, the Region cannot afford to ignore the impact of climate change on the global food system on which it has grown to depend on so significantly. And, it’s not just about food for human consumption but also for animal feed and raw material for agro-processing. These realities demand that the Region take action to support the agriculture industry and strengthen its linkages to food production systems.
This feature provides an overview of Protected Agriculture (PA) structures as an important thrust to tackle increased food production in the Caribbean in a new climate reality. It provides background on the challenges experienced in adopting the technology and utilising traditional PA practices, and discusses various options and benefits from improving the design and operation of these structures. It introduces and highlights the elements and potential benefits for transforming farming systems in the Caribbean through the construction and operation of the Region’s first tropical greenhouse created under the GIFT (Green Intensive Farming Technologies) project. This project is a collaborative effort of the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the University of The West Indies (UWI), under the Intra-ACP APP Caribbean Action. The APP is funded by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), with Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as the executing agency, and CARDI and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) as implementing partners.
Is There A Need for Protected Agriculture Structures in the Caribbean?
This month representatives from around the globe will gather in Marrakech, Morocco for the United Nations 2016 Climate Change Conference. Discussions will center on how to slow the rate of change in our global climate. Farmers in the Caribbean may, or may not pay much attention to the news coming out of the conference. However, they certainly can’t help but pay attention to the changes already happening which are affecting the conditions for farming and food production in the Region.
Climate change has resulted in the warming of the earth’s surface by 0.3 to 0.6 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century. The four warmest years on record have occurred since 1990 and the trend is not expected to stop. Warming temperatures have a number of side-effects: storms get stronger, powered by warming oceans; sea levels rising as warm water expands and glaciers and snow caps melt; precipitation patterns changing causing heavy rainfall and flooding in some areas and drought in others.

In its’ 2002 report, The Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Global Climate Change Project outlined some specific concerns for Caribbean territories. Antigua and Barbuda were noted for a risk of increase in the number of storms and hurricanes, as well as increased drought. In The Bahamas and Grenada, rising sea levels causing considerable land loss is predicted. Decreased rainfall in Jamaica and Dominica will affect fresh water resources and in St. Vincent and the Grenadines heavy rainfalls are expected to cause flooding and landslides.
Since that report, evidence of climate change is everywhere – from significant droughts in 2010 and 2015, to strange and powerful dry season storms – the Caribbean is feeling it. The immediate effects were recently seen in Haiti where Hurricane Matthew killed over 500 people. The less reported fact is that it also wiped out nearly 100 percent of crops in the Grand-Anse region.

Agriculture is one of the most vulnerable sectors to the impacts of climate change. The powerful storms and higher storm surges that batter the Region, cause damages in the billions to the industry. All of this while at the same time food demand continues to surge. In order to be able to meet regional demands, agricultural output will need to increase by 70% by the year 2050.

In order to be able to meet regional demands, agricultural output will need to increase by 70% by the year 2050. Farmers are the first line of defence in enabling the Region to meet this objective. However, in addition to several other challenges, including losing farm land to other economic activities, they now have to find ways to significantly increase food production while battling the destructive impacts of climate change.
“To respond to climate change is to pursue a path to sustainable development”, says Dr. Michael A. Taylor, in his book “Why Climate Demands Change”, published in 2015. “The demand is for sustained action which will build climate resilience through the mainstreaming of climate considerations into planning for development and the daily routines of Caribbean life.” This includes the planning and routines in regional agriculture. In the Caribbean, it is time to become climate-smart.
For agriculture in the Caribbean, becoming climate smart means considering the increased use of green intensive farming technologies (GIFTs). GIFTs are technologies aimed at optimizing production, reducing environmental impacts, addressing environmental changes and creating sustainable farming systems in the Region. They offer an excellent opportunity for farmers to both adapt to the changing climate and meet increased productivity demands in the Caribbean. As noted by Dr. Ruel Ellis, a lecturer in the Industrial Engineering programme at the University of West Indies and lead engineer for the GIFT project, “GIFTS must lead to sustainable farming systems in the Region by providing the tools for farmers to adapt to changing needs and circumstances.”
A major element in the application of GIFTS is Protected Agriculture Structures.
What is a Protected Agriculture Structure?
According to the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute’s (CARDI) ‘Tropical Greenhouse Growers Manual for the Caribbean’, Protected Agriculture (PA) can be defined as “the modification of the natural environment to achieve optimum plant growth.” PA structures can take a variety of forms, such as, greenhouses, tunnels, and shade houses. This feature will focus on mainly on greenhouses.
Greenhouses should be sturdy, sustainable and functional. Traditionally, they are constructed with a wood or metal frame, and plastic is used for roof coverings, shade cloths and insect mesh. There are a wide-variety of plastics that can be used in the construction, each of which has their own benefits and drawbacks.
There are also a variety of structural designs from which to choose, which should be based on the environment where the greenhouse will be located. As noted in the CARDI manual, two distinct zones can be identified in the Caribbean. There are structures which accommodate low elevation, hot humid environments which are below 500m above sea level and have an average daytime temperature of above 28 degrees Celsius. There are also structures that are better suited to cool, high elevations that are above 500m above sea level with an average temperature of below 28 degrees Celsius.
Important to the structural design are the:

greenhouse roofs – most are built with a pitch or curvature to allow fast runoff of rain and simplified cleaning. A tall roof also provides a temperature air buffer zone, which is particularly important in hot climates.

entrance doors – a double-door entrance should be creat­ed to provide an “airlock” and increased protection against pests, and an entrance porch can be added to provide pro­tection against wind and the spores that it carries.

ventilation – these considerations are also extremely import­ant, especially in hotter climates.
Lastly, while not a ‘design’ issue, the location of the structure is as key to its efficient performance as is its design. Care needs to be taken when selecting a site for these PA structures. A producer must consider the environment, including wind flow patterns, sufficient light exposure, temperature and humidity, the slope of the land, as well as access to utilities, including power and water.
Can PA tackle the challenge of Climate Change and Increased Food Production in the Caribbean?
For Caribbean farmers, PA structures can be an effective tool in addressing both productivity demands and climate change adaptation strategies. PA structures require less space, addressing the problem of decreasing availability of good farm land, as well as provide protection against wind, excessive rain or intense heat, all of which are a result of climate change. Greenhouses, shade houses and tunnels can often yield up to ten times the output of open field systems and they utilize sustainable technologies and integrated systems to optimize the conditions for successful crop production, addressing the need for increased output.
Greenhouses, due to their controlled environment, also allow for crop growth throughout the year, without the restriction of certain seasons. Crops can be warmed and cooled as needed to maintain a constant growing ‘season’. They also allow for better control with respect to insects, light density, temperature and humidity. Use of fertilizers and pesticides can be targeted for more precise use and can be easily monitored and, problems such as runoff can be reduced. All of these factors lead to more efficient crop production. “Greenhouse production systems could present attractive returns on investment opportunities, possibilities for environmental conservation and marginal land utilisation”, states the CARDI Greenhouse manual.Benefits of PA Structures for Use in Caribbean Agriculture• Require less space• Protection against wind, heat and excessive rain• Provide opportunity to grow crops year around• Controlled environment – light, temperature, humidity• Better insect control• Targeted fertilizer use• Reduced runoff• Collapsible structures are available for use during weather events• Higher yields

One of the problems in the Caribbean though, is that the structures are often fabricated in Europe or North America. According to Jervis Rowe, a protected agriculture specialist in his comments at a 2015 GIFT Regional Forum, when structures are brought in from elsewhere they are often entirely wrong for the Caribbean environment. He noted that this was a challenge that must be addressed in order to move forward with the use of greenhouses in the Region.
“We have good environment, such as the amount of light in a given day and the quality of water, but the main problem is heat within the greenhouses and as such some level of emphasis needs to be placed on getting these houses down to a temperature that will cause them to operate more efficiently”, said Mr. Rowe.

Too much heat in a greenhouse is not good. “By definition and design, the purpose of a greenhouse is to capture solar radiation and provide an optimum environment for the rapid growth of plants. However in the south, greenhouse temperatures often soar to levels that can limit plant growth”, says Dr. J Raymond Kessler, Jr in his paper ‘Dealing with the Heat in Southern Greenhouses ’. “How much heat builds up during high-light periods depends on how much solar radiant energy is transmitted through the glazing, how that energy is distributed, and how much is retained within the structure.”
Some of the detrimental effects of high temperatures in a greenhouse include reduced stem strength, reduced flower and leaf size, delayed flowering, early death of buds and reduced growth rates. All of these problems go against the whole purpose of these structures, which is to enhance productivity and protect against climatic harm. Without a proper solution, investing in fully enclosed PA technology won’t make sense for Caribbean farmers and is often the reason why many PA farmers prefer to use ‘shade houses’.
However, there are currently several solutions that are utilized in the Caribbean to reduce heat in greenhouses:

Proper Ventilation – the role of proper roof design: To maximize natural ventilation there are a few good prac­tices, as noted in the CARDI tropical greenhouse guide. A split roof design works best, forcing a pressure differential to extract the hot air at the top of the structure.

Structure Orientation – the role of good location: The structure should be oriented to harness the most cooling benefit from prevailing winds and in a location where trees and bushes don’t block the air coming in or out.

Construction Material & Design – not all materials are equal or perform well in all environments: Proper research into material choice is key and experience has shown that use of high side walls and an appropriate mesh size that allows airflow, while still keeping out the bugs, yields rel­atively better results. Advances in technology allow for a wider option of material choices for the tropics than when greenhouses were first introduced in the 1980s.

Cost-effective Temperate Control: —
Extractor fans are the usual way to control temperatures in greenhouses. The size of the fan required will depend on the size of the greenhouse. However, one of the challenges, especially in the remote parts of the Caribbean, is that these fans require power. This isn’t an ideal solution as it can be a significant cost for small farms and often rural locations are far from the power grid.

Wet walls are also common for temperature control but like extractor fans, they require power, as well as a constant supply of water. Wet walls operate on the principle of creating an air inlet into the greenhouse through a porous material that can be saturated with water. Wet wall systems are installed with a fan at one end and the wet wall at the other because the air has to be drawn though the greenhouse with enough air speed to draw out the water, which evaporates in the greenhouse and provides cooling. Caution has to be taken to ensure that air cannot be drawn through other openings such as vents and doors, thus reducing the volume going through the wet walls.

Swamp coolers can also be used. These are self-contained units that are usually used in smaller greenhouses. They have evaporative pads and a blower and are mounted on the outside, blowing the moist air in through an opening in the sidewall.

Unfortunately, wet walls and swamp coolers can only work well when the humidity is low. The use of these cooling options under humid conditions will lead to too much moisture and therefore mold, fungus and other problems.

Shade cloths or fabric also help to protect plants from direct sunlight. They offer a low-cost, effective solutions to ventilation and temperature control.
Improving PA Structures to Meet the Needs of the Caribbean
Research by institutions like CARDI and UWI, along with the on-farm use and adaptation of PA structures by expert practitioners, like Jervis Rowe, have shown that the ‘protected agriculture’ concept can be a viable, farming system choice in the Caribbean. The APP has incorporated education on and research into green farming technologies to contribute to building more efficient and resilient small holder food production systems in the Caribbean. Under Component 2 of the APP, CARDI and UWI have been working on a project to tackle some of the challenges that farmers in the Caribbean face when using PAs such as, high electricity costs, reliable access to water, high heat and too much humidity.
The GIFT Project, which is being carried out under the direction of UWI engineers in Trinidad and Tobago, is an innovative and integrated sustainable farming project designed to maximize the use of PA in the Caribbean, particularly in remote and off-grid locations. It combines many of the existing concepts used for cooling greenhouses, along with some new technologies and improvements to current processes, for specific use in tropical climates.
In traditional greenhouses temperatures can rise to as high as 50 degrees. For cooling, the GIFT tropical greenhouse uses the simple combination of passive ventilation and shading along with a ground-to-air heat exchange system. This system takes the air from the greenhouse and pumps it underground where the temperature in the test region is around 27 degrees Celsius. The trip through the pipes, about two metres underground, cools the air to around 28 or 29 degrees. The naturally cooled air is pumped back into the greenhouse, greatly reducing temperatures. In the trial GIFT tropical greenhouse, this is proving to be an effective system for addressing the problem of too much heat, as well as the problem of mold, which occurs when using wet walls for cooling.

The GIFT tropical greenhouse structure will also install a rainwater harvesting system to feed an aquaponics set-up that is highly suitable for crop growth. Aquaponics grows fish and plants together. The fish waste provides an organic food source for the growing plants, eliminating the need for environmentally harmful fertilizers. This factor allows for the resulting produce to be sold as zero or low chemical farming outputs, increasing its market value.
“People in Trinidad and Tobago are looking for green organic foods”, says UWI GIFT project manager Akeim Ali. “This project provides the means to supply markets with food grown with little to no pesticide use.” Dr. Ellis notes the significance of this fact. “If you eliminate chemicals you have a health benefit”, he says. “No longer do we need to eat vegetables filled with unhealthy metals and chemicals that lead to future health problems.”
To address concerns of power usage that can add significant costs to traditional greenhouses, all of the GIFT greenhouse systems will be powered using solar energy panels mounted on a local UWI-designed solar tracker, capable of following the sun to maximize solar energy intake. The solar energy is then stored in safe and reliable batteries which ensure constant operation of the GIFT systems.
Finally, remote monitoring of all GIFT systems is made possible over a secure internet connection. The GIFT user interface can be loaded onto a computer, tablet or smartphone, and the tropical automated greenhouse can be monitored and managed from any location. The project team is also working on remote control features which will allow the system operations such as, water levels in tanks, light intensity from the solar sensors and fans for the air pumps, to be controlled from a distance.
Though it sounds rather complicated and expensive, there are plans to make the GIFT system modular and scalable. The aim, says Dr. Ellis is “to make this a viable solution for the average Caribbean farmer”. He is encouraged that it does not require any certificate for environmental clearance or regulatory permit approvals and should enable any person interested in zero or low chemical, intensive but sustainable food production in the Caribbean to begin operations in a very short timeframe.
This project addresses the issues that are being experienced by greenhouse farmers who want to use PA in the production of their crops”, says Dr. Ellis. “It addresses the problem of too much heat, less land space for agriculture, the hassle of inclement weather and electricity and water costs. You can be totally off grid”, he says. Not only that but “existing greenhouses can be retrofit to produce to their potential.”
Are GIFTs the answer for the Caribbean?
Agriculture must change in the Caribbean in order to keep up with the currently unmet and growing demand for food, increased global competition and changes to our climate, not to mention the exorbitant regional food import bill. Traditional methods of farming must be examined and improved to adapt to new production and environmental realities.
Progress needs to include improved crop varieties, strengthened farmers’ organizations, increased education and enhanced value chains, and work is being done under many development organizations in these areas. However, the use of PAs will also go a long way in progressing the industry and the introduction of this technology to youth is a good building block.

An excellent example of linking youth to innovation in agriculture can be found in St. Kitts and Nevis where students at the Charlestown Primary School are learning about the benefits of PA first hand. Three-hundred students can now anticipate a hot and nutritious lunch each day, using fresh vegetables grown by their own hands, partly in thanks to their new greenhouse.
The construction of the greenhouse was supervised by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and funded by the New Zealand High Commission in Barbados. The project came about after a plea from the principal, who had seen the benefits of greenhouse agriculture being used by the Ministry of Agriculture in Nevis. She asked for IICA’s help in bringing the technology to her school.
“It is anticipated that the greenhouse will help to reduce the cost of the school feeding programme and at the same time, the children will be exposed to greenhouse technology”, stated Augustine Merchant, coordinator of the Delegation in St Kitts and Nevis.
The school has faced challenges to its feeding programme in the past related to the high cost of vegetables and other inputs, as well as the lack of local fresh products. It is hoped that this project will alleviate short term hunger and, in the long term, improve school attendance, reduce drop-out rates and improve academic performance and nutrition intake.

Initiatives such as these show the tangible benefits of protected agriculture, and the GIFT tropical greenhouse takes those benefits one step further. The GIFT tropical greenhouse solution is intended to provide significant economic returns while supporting environmentally responsible and sustainable practices and alleviating the challenges faced by the agricultural and food production system. GIFTS have also had the important side effect of pulling more young entrepreneurs into the business of food production because of the use of exciting new technologies.
The reality is that the Caribbean farming population is aging. The Region is in need of a new generation of passionate and innovative young people to secure the future of the sector. “GIFTs bring technologies people are encouraged by”, says Dr. Ellis. He has seen younger people become excited about the use of technology in farming and he feels that it will catch on. And, though he acknowledges that it can often be difficult to introduce new technologies to farmers that often hold fast to traditional practices, he knows that the efforts to bring them on board will be worth it for both the agriculture sector, and the Region as a whole.
See also:
TF#5: Changing Climate, Changing Farming Systems (October 2016)
TF#6: Are Farmers Still Planting by the Moon? (October 2016)
TF#8: Farming Green: Using Natural Plant Material to Stimulate Crop Growth and Enhance Animal Health (November 2016)

Climate change has resulted in the warming of the earth’s surface by 0.3 to 0.6 degrees Celsius since the late 19th century. The four warmest years on record have occurred since 1990 and the trend is not expected to stop.
Greenhouse farming in Saint Lucia. (Photo: IICA Saint Lucia.)

Best Greenhouse Designs for the Caribbean

Tunnel (Arch)

Single Arch (Raised)

Gable and Split-Gable

Source: ‘Tropical Greenhouse Growers Manual for the Caribbean’, CARDI, January 2014

Protected agriculture farming in Saint Kitts. (Photo: IICA Saint Kitts)

“By definition and design, the purpose of a greenhouse is to capture solar radiation and provide an optimum environment for the rapid growth of plants. However in the south, greenhouse temperatures often soar to levels that can limit plant growth”, says Dr. J Raymond Kessler, Jr in his paper ‘Dealing with the Heat in Southern Greenhouses ’.
Dr. J Raymond Kessler, Jr, ‘Dealing with the Heat in Southern Greenhouses’

Installing underground pipes for cooling air and building the frame for the GIFT tropical greenhouse. (Photos: UWI & CARDI)

Wet walls in use at a Caribbean greenhouse
(Photo: CARDI)

Source: Illustration of the cooling process of a wet wall
Dr. Ruel Ellis, UWI, 2015

This is the third of a 4-part series of Thematic Features with a focus on Innovation & Technologies for Sustainable Farming Systems produced under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action highlighting work under Component 2 – Applied Research and Development and Innovation in Farming Systems. The APP is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as Executing Agency and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as Implementing Partners.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

TF#8 Farming Green

Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, with funding
by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF)
APP Thematic Feature No. 8 • November 2016


Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP)

APP Thematic Feature No. 8

Farming Green – Using Natural Plant Material to Stimulate Crop Growth and Enhance Animal Health

Putting Green, Natural Options to the Test, as Alternatives to Reliance on Imported Agrochemicals, Offers a Timeless, Win-win Solution

In the Caribbean, today’s farmer has to keep up with rising demands, more restrictions, increasing responsibilities and constant change.
With an already immense food import bill of over US $5 billion annually and a growing population, the pressure and demand to increase local food production is great. To rise to the challenge, farmers must also overcome some unfavourable economic realities that often impose restrictions on their capacity to grow their business. These include the usual ‘binding constraints’ such as, inadequate access to productive resources (land, financing, labour and new technologies), fragmentation of key support services and an increasing array of standards and regulations on the inputs they use and on their practices associated with trade.
Agriculture, both globally and within the Region, also has an increased responsibility to protect the environment. A healthy environment, with good soil and adequate, unpolluted water, is vital to the success of a farming enterprise. However, with pressures to grow more, the quality of land resources available for farming has deteriorated, as decades of heavy chemical use takes its toll on productivity and ultimately, food production. Farming system viability is now inextricably tied to sustainable farming practices. And, in the pursuit of sustainability, farmers are more accepting of efforts to reduce the adverse environmental impacts of conventional farming and explore alternative solutions to expand output in both crop and livestock production.
Rising demand, more restrictions and increasing responsibilities on the farm sector have been further complicated by the impacts of climate change. Use of agricultural practices which help to reduce these impacts is an absolute necessity to ensure long-term, sustainable development. The causes and impacts, including an elevated level of risk in the sector, have been the subject of dialogue at national and regional levels, leading to a number of plans and strategies to build resilience in farming and food production systems. Drought-mitigation and environmentally sound practices need to be part of these plans and strategies. This need is illustrated by two major drought periods which have impacted the Caribbean in less than ten years.
It should therefore be no surprise that ‘Green Farming’ is being proactively pursued as an important part of the solution. This feature highlights ‘green’ farming solutions that have undergone validation trials by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) under the Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP). The APP is an agricultural development programme supported by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF). The preliminary results from these trials provide encouraging signs of their potential to address long-standing and common production issues, foster sustainable growth and enhance the viability of small farming systems.

Natural Farming – Overview
Globally, natural farming is far from new, and well advanced in other developed country farming systems. The concept was introduced by Masanobu Fukuoka in his 1975 book called “The One Straw Revolution”. Fukuoka was a Japanese farmer who believed in an ecological approach to farming long before it was in vogue. In essence, Natural Farming is simply the elimination of manufactured inputs and equipment in farming practices. According to Colin Duncan’s book, “The Centrality of Agriculture: Between Humankind and the Rest of Nature, “it is a closed system, one that demands no human-supplied inputs and mimics nature.”
Research into natural alternative solutions by CARDI, under Component Two (C2) of the APP, while not entirely applying Fukuoka’s principles, does borrow heavily from the general concepts. The research aims to validate improved practices, technologies and farming systems and improve their adoption and application by small producers in the Region. Green and natural farming practices are an important part of this objective, driving the evaluation of their use and impacts on crops and livestock prioritised under the APP. These priorities are roots and tubers, small ruminants, herbs and spices and organically produced vegetables under Protected Agriculture structures.
APP Contribution to natural farming research in the Caribbean

Guinea Grass to conserve soil water
Open field farming is still widespread in the Caribbean. In fact, it is still the prevailing system for producing roots and tubers, a food group afforded priority status for food and nutrition security, agro-industrial development and import substitution strategies in the Region. Sweet Potato, as a priority commodity, has been receiving much attention under the APP, as well as other development agencies and farmers’ groups in the Caribbean. While varieties in this commodity group tend to be fairly well adapted to growing conditions in the Region, there is no doubt that changes in climate have affected their productivity levels.
That is why CARDI spent the 2016 sweet potato growing season evaluating the use of guinea grass mulch as a viable and ‘green’ drought-mitigation strategy in St. Kitts and Nevis. Similar experiments in Jamaica by the FAO helped to guide the design and management of this trial.
The application of dried guinea grass over an area to be cultivated helps control soil erosion and weeds, increase water retention capacity in the soil and improve soil structure. Better soil moisture is good for germinating seeds and improved soil structure fosters stronger crop establishment and improved nutrient uptake. Other benefits include heat and sun protection for young plantlets and roots, reduced weed control costs and the conditions to allow for planting during dry periods, all of which can result in higher yields at reduced costs.
For the CARDI experiments, different varieties were tested under the same conditions and the control was the use of no mulch at all. The highest yields came from the mulch treated plots and amongst those plots the most successful variety was N3. These are excellent and promising results, and in light of the reality of a changing climate and higher food demands, there is a strong argument for continuing research in this area in order to produce more concrete findings.
The trial was a first for St. Kitts and Nevis, which is a particularly dry country that has been experiencing longer dry spells and lower rainfall. It was even more significant due to the abundance of Guinea grass growing in the country and the implications for also positively impacting the cost of production. Recommendations from this trial included establishing more trials of this nature with an increased number of varieties; increasing the quantity of mulch used on each plot; and carrying out experiments in different agro-ecological zones.
Natural Plant Enhancers to stimulate crop growth
Cassava has also been identified as a priority commodity in the Caribbean. This healthy, versatile tuber has excellent potential for very high yields, as proven in countries across the globe, however in the Caribbean, average yields are notably sub-par. Also, the vast opportunities for value-added products afforded by cassava are greatly hindered due to lack of consistent supply and the commercial volumes necessary to support value-added enterprises. As a result, producers have resorted to growing cassava with minimal inputs in order to lower production costs and obtain a better return on investment.
The use of natural growth enhancers, or bio-stimulants, is a promising ‘green’ technology being used in cassava production to increase yields. defines bio-stimulants as “molecules that act upon and enhance certain metabolic or physiological processes within plants and soil.” They are plant extracts that include different combinations of compounds, substances and micro-organisms. They can be as simple as elemental nutrients that are required to support microbial life, or more complex, like composts which require special care and equipment.
According to the European Bio-Stimulants Industry Council in their article, ‘About Bio-Stimulants and the Benefits of Using Them’, “Bio-Stimulants are used to foster plant growth and development throughout the crop life cycle from seed germination to plant maturity in a number of demonstrated ways, including but not limited to:

Improving the efficiency of the plant’s metabolism to in­duce yield increases and enhanced crop quality;

Increasing plant tolerance to, and recovery from, abiotic stresses;

Facilitating nutrient assimilation, translocation and use;

Enhancing quality attributes of produce, including sugar content, colour, fruit seeding, etc;

Rendering water use more efficient; and,

Enhancing soil fertility, particularly by fostering the devel­opment of complementary soil micro-organisms.”“Crop growers can obtain higher prices for their products when crop’s quality is enhanced because improved quality has a positive impact on storage and conservation, which gives producers more time to choose the best moment to sell their products at advantageous prices.”Source:

Lida Plant Research also promises results from the use of bio-stimulants in their 2016 article, “Benefits of Bio-stimulants: Reasons to Believe.” They say that these natural plant enhancers help to ensure that crops make full use of fertilizers, lowering input costs and eventually benefitting the customer with lower prices and higher quality foods. They also state that, “Crop growers can obtain higher prices for their products when crop’s quality is enhanced because improved quality has a positive impact on storage and conservation, which gives producers more time to choose the best moment to sell their products at advantageous prices.”
CARDI and the APP wanted to validate these claims before making recommendations to farmers and therefore supported field-based trials in Grenada through 2015 and 2016. Their methodology was to plant two different varieties of cassava under four different treatments using the bio-stimulants Agrispon, Cytokin and Bountiful Harvest, and no bio-stimulant as the control.

The clearest result was not actually seen in the use of the bio-stimulant but rather the varieties tested. The Mcol 1468 variety far outperformed the Mcub 74 variety, producing a significant difference in yields over time. Only minor gains were seen in the use of the bio-stimulants. However, what was very clear was that Mcol 1468 was more responsive to the bio-stimulants than Mcub 74. The most successful combination was Mcol1468 and Cytokin or Bountiful Harvest.
As a first time trial in Grenada, these initial results will serve as a platform for further research and validation. CARDI has indicated intention to repeat these trials as part of their research agenda.
Organic Treatments for Yellow Sigatoka Disease in Plantains and Bananas
As noted, using organic rather than chemical solutions for enhancing the growth of plants has shown promise in trials conducted elsewhere, and so has the use of organic solutions in combatting disease. Just as CARDI wanted to test claims about the benefits of bio-stimulants, CELOS, the Centre for Agricultural Research in Suriname, wanted to test claims about the benefits of using ‘Timorex Gold’, a new organic agent, in combatting disease.
In Suriname, almost all of the plantains and bananas in the Region are infected by Yellow Sigatoka Disease (YSD). This is a fungal disease caused by a fungal plant pathogen called Mycosphaerella musicola. According to the American Phytopathological Society website,, “Yellow Sigatoka leaf spot occurs throughout the world and is one of the most destructive diseases of banana. The symptoms first appear as small, light yellow spots or streaks parallel to the side vein of the leaf. Later, the spots elongate and turn brown with light gray centers. Such spots soon enlarge further; the tissue around them turns yellow and dies; and adjacent spots coalesce to form large lesions.” Even more devastating is the fact that the pathogen survives in the infected banana leaves and spreads via the wind.
YSD reduces the leaf’s photosynthetic capacity which then shrinks the potential bunch size of the fruit. It also causes early ripening. Both of these factors cause reduced yields from crops, leading to reduced profits for farmers, less local food for markets and limited options for export.
Some natural agricultural practices to combat this disease include proper drainage, weeding and fertilization, as well as reduced plant density and de-leafing. However, chemical controls are also commonly applied. The problem is, YSD is becoming resistant to many of the chemical fungicides on the market.
Timorex Gold is a natural botanical fungicide based on a plant extract called tea tree oil. It has promised to be an effective tool in integrated pest management (IPM). When reviewing the product information, it says that the product can be used alone, however, it can also be used in conjunction and rotation with chemical fungicides to reduce the chemical load which might otherwise be required.
In their planned trial, CELOS identified a group of 16 plants. Eight were to be sprayed every four weeks with ‘Bravo’, a chemical fungicide, and eight were to be sprayed with alternating applications of ‘Bravo’ and then Timorex Gold up to flowering, and then only with Timorex Gold up until harvest. Unfortunately, due to a lack of labour to prune and spray plants and the fact that they were unable to import Timorex Gold into Suriname and could only use ‘Bravo’ in the trial, reliable results could not be determined and the planned trial had to be abandoned. Subsequently, there was a heavy infection of the plants, from which hardly any good bunches of fruit could be harvested.

These experiences of CELOS, an established National Research and Development entity, bring to the fore the challenges facing small farmers in the Caribbean, namely lack of labour and reliable access to inputs for farming. Despite these difficulties however, CELOS is determined to persevere. They are hopeful that they can work with a local company to import the natural fungicide into the country and believe that application of the same can “lead to a breakthrough” in battling YSD in plantains and bananas in Suriname based on product promises and favourable results of trials conducted elsewhere.
CELOs has also successfully introduced innovative tools and experiments to help mitigate against the spread of YSD. One such innovation is modified pruning shears with a built-in disinfecting system that sanitizes the blades every time it is used. This drastically reduces the transmission of the disease as farmers conduct important cultural practices such as pruning. It also reduces the time required for sanitizing during this operation and in so doing increases labour cost efficiency on banana and plantain farms.
Natural Forages as De-Wormers for Small Ruminants
Raising small ruminants (goats and sheep) for food and value-added products is growing in significance in the Caribbean. With a high demand and low supply of regional meat from small ruminants, this commodity holds great promise for bringing growth to the agriculture industry and economic benefit to the Region.

A major challenge faced by small ruminant farmers is parasites. “Small ruminants are affected by many different parasites”, says Dr. Donald H. Bliss in his article, ‘Parasite Control for Small Ruminants Designed to Reduce Environmental Contamination.’ “Each type of parasite has its own preferred location within an animal where it lives, causing specific damage to the host animal.”
The most common parasite in small ruminants is the Barberpole Worm. It is a blood-sucking parasite that causes considerable blood loss and anemia, and is one of the most common causes of death in these animals. They are also very prolific, laying thousands of eggs every day, and very hard to kill.
Dr. Bliss points out that goats and sheep are more susceptible to infection by these worms because they graze closer to the ground where parasitic larvae are often more concentrated. “A pasture covered with morning dew provides an ideal time for parasite transmission to occur”, he says.
There are chemical de-wormers available on the market. However these products demand a very high price. In addition to vulnerability due to dependence on imported inputs, the cost of these imported commercial preparations is an additional burden for small ruminant farmers.
There is also an increased resistance of common parasites to these de-wormers. According to the Cornell University Small Farms program, a 2010 study out of the University of Delware examined parasites’ level of resistance to four types of commercially available de-wormers. The results were very revealing.

Benzimidazoles (e.g. Safeguard® or Valbazen®) were ineffective on 97% of farms tested;

Ivermectin (Ivomec®) was ineffective on 79% of farms;

Moxidectin (Cydectin®), essentially a more potent relative of ivermectin, was ineffective on 48% of farms; and,

Levamisole (Prohibit TM), the last line of defense, was already ineffective on 27% of farms.
Evidently, alternative solutions need to be investigated. Non-chemical, or ‘green’ options for de-worming small ruminants, have shown promise in early trials. The application of Neem was tested by the Jamaican Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) as a substitute for chemical options and initial results were encouraging.
Under Component Two of the APP, CARDI saw the value in extending this research to include additional natural products. In 2016, they completed three trail phases using locally available remedies as natural de-wormers including, aloe vera, moringa, garlic and also neem. They used the commercial de-wormer Benvet®, one of the most common de-wormers in the Caribbean, as the control.
Egg Count Reduction – First Trial:
The test substances included each element on their own, as well as different mixtures of the elements. The goats in each test group received 5ml of the trial element or blend each day, and the control group was given 5ml of Benvet®.The animals were then allowed to graze as they would normally do, penned or unpenned, and in the same fields as usual.
Faecal samples were collected before the test substance was administered, and again 7 days after the goats had received the remedy (Round 1). An additional sample was collected again 21 days later (Round 2). Each time samples were tested for their worm population.
In the end, the most effective treatment over all of the trials was the commercial de-wormer (Benvet®). However, the Neem extract showed promising results, in some instances performing comparably to Benvet®. The Neem extract which was a combination of both neem and garlic performed the best of the mixtures. However the combination of all four natural remedies seemed to dilute the efficacy of the neem as a de-wormer and was the least effective.
Results and recommendations coming out of the trials support the argument for further studies to determine ideal preparation of neem and other potential extracts. Testing the same animals on different treatments was also suggested, as well as the completion of a cost-benefit analysis on the use of the comparable remedies to determine the impact on the cost of production.
While some applications show promise, continued research is definitely necessary to inform impact and cost-benefit analyses on the wider application of specific formulations of these ‘green’, natural and locally available elements to treat parasites in small ruminants. With the thrust to significantly expand production of small ruminants, research into holistic and effective approaches to health management of the animals in a manner which reduces the high dependence on costly imported veterinary medicines, will be central to raising productivity levels.
Mulberry Grass and other natural products as alternative sources of Animal Nutrition
Demand for meat and meat products from small ruminants in the Caribbean, is high and growing rapidly. Research shows that there is a preference for local sheep and goat meat. However, the commodity is not priced competitively. Imports, even from as far away as New Zealand, can retail for as much as 40% cheaper than locally produced commodities. High cost of imported feeds is the largest factor in the lack of competitiveness of local small ruminant products in the Region. Currently, feed costs make up 50% of the total cost of production for sheep and 25% for goats.
According to Dr. Gregorio Lagombra of the Dominican Institute of Agricultural and Forestry Research (IDIAF), “the Centre has had to invest in increased productivity of small ruminant farming systems to satisfy a tourist population of 6 million visitors a year, and a strong demand for small ruminant meat in the Dominican Republic (DR)”. Raising productivity levels for small ruminant production requires not only obtaining effective feeds, but also addressing the impact of dry seasons on animal health. Shortage of good quality forage, particularly during the dry season, leads to poor nutrition and limits productivity of small ruminant production. Dr. Lagombra is adamant that the problems arising in dry season farming must be addressed and solved in advance of the season’s arrival, and cannot wait until the season starts to find a solution.
To offset the high cost of imported commercial grain-based rations, small ruminant producers also depend on local forage, either through free grazing or a ‘cut and carry’ system for housed animals, supplemented with by-products such as crop residues. However, adequate pasture is limited, further exacerbated by drier conditions, forcing many small farmers to tether animals wherever grass and forage can be found. It is very common in the Caribbean to see herds of small ruminants grazing on grassy areas along highways and in over-grown community playing fields. Countries, such as St. Kitts and Nevis, have long recognised that these ‘natural’ pastures cannot fully support the nutrition needs of sheep and goats.
To address this problem, countries of the Region have been evaluating the deliberate cultivation of well-maintained pastures (or forage banks) as one alternative to improving forage yield and nutritive value. While these trials did not form part of the APP effort, there is much value in promoting these initiatives since they are critical complements to the APP-supported efforts at raising productivity in small ruminant production.

In St. Kitts and Nevis, in 2012/2013, the Department of Agriculture experimented with Mulato II, This forage was deemed to be well adapted to Caribbean weather conditions, easy to sow and establish, and with its deep root system, could withstand periods of dry weather and resist soil erosion. For the St. Kitts Department of Agriculture, the main objectives were to introduce new, improved forages and to find a way to store grass so that farmers will have a constant, year around source of feed for their small rumi­nants through production of silage. Silage is the preservation of forages in as good a nutritional state as the original material.

In the Dominican Republic, IDIAF has been doing dry season research to maintain animal productivity through nutrition. This research is important given the tendency for several animals to die during the dry season due to lack of ade­quate forage. As part of its own research agenda, IDIAF has been developing special machinery for small and medium producers to make hay and silage to secure feed during the dry season. Production of multi-nutritional blocks (tra­ditional practice, using comprising molasses, urea, legumes and fibre, using calcium carbonate for protein) by hand and machines, a tried and true traditional practice, also continues as a strategy to combat dry season animal mortality.

In Barbados, under the APP in January 2016, CARDI es­tablished high quality forages on its Field Station including, Mulberry, Mulato grass, Mexican sunflower and perennial peanut. Multiplication of mulberry plants were done using cuttings from established mulberry trees and distributed to farmers and farmer groups in March including, 1,000 plants to the Kendal Plantation group, 802 St. Catherine’s Farm Ltd and 50 to three smaller farmers. This distribution of planting material aimed to significantly increase the protein content of the feed to the small ruminants. This was further complemented by the provision of a chipper shredder, oven and hammer and pellet mills to produce feeding blocks to demonstrate to farmers the productivity-enhancing benefits of using appropriate forages in small ruminant feeding. This was all towards the goal of finding natural, cost effective means to maximizing animal nutrition and good feeding systems.

In Grenada, the APP supported the St. Patrick’s Goat Farmers’ Association through the provision of an improved Saanan buck to raise herd productivity. Support also included advice on si­lage making and demonstrations to farmers which highlighted that during the wet season, forage can be harvested, dried and stored and then fed to the animals during the dry season in order to maintain good nutrition.
According to I. Hernández and M. D. Sánchez of IICA, in their article, ‘Small ruminant management and feeding with high quality forages in the Caribbean’ (2014), Mulberry “is the best forage in terms of overall quality and potential yield if agronomic conditions are suitable.” It is seen as a complete feed on its own for both sheep and goats. This can be justified by its very high nutritional value and exceptional yields when properly fertilized. Fortunately, these plants can be grown under normally challenging environmental conditions, including fallow and wastelands not fit for agriculture, and will provide even higher yields and better quality leaves if given a balanced application of fertilizer. “The most notable characteristic of mulberry foliage is its very high digestibility values. It is much superior to common forages and equivalent to commercial feed.”
Mulberry should be seen as a ‘green’ option, leaving cereals and other cash crops for human consumption rather than forage. In this day and age, with increasing food demands from the human population, more vital agricultural land cannot be set aside for fodder production. Not only that, but getting a goat to eat mulberry grass is easy. According to Manuel D. Sánchez in his article ‘Mulberry: An exceptional forage available almost worldwide!’, “Small ruminants avidly consume the fresh leaves and the young stems first, even if they have never been exposed to it before. Then, if the branches are offered un-chopped, they might tear off and eat the bark. Animals initially prefer mulberry over other forages when they are offered simultaneously, and even dig through a pile of various forages to look for mulberry.”
Disseminating and Moving Forward with the Results
It is ironic that with so much technology and chemical enhancements that “natural farming”, based on traditional knowledge and practices, is making a come-back as perhaps the most appropriate option to properly meet modern day demands, restrictions, responsibilities and changes in the now highly commercialised farming industry. Green farming is a little bit like fashion; what’s old is new again. And, this new trend will not only benefit the environment, but it promises excellent potential to battle common Caribbean problems. With a little more research and validation, the future of Caribbean farming could be ‘green’ and good for everyone.
The need for more field research and validation was definitely echoed at the Regional Workshop on Dissemination of Field Trial Research Results, held in Guyana from 22-23 November 2016. The workshop disseminated the results of these and other APP-enabled field trials to stakeholders, including farmers, research agencies and extension personal across the Region. There was active discussion on some of the results and most importantly on methodologies and research designs. The overwhelming consensus was that the research was necessary and the results, thus far, look promising, particularly in use of natural remedies for pest and disease control and the production of feed and stimulants from natural materials.
In terms of lessons learned, there was a general recommendation to repeat the research, strengthening research design to eliminate externalities that can skew results and conducting trails on actual farmers’ holdings to ensure that on-farm conditions are fully accounted for. CARDI confirmed that it had commenced the dialogue in this direction, both internally and through the IICA-CARDI Technical Cooperation Agreement.
See also:
TF#5: Changing Climate, Changing Farming Systems (October2016)
TF#6: Are Farmers Still Planting by the Moon? (October 2016)
TF#7: 96° in the Shade: Cooling Things Down in Protected Agriculture Structures (November 2016)

Implementing the Use of Guinea Grass as Mulch
Step 1: Harvest Guinea Grass before flowering/seeding because when the seeding begins, the guinea grass stem becomes more liquefied and therefore difficult to break down as mulch. There are also a higher proportion of stems to leaves after seeding, and it is the leaves that account for the bulk of the matting that forms mulch. Timing is therefore critical when harvesting the guinea grass.
Step 2: Secure sufficient amounts of grass to adequately cover the area prepared for cultivation. To provide a mat that will not break down before the cropping season is over, it is recommended to use 46 cubic meters of dried grass per hectare of prepared land.
Step 3: Apply fertilizers and any other soil treatment, especially if fertilizer will be broadcast and incorporated into the soil.
Step 4: Prepare holes for sowing seeds or for transplant.
Step 5: Arrange the dried leaves length-wise in a single direction over the prepared area, completely covering the soil. The process is to be repeated in the opposite direction, forming a mat.
Step 6: Proceed with production activities as usual.
Source:, “Enhancing drought resistance through guinea grass mulching, Jamaica” 2008
N3 variety of sweet potato. (Photo: CARDI)

Grenada Cassava bio-stimulant trial – Mcol 1468 with bio-stimulant.
(Photo: CARDI)

Grenada Cassava bio-stimulant trial – Mcol 1468 with no bio-stimulant.
(Photo: CARDI)
Source: The use of traditional remedies in combating intestinal worms in Goats (Rohan Smith, Date: November 23rd, 2016, CARDI)

The important role of green leaves in supplementing animal feed is unquestionable. In the developing countries, cereal straws and grasses are fed to animals, but they cannot support full performance because of their poor nutritive value. Mulberry leaf supplementation can improve the efficiency of the whole diet.”
Source: Utilization of mulberry as animal fodder in India”, by R.K. Datta et al.

Test Results:

After seven days, the Neem was comparable in its effectiveness to the Benvet® treatment.

After 21 days, the control (Benvet®) showed better results than the neem extract treatment in terms of Fecal Egg Count (FEC)

The Neem extract showed the better control of the parasites than all other herbal remedies
Pelleted feed made from Mulberry CARDI Barbados. (Photo: CARDI)

Summary of Additional Field-based Evaluations and Validation Trials Carried Out by CARDI and Partners, Under the APP:
Name of Trial: Climate Smart evaluation of local sweet potato varieties for tolerance to water stress
Crop: Sweet Potato
Country: Antigua and Barbuda
Name of Trial: Climate Smart evaluation of planting in High Rainfall Zones during the Dry Season
Crop: Sweet potato (Beauregard variety)
Country: St. Vincent
Name of Trial: Climate Smart evaluation of local cassava varieties for tolerance to low watering regimes
Crop: Cassava
Country: Trinidad and Tobago
Name of Trial: Climate change resilience evaluation of corn cultivars to select varieties that can tolerate water stress
Crop: Corn
Country: Belize
Name of Trial: Enhancing productivity in changing climatic conditions through appropriate plant nutrition and method of application in Taro (Dasheen)
Crop: Taro/Dasheen
Country: Dominica
Name of Trial: Evaluation of organic practices in tomato production in protected environments in Constanza
Crop: Tomato
Country: Dominican Republic

Feeding and Nutritive Value of Mulberry

Crude protein value in leaves: 15-28%, depending on growing conditions

Crude protein in edible biomass (leaf and young stem): 12 – 14%

Essential amino acids: 45% of total amino acids

Ash values (minerals): Up to 25%

Calcium: 2%

Potassium: 2 – 3%

Magnesium – 1%
Source: “Small ruminant management and feeding with high quality forages in the Caribbean”, IICA, I. Hernández and M. D. Sánchez, 2014

IDIAF Protected Agriculture Organic Tomato Evaluation Trials using 3 varieties of tomatoes, planted from seeds. The trial seeks to determine performance of varieties using organic production methods to reduce the high use of agri-chemicals in conventional tomato production in the main producing region of Constanza.

This is the last in a 4-part series of Thematic Features with a focus on Innovation & Technologies for Sustainable Farming Systems, produced under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action highlighting work under Component 2 – Applied Research and Development and Innovation in Farming Systems. The APP is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as Executing Agency and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as Implementing Partners.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

TF#9 CC and DRM

Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, with funding
by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF)
APP Thematic Feature No. 9 • November 2016


Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP)

APP Thematic Feature No. 9

Mainstreaming Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management in Agricultural Policy and Planning

Building Regional Institutional Capacity for managing Hazard Risks in the Agricultural Sector of the Caribbean.

Disaster risk now presents one of the most serious threats to sustainable agricultural development in the Caribbean and has implications for our food insecurity and national productivity. This creates significant setback potential for our efforts at poverty reduction.
The people of the Caribbean are determined and resilient. They have seen their fair share of tough times associated with low economic growth in struggling economies, high unemployment and socio-economic disruption and dislocation from the impact of natural hazards. Yet they always seem to bounce back. However, the increasing frequency and magnitude of hazard impacts, including those related to a changing and variable climate, demand more deliberate policy and action to manage risks in the agriculture sector.
According to the authors of a report on Disaster Risk Management and Climate Change Considerations in Agriculture sponsored by the Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP), Jeremy Collymore et al., “Caribbean experiences show that the negative and cumulative impacts of disasters erode livelihoods and coping capacities of the population over time, and in some cases erode or completely destroy productive land, destroy critical infrastructure and disrupt market access and trade.”
Building environmental resilience is therefore a strategic priority of the Caribbean Community Operational Plan. It recognizes the vulnerability of CARICOM States to hazard impacts, including those of climate change, and effects of these phenomena on the agricultural sector, especially the need to strengthen consideration for those effects within planning in the sector.
One such regional intervention is the Caribbean Action under the Agriculture Policy Programme (APP). This programme is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as the executing agency and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) as implementing partners.
A resilient people deserve a resilient food system and the APP and its implementing partners are keen to see that happen.

“Effects of climate change is an emerging issue for CARICOM Member States but little institutional experience is available to tackle such impacts”, says the Regional Analysis Report on disaster risk management (DRM) and climate change adaptation (CCA) in the agriculture sector. “Strategic planning for DRM and CCA is essential in order to diminish future impacts of natural hazards and improve the sustainability of the development processes.”
Understanding the problem, where we are at now and where we need to be, is the key to moving forward. This feature highlights the current vulnerability of the Caribbean agriculture sector to natural hazard impacts, the enhanced effect of climate change, the need to build DRM and CCA into agricultural planning, and the actions that need to be taken. An APP-supported study seeks to enhance understanding of the gaps in agricultural planning which can be filled in order to make the Caribbean more resilient to natural hazards and climate change.
A Vulnerable Region
“The specific characteristics of Caribbean island environments and histories condition the region’s sensitivity to climate risks”, say Pulwarty, Nurse and Trotz, the authors of an online article in Environment Magazine titled, “Caribbean Islands in a Changing Climate”. When categorized by the number of disaster events per unit area, small island states take up 19 of the 20 places most at risk. There have been an average of six significant hazard events in the Caribbean each year between 1970 and 2006. The specific characteristics of Caribbean island environments and histories condition the region’s sensitivity to climate risksSource: Caribbean Islands in a Changing Climate, Environment Magazine, Roger S. Pulwarty, Leonard A. Nurse and Ulric O. Trotz, December 2010.

In Dominica, banana farmers can tell you how Hurricane Dean in 2012 resulted in the loss of over 90% of their crops. Jamaican farmers can share how the same hurricane destroyed important food and cash crops such as cassava, corn, vegetables and cocoa. In 2005, floods in Guyana resulted in US $55 million damage to agriculture and in 2015 farmers across the Caribbean watched their crops wither and die due to the lack of rain.
Changing climate is also being evidenced in the Caribbean. In April of 2016, for the first time in recorded history, snow fell on the small island of Guadeloupe. In 2013, a “freak”, out of season storm caused by a Low Level Trough System, resulted in extensive damage to crops, livestock, fisheries, forests, roads and farm infrastructure in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Dominica and Saint Lucia. In 2011, a prolonged dry season followed by intense rain events led to flooding and destruction of crops, livestock and infrastructure in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.
The direct and specific costs and impact of climate change on the Region are hard to measure. There is no doubt that climate change exacerbates natural hazard impacts but it also has its own direct impacts. In the Caribbean today, nights are warming at a faster rate than days and the frequency of cool nights and days is decreasing. Warmer temperatures cause heat stress on exposed crops subjected to the intense heat of the Caribbean sun, as well as droughts and forest fires.
Shifting precipitation patterns due to climate change leave farmers at a loss to determine when it is best to plant and harvest, and how to prepare for changing farming conditions. Caribbean farmers, supported by the results of ongoing research, suggest that rainy seasons are arriving later and not lasting as long, causing later peaks and flowering of crops and longer droughts.
These are just a few of the effects of natural hazards, including climate change, on the Region. To be fair, many of these same things are happening in different locations around the world. However, there are several characteristics that make the Caribbean more vulnerable. Firstly, most countries in the Caribbean are surrounded by water. Warming seas and oceans generate more powerful storms. The low-lying coastal zones that are essential to the socioeconomic and environmental well-being of the countries are vulnerable to erosion and environmental damage under the effects of stronger storms and higher storm surges.
In addition, the Region is heavily dependent on rainfall for water resources. More than 50 percent of regional agriculture is rain-fed, so dealing with droughts is a significant challenge. Lastly, many countries in the Caribbean are generally lacking in adequate, well-developed infrastructure. This makes enduring impacts and recovering from them much longer and more challenging.Summary of the Impacts of Climatic Change for the CaribbeanProjected increase of the global air temperature by 1.5 – 2 degrees Celsius leading to:• Decreased length of the rainy season and increased length of the dry season by 6-8 percent by 2050• Increased Frequency of Intense Rains by 20 percent by 2050• Rise in sea levels of 30 to 50 cm by 2080• Increased intensity of the strongest hurricanesSource: “Caribbean Islands in a Changing Climate”, Environment Magazine, Roger S. Pulwarty, Leonard A. Nurse and Ulric O. Trotz, 2010

The importance of agriculture to the Region makes the impacts of climate change and natural hazards even more significant. This sector is often the hardest hit by these two elements, leading to destroyed or damaged crops. The loss of crops then has a domino effect, leading to a reduced food supply, less income for farmers, higher rural poverty and wider economic impacts. With agriculture making up 7% of the regional gross domestic product and 25% of its labour force, loss to the agricultural sector means loss to the entire regional economy.
A Volatile Pair
It is easy to understand the impact of both climate change and natural disasters on their own, but perhaps more difficult to understand why the APP has grouped them together in their initiative to create a resilient agriculture system.
That is because potential natural hazard impacts can be worsened by climate change and variability. There are several reasons. First, as the climate warms, so do the oceans. Warm oceans add power to tropical storms and hurricanes that commonly hit the Region.
Next, the warmer atmosphere causes sea levels to rise through expansion of water droplets and accelerated rates of melting ice. Heightened sea levels create higher surges during storms, causing flooding, increased erosion and salinization of fresh water sources.
These two factors, climate change and natural hazards, are the Bonnie and Clyde of the environment – a dangerous pair.
A Vigilant Response
The increased frequency and intensity of natural hazards, the growing impacts of climate change and the increasing vulnerability of the Caribbean and its agriculture highlight the immediate need to enhance DRM and CCA in the Region.
The APP and its implementing partners, have recognized the need to be proactive rather than reactive in their approach to these challenges. Through the policy-linked study under Component 1 of the programme, coupled with the field work undertaken by CARDI under Component 2, initiatives are being taken to sensitise, build resilience and strengthen the integration of DRM and CCA into agricultural plans, policies and strategies across CARICOM.
It is the need to strengthen resilience in agriculture, which prompted the APP to support the initiative to design a Regional Standardized Audit Instrument (SAI) aimed at assessing the status of the integration of CCA and DRM within the agricultural sector and provide a framework for taking action. The purpose of the audit instrument was four-fold. It was designed to:
Baseline the status of DRM and CCA integration into the agricultural sector

Promote an integrated DRM and CCA platform in the Ministries of Agriculture (MOA) that is strong, well-coordinated and systematic

Enhance the MOA’s DRM and CCA capabilities, knowledge and resources

Mobilize resources and strengthen partnerships that integrate Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) and CCA
Creation of the tool involved the initial identification of four possible frameworks for evaluation. Once the tools were evaluated and the best possible tool was chosen, the resultant SAI was split into eight thematic areas, or pillars, which were used to evaluate how the agricultural sectors in 11 CARICOM countries are addressing considerations of DRM and CCA. Twenty-seven critical, agricultural DRM and CCA issues are identified and 71 items, or indicators, are evaluated to determine an overall score for each country, and an average score for the Region.
Governance: This thematic area measured the institutional and technical capacity of a country for CCA and DRM in their planning and policy frameworks and coordination mechanisms at all levels of the agriculture sector, measuring items from integrated frameworks, aligned plans, information exchange, collaboration and management.

Risk Assessment and Monitoring: Assessing and monitoring risks and vulnerabilities was the focus of this area, along with a review of early warning systems.

Financial Capacity: In this area, the SAI measured a countries financial capacity for the development and implementation of DRM and CCA activities in the agricultural sector. It examined financial plans and budgets for resilience, contingency funds and credit, incentives and financing for key players in the agriculture industry and financing of agriculture DRM and CCA expenditures.

Risk Reduction: This pillar, or thematic area, looked at the initiatives and ability of countries to reduce hazards including climate related risks, and underlying vulnerabilities in crop, livestock, fishery, and forestry subsectors. It looked at the effective land use, building codes, standards and designs for farm buildings and the development and transfer of technologies that integrate CCA and DRM.

Monitoring and Protection: Identifying, monitoring and protecting critical ecosystem services that confer a disaster resilience benefit to the agriculture sector was the focus of this pillar.

Societal and Cultural Capacities: Sector employers, systems of engagement and grassroots organizations, such as farmers groups, NGOs and CBOs, were looked at under this thematic area in order to better understand the societal and cultural capacities for DRM and CCA activities in the agriculture sector.

Infrastructure Capacity: A focus on this pillar led to the assessment of the agriculture sector and sector dependent infrastructure capacity to cope with disasters that the sector might experience. It entailed a review of protective infrastructures, the food supply chain and administrative operations.

DRM and CCA Measures: The last thematic area dealt with the capacities and procedures for effective disaster preparedness, response and rehabilitation which included early warning systems, event management, equipment and supply needs, food, staple goods and fuel supply, inter-agency compatibility and post-even recovery planning.
Figure 1 below shows the average score assigned to the Region as a whole for each pillar.
The highest score that could be awarded in any thematic area was 5. Analysis and interpretation of the data was made easier by a definition of the four levels of attainment that could be awarded by the SAI.

Level 0.00 to 1.49 represented ‘Little to No Progress’.
Level 1.50 to 2.99 represented an ‘Awareness of Needs’.
Level 3.00 to 4.49 represented the ‘Development of Solutions’,
Greater than level 4.50 represented ‘Full Integration.”
A Vital Need
The APP supported audit exercise is just the beginning of a long road to promoting agricultural resiliency in light of climate change and natural hazards. Through this contribution, MoAs now have a benchmark as to where they are and how sufficient is their response in integrating DRM and CCA in their agricultural planning. Also, as noted in the consultant’s report, “it has raised many other issues related to programming focus, strategic capacity investments (prior and future), as well as to supporting processes of data capture, harnessing and evaluation for use in policy design and practice.”
The results obtained from the assessment of the integration of DRM and CCA considerations within the Agriculture Sector in CARICOM (Overall Regional Score of 1.88, Level 2) suggest that CARICOM is in the early stages of mainstreaming DRM and CCA in the agriculture sector. There is a growing level of awareness and understanding of the value and requirements of integration. There has been a recognition of the need for action and decisions for movement on these issues.
There exists a platform for advancing DRM and CCA integration in planning in the agriculture sector. To capitalize on this opportunity will require a retooling of the knowledge assessment and development processes, better harvesting and use of existing hazard and other data, better interfacing with the generators of risk profiling data and more application of their outputs.
The strongest areas of integration relate to capacity and systems for preparedness, response and recovery, ecosystems services management and enhancing of societal and cultural capacities. This is an interesting mix that appears to respond to hazard experience, small state issues and the increasing sensitivity to environmental threats to our development.
However, there is a noted dichotomy in the evidence of integration within CARICOM Member Countries with over 30 percent of the countries reporting indicating little or no progress at the integration of DRM and CCA in planning the agriculture sector. The study was not in a position to explain the extent to which this is related to the level of investment or outcomes of investment, although a number of contributing elements that categorize the status are noted the report.
An analysis of data from the SAI and other national documentation revealed that the status of CDM national architecture is generally a good indicator of the level of integration at the agricultural level. Additionally, it was noted that hazard experiences appear to have an indifferent relationship to what countries do to address institutional capacity building, invest in identified gaps or improve some of the immediate basic elements of the architecture related to response, relief and recovery for which there have been multiple experiences.
In addressing the specific thematic areas, the report points out that Governance is the 3rd lowest ranking of the eight pillars. This” suggests the need for prioritized investments in overall coordination infrastructure, skills and knowledge development. Given the central role of governance in the mainstreaming process it must be a priority area for attention and may call for a re-assessment of how resources are mobilized and prioritized.” The report also pointed out the lack of capacity for data capture, analysis and storing, which is vital in building successful resilience programmes.
In the area of Risk and Vulnerability Assessment and Monitoring, the biggest challenge will be applying a common tool for monitoring across the Region. This is because of the diversity in numbers and types of plans and risk management programmes across CARICOM Member states. Additionally, consultants found that many of the national plans were out of date in their consideration of risk ratings and structural vulnerability assessments were limited, and often irrelevant.

All nine countries analyzed also had weak Financial Capacity for DRM and CCA activities. During the analysis, the consultants found that financial plans had substantial gaps and insurance and risk transfer mechanisms for producers were limited. Contingency funds were available, and often found to be adequate, however the rules which applied to most would allow those resources to be diverted for other purposes. Clearly, a priority needs to be placed on financial support and proper resource use in this area.
When it comes to Reduction of Hazard, it appears that land zoning to prevent exposure and losses in crops, livestock, fisheries and forests is limited and building codes and design solutions for farm buildings are inadequate to properly address the physical challenges facing the Region. As noted in the report, “sector stakeholders will need to assertively add their voices to the call for more risk sensitive land use policies in their specific countries and the region in general.”
Additionally, the use of new technologies to address disasters and climate change is limited and inconsistent and the use of guidelines on settlements in hazard prone areas seems ineffective.
Identifying, Monitoring and Protecting Critical Ecosystems services seems to be an ad hoc activity in most countries, with little attempt to track the health of eco-systems over time. The importance of these types of activities will require a mindset change on the part of stakeholders across the board, which is a priority in the thematic area of Enhancing Societal and Cultural capacities for DRM and CCA Activities. However, with less than 50% of the farming and fishing communities covered by one-government body that addresses DRM and CCA, it is not an issue that is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.
There is a general lack of resilience planning carried out with, or for, many farming communities, as well as limited business continuity plans for recovery following a disaster. Before quality, effective resilience plans can be created, key stakeholders need to become informed and motivated as to the importance and value of such plans.
In the area of Assessing Agriculture Sector and Sector Dependent Infrastructure Capacity to Cope, consultants found that there are inadequate protective infrastructures, such as dams, levees and flood barriers, as well as inadequate maintenance of existing infrastructures. The food chain supply and administrative infrastructures are also vulnerable, but to varying degrees around the Region.

The Capacities and Procedures for Effective Disaster Preparedness, Response and Rehabilitation was the highest scoring pillar in the study but there is still a lot of work to be done in this area. Currently, early warning systems in place can reach 70-80% of the farming and fishing population, however that still leaves a 20% rate of vulnerability. There are emergency procedures and emergency operation centres however there is limited testing of plans and few annual drills. Emergency food supplies are planned however, they will only address a short window of time.
As noted in the consultant’s report, “given the frequency of impact of the sector by hazards and prior investment by FAO and others to support contingency planning, the results raise questions about sustainability of capacity and the mode and the adequacy of the support. More so, the agriculture sector of many of these countries has been repeatedly impacted. It begs the question as to whether this is a matter of not learning from lessons identified, a commitment issue or a combination of these.”
Though the SAI could not identify why countries were not sufficiently responding to these issues, a few interesting observations were made when analyzing the data and examining national Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) plans outside of agriculture.
First, the national CDM plan was usually a fair predictor of the integration of DRM into national agricultural plans. Second, hazard experiences, no matter how significant, didn’t seem to increase a countries commitment to capacity building or investment to fill identified gaps in relation to response, relief and recovery. As expected, the scores of the countries with a higher level of per capita income reflect a greater readiness to respond to disasters and climate change. Unfortunately though, it is those countries that have the lowest agricultural contribution to GDP. Conversely, those countries with the lowest income per capita and the highest agricultural contribution to GDP, have the lowest scores.
In their recommendations following the DRM and CCA Agricultural Consultancy, consultants noted their belief that “programmatic elements alone will not generate the systematic change necessary to alter a sector trajectory of repeated loss and disruption to farming systems, livelihoods, communities and national economies.” They felt strongly that actions needed to focus on regional collaboration and broad goals for resilient agriculture, supported by agreed frameworks, standards and knowledge products. They also highlighted the importance of educational and research institutions, as well as the private sector in creating and delivering the products and services that will be required for success.
“Finally”, the report states, “Agriculture DRM and CCA should be elevated to the highest level of development priority in the CARICOM Region. Given the vulnerability of countries in the region to natural hazards and the fact that natural hazards are likely to increase in intensity and frequency, this should be an urgent priority for governments, civil society and regional organizations in the Caribbean.”
In light of this reality, consultants recommended some priority actions at the conclusion of their report.
The Four Areas and Priorities for Action to Address CC and DRM in the Caribbean are as follows:
Institutional and Technical Capacity for DRM and CCA in Agriculture: The priority actions in this area should include strengthening of the framework for institutional collaboration between the various stakeholder involved in agriculture DRM and CCA measures in the Caribbean; consolidated efforts to harmonize the work of the sector partners in DRM and the interface with the CDM monitoring framework to accommodate the generation of data from this exercise; and, a review of how and where the agriculture sector is reflected in Regional Strategic Frameworks for Comprehensive Risk Management, Resilient Development and Sustainable Development in order to move toward a stronger infrastructure for risk management.

Financial capacity to support identified DRM and CCA priorities: The priority actions in the area should include, support for regional capacity building in incorporating risk financing in the budget planning cycle of the ministry of agriculture and other key sector stakeholders; promotion of a model suite of incentives for encouraging DRM and CCA integration in the agriculture sector; and, a review of risk transfer programmes in the Caribbean and the sharing of a good practices guide.

Enhanced Capacity for Comprehensive Risk Management: The priority actions in this area should focus on improving climate risk and vulnerability assessment tools and methods; the creation of climate information products and early warning systems that are customized to the needs of farmers; and, develop a ‘good practices’ database and provide training on the same at MOAs, colleges and vocational schools.

Establishment of a Platform for Sustaining the Initiative: The priority actions in this area should focus on tools standardization, evidence and needs driven programme development, resource mobilization and articulation of criteria for centers of excellence.
See also:
C1 Tech Feature #10: ‘Building Regional Commodity-based Industries – Considerations for Agricultural Policy and Planning’
C1 Tech Feature #11: ‘Moving ‘Local’ Food within the Region – Part 1: Connecting the Region through Better Logistics’
C1 Tech Feature #12: ‘Moving ‘Local’ Food within the Region – Part 2: Breaking Down Non-tariff Barriers’
Conceptual representation of the shift in the probability distribution for average and extreme temperatures as a result of global warming. (Source: Extreme Weather and Climate Change: Understanding the Link and Managing the Risk, Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Daniel Huber, Jay Gulledge, December 2011.
Destructive Impacts of Hurricane Earl (August 2016) on an-APP Climate Smart Evaluation Trial for Water Stress in Corn (Maize), Belize
(Photo: CARDI)

According to the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, managing risk occurs through “systematic efforts to analyse and reduce the causal factors of disasters. Reducing exposure to hazards, lessening vulnerability of people and property, wise management of land and the environment, and improving preparedness and early warning for adverse events.”

Over 30% of CARICOM Member States reported little or no progress with integrating DRM and CCA planning in the agriculture sector
Hurricane Omar hits the Caribbean in 2008. (Photo: APP)
Dealing with the after effects of Hurricane Matthew in Haiti, 2016.
(Photo: IICA Haiti)

This is the first in a 4-part series of Thematic Features with a focus on key areas for a regional policy response, produced under the Agricultural Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, highlighting work under Component 1 – Strengthening Regional Policy and Strategy. The APP is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as Executing Agency and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as Implementing Partners.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

TF#10 Transportation

Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, with funding
by the European Union under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF)
APP Thematic Feature No. 10 • December 2016


Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP)

APP Thematic Feature No. 10

Moving ‘Local’ Food within the Region Part One: Connecting the Region

Improving Transportation Information, Infrastructure, Procedures and Logistics; the Life Blood of Agricultural Trade within CARICOM

“Transportation can be likened to the blood that carries oxygen to the body”, says Dr. Patrick Antoine, Lead Consultant for an APP-supported study to assess business facilitation mechanisms for intra-regional trade. “No blood, no oxygen, no life.”
Transportation is indeed the life blood of trade among CARICOM Member States. A quick walk-through supermarkets and a scan of retail and wholesale sectors in all countries of the Region provides evidence of how vital trade is within and between the Region and the rest of the world. There is trade is in almost everything, from water, paper and bread to other assorted foods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals; virtually ‘everything but arms’.

As essential as trade is to development, one aspect that continues to be very concerning is that trade in the Region is disproportional. Data indicates that a much wider basket of goods come into the Region, than the Region sends out to the rest of the world; and, a much narrower basket of regional goods is traded within the Region. This is even more concerning for products from the agriculture sector and food industries in the Caribbean. Trade statistics reveal that a significant share of certain agriculture and food products imported into the Region can be competitively produced and traded within the Region itself. This is especially true for fresh agricultural produce and processed products from many small and medium sized agri-businesses.
There are several constraints that contribute to this problem. One of the largest contributors though is that the supply of any one product is not sufficient to attract and sustain vibrant inter-regional trade. As a result, transportation logistics – both the physical vessels and the administrative systems that go along with it – are often too expensive to the small scale producers and exporters of these products.
Farmers and agro-processors need efficient and transportation logistics to participate effectively in trade, accessing local, regional and global markets either through their own efforts, or through an exporter. They also rely on the transportation system to get agricultural inputs for their farming and processing operations. “For vibrant agri-food system trade, an efficient system for intra-regional transportation and distribution is critical”, says Antoine.
Conscious that transportation services delivered in CARICOM must be made to address intra-regional trade, at the Thirty-Fourth Meeting in July 2013, the Conference of Heads of Government agreed to the urgent establishment of a Transportation Commission to address air and maritime transportation matters. The issues noted for attention included (a) delivery of adequate, fair, competitive and efficient transportation services at affordable costs, and (b) cost and sustainability of transportation in the Region.
This feature highlights the absolute importance of resolving the issue of efficient transportation logistics in order to connect the Region, stimulating Caribbean agri-business and supporting vibrant intra-regional trade in agricultural products. It clarifies the root of the transportation problem, and summarises the recommendations for addressing this issue, as laid out in the business facilitation mechanisms study carried out as part of the CARICOM Secretariat’s responsibility under the Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action.
Evidence of a Problem
Waste of agricultural produce in the Caribbean will continue due to poor transportation in the Region, admitted Lystra Fletcher-Paul, the acting sub-regional coordinator for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). She was speaking at the opening of an Agricultural Trade and Transport Seminar, which was part of the Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) in October of 2016.
The purpose of the seminar was to provide government and private sector policymakers with recommendations on actions that can be taken to improve the situation. According to the World Bank, between one quarter and one third of all food produced for human consumption in developing countries is lost due to insufficient production, storage or transport.
Spoilage of good food is heartbreaking in a Region where there is a food import bill of approximately US $5 billion annually and over 21% of the population is living below the poverty line. If concerted action is not taken to fix the system, with the anticipated increase in demand for food in the Caribbean, these numbers will only continue to rise.
“In much the same manner that we ascribe a condition termed ‘anemia’ to circumstances where the blood suffers from deficiencies in the oxygen-carrying ability of hemoglobin, so too does sub-optimal transportation and distribution cause CARIFORUM agri-food sectors to suffer from an inability to move intermediate inputs and final products among the countries effectively. Improving the performance of CARIFORUM agri-food sectors”, says Antoine, “requires that we address the factors that cause this ‘transportation anemia’.”
This diagnosis has been a long-standing issue for governments, development organizations and the private sector in the Region, one which has been subject to several meetings, workshops and studies. The CARICOM Regional Transportation Commission has identified the development of air and maritime transport infrastructure and services, to improve reliability, accessibility, efficiency, mobility, safety and security for the agricultural sector, as an important aspect of the transportation sector given its propensity to build competitiveness and unleash key economic drivers to transition to growth. Agriculture is one of these key economic drivers for the Region.

Symptoms and Sources of the Problem
In discussing agricultural transportation in the Region, it is important to understand that the issue goes deeper than just the lack of a readily available boat or truck to move produce. Good transportation systems include affordable options with good handling practices, dedicated and maintained trade routes, appropriate vehicles, and cooling and storage facilities along the way.
According to Stephen R. Harris in the FAO article, “Production is only half the battle”, there are a few principles that should govern every step of the transportation process in order to reduce post-harvest losses:

Loading and unloading should be as careful as possible

Transmit times should be as short as possible

Products should be well-protected in relation to their sus­ceptibility to physical injury

Jolting and movement should be reduced as much as pos­sible

Overheating should be avoided

Water loss by produce should be restricted and,

The required conditions of preservation should be obtained and maintained constantly regarding, in particular, tem­perature, relative humidity and air circulation
If you have ever driven down a dusty, rural road in the back of a truck on a hot Caribbean day, you can imagine how difficult it is to meet these standards for just local transport. Challenges present themselves along the entire journey from farm to local market, or farm to port for intra-regional trade and export.
Given that the value chain approach is a promoted agricultural strategy for the Caribbean, it is worth reminding that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. In developing agri-value chains in the Region, transportation is certainly a weak link, but not just for the intra-regional movement of produce. It is also a problem for the movement of goods within countries. To begin with, agricultural produce is grown by a large number of small farmers in dispersed locations, some limited by inadequate access roads. Next, getting a broker or shipping company to pick up small shipments from rural locations around the country adds to the final cost of the produce. So, for fresh produce trade, consolidating supply within country is the first hurdle.

This hurdle could be tackled by addressing internal connectivity for efficient transportation logistics. This service is usually done by local ‘hucksters’ or ‘higglers’ who buy directly from farmers for trade. However then, even if a collection or consolidation point is available and presents an affordable option, transportation of produce to port may lack the required cooling amenities and offer limited protection to the produce during travel. This problem is also being addressed through efforts to improve post-harvest handling, such as, improved crates to minimise damage during transport and even locating pack-houses within close proximity to key production zones.
At port, fresh produce ready for export must overcome another set of hurdles. A 2012 study from the Caribbean Development Bank examined the efficiency of Caribbean ports based on seven factors. It noted major bottlenecks for the movement of goods in the areas of: the institutional framework of ports, where operations are constrained by government control; limited nautical accessibility; the state of port infrastructure, which is often outdated and inefficient; the lack of proper equipment; and, the lack of integrated IT systems that are needed to provide users with up to date information and give port managers insight into operational needs and processes.
All of these problems result in the insufficient and inefficient handling and processing of agricultural produce for trade. The outcomes are increased costs, post-harvest damage, spoilage, abandoned shipments and the loss of trust by producers, limiting their motivation to increase production.
However, shippers will often say that the problem restricting intra-regional trade is not a transportation problem but rather a production problem. They are frustrated by what they see as inconsistent and insufficient levels of production to support a better transportation system. In her comments at the CWA 2016 Agricultural Trade and Transport Seminar, Nisa Surujbally, Agricultural Development Programme Manager at the CARICOM Secretariat, noted the historical roots of this problem. During the colonial era, the most attention was paid to logistics for traditional commodities such as rice, bananas and sugar, all of which were, for the most part, destined for European markets.
“They had everything well mapped out. There was an assured market with good prices and a full infrastructure was developed,” she said. “Other crops didn’t have the same level of institutional and infrastructural support and policy support to address the constraints.”
Clearly, this problem isn’t just one-sided. Producers need to be confident of fair prices, a good market and sufficient transportation in order to produce more, and shippers need to be assured of a sufficient volume of product in order to make dedicated shipping routes viable and profitable. This is why any improvements to Caribbean transportation need to address a reliable supply capacity as well as logistics.
According to, Logistics are the “planning, execution, and control of the procurement, movement, and stationing of personnel, material, and other resources.” It may also be defined as “the management of inventory in motion and at rest.”
For efficient agri-intra regional trade, organising and connecting producers, buyers, exporters and shippers in order to ensure sufficient supplies and efficient services will require linkages through information technology systems, as well as a commitment from all parties to keep these systems up to date and above board. These efforts must be complemented by enabling national and regional policy. “Parliamentarians need to provide political leadership, appropriate legislation, and consistent financing,” said a one-page recommendation document developed by the FAO after the CWA 2016 Trade and Transport seminar.
Tackling the Problem
To complement past and ongoing efforts to tackle the issue by the CARICOM Heads of Government, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), the Port Management Association of the Caribbean (PMAC) and others, the Caribbean Action under the Agriculture Policy Programme (APP), under its policy component, funded a study to assess business facilitation mechanisms for intra-regional trade. Transportation was one of the two areas of focus.
The APP is a programme funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF), with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as the executing agency and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) as implementing partners. The main objective of the APP is “to contribute to enhanced regional (Caribbean and Pacific) and interregional capabilities of the agricultural sectors in eradicating poverty.” The specific objective is “to increase the capability of Regional Agricultural Development Organizations, in the Caribbean and Pacific Regions, to address the development needs of smallholder agriculture.”
The Business Facilitation Mechanisms (BFM) study sought to clarify the key issues relating to transportation operations and logistics and to provide recommendations for moving forward. After identifying challenges faced by the main stakeholders across various points in the transportation value chain, and estimating the market for future transport and logistics services, the BFM report builds on the CARICOM Secretariat’s thrust towards a “corridors approach” to tackling the intra-regional trade transportation logistics problem. This approach not only addresses the physical routes and dimensions of transportation but it also addresses the functional dimensions of the system. Logistics are the “planning, execution, and control of the procurement, movement, and stationing of personnel, material, and other resources.” It may also be defined as “the management of inventory in motion and at rest.” Source:

The development path for corridor transformation, as noted in the BFM report, is described and illustrated below:
Transport Corridors: Addresses the development of quality, reliable physical structures which support efficient transportation linkages in the areas of time, cost and environmental impact.
Logistics Corridors: Revolves around the “logistical, technological, organizational and legal preconditions for transportation including streamlining storage; warehousing; trucking; insurance and freight management procedures; implementing cross-border trade agreements; simplifying, standardizing and harmonizing immigration and quarantine procedures; promoting information and communication technologies; and logistics hub services.” In short, logistics development would aim to improve the movement and storage of freight and related information.
Trade Corridors: Focuses on streamlined and simplified trade and customs procedures and policies. The FAO cites examples of barriers which are addressed in attempting to establish trade corridors, including: “incompatible customs information technologies; the absence or inadequacy of transnational legislation; operational obstacles stemming from mixed transport, freight and custom regulations; and incomplete networks of cross-border links.”
Economic Corridors: Emphasizes the creation and growth of investment opportunities and economic activities along an identified area.
Growth Corridors: Concentrates on transformative economic, social, cultural and environmental investments in development corridors.
Each of the stages of corridor transformation will need to be addressed for maritime, air and land transportation in the Caribbean. The BFM study provides an analysis of these three transportation options, in relation to agricultural trade, to assess: current use of the corridors and means of transportation, for example liner shipping or small schooner vessels; current goods being shipped and the environment required for ideal movement of these goods; common current routes and travel times, with identification of the busiest corridors; current global and regional hubs and ports of service; port efficiency, capacity and warehousing; and, current transportation service providers and freight rates.
This information was then used to identify particular priority corridors for the Region. As noted in the BFM report, the aim was to “integrate the network of competitive advantages of each Member State and neighboring hemispheric trading partners, but which are marked by untapped growth potential.”
The three primary corridors identified by the BFM Study for the CARICOM Region are noted below:
Corridor One: Southern Corridor with Trinidad as the hub
Corridor Two: Eastern Caribbean Corridor with Barbados as the hub
Corridor Three: North-South Corridor with Miami as the hub
Corridor One: Southern Corridor with Trinidad as the Hub
Trinidad is well-positioned to become a regional trans-shipment hub and is identified in the BFM report as a “logical first option” for several reasons. As noted in the BFM report, Trinidad has “economies of scale derived from concentration of demand, and natural advantages such as, the country’s strong industrial and manufacturing base, low energy prices, relatively large population size, and a large number of consolidators and distributors.” These are all competitive advantages which can be leveraged as a platform for boosting intra-regional trade flows.
Additionally, the port in Port of Spain scores relatively high on efficiency with good port capacity, operational practices and infrastructure endowments and a reliable logistics chain. It is also the third most connected port in the Region after Bahamas and Jamaica, which serve as hubs for the Americas. Trinidad, however, more effectively serves as a sub-regional hub for many of the adjacent CARICOM countries.
This southern corridor includes two sub-corridors: Trinidad to Guyana and Suriname; and Trinidad to Barbados, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.
Corridor 2: Eastern Caribbean Corridor with Barbados as Hub
Barbados emerges as the next logical selection for undertaking a hub role in the Region due to its nearness to neighbouring countries. This will shorten transit times and enable earlier cargo availability at the end destination. Also, recent infrastructure upgrades at the port have improved the efficiency of port operations. The port also possesses a dedicated mooring for inter-island cargo vessels and is the only port in the Region presently providing cold storage services. These services will allow for the consolidation of produce from the smaller Caribbean islands in order to achieve economies of scale.
Corridor 3: North-South Corridor with Miami as Hub
The final corridor noted for attention in the BFM report is already active and fairly well developed North-South corridor, which uses Miami as a hub. From this hub goods from the Caribbean can be shipped to a clearinghouse that performs the duties of consolidation and de-consolidation after which products can be sent out to the islands for better rates due to amalgamation of goods. Currently, the infrastructure in Miami is good and the majority of regional carriers are already based there. This will limit the investment required to support this hub.
With these areas and stages of corridor transformation in mind, the BFM study report outlines several priority areas for reform to the Caribbean agri-transport value chain.
Maritime Sector and Port Reform
A focus has been placed on maritime transportation due to the largely archipelagic nature of the countries and territories constituting CARICOM. As noted in the 2009 paper ‘Maritime sector and ports in the Caribbean: the case of CARICOM Countries’, “in terms of volume and value, maritime transport is the most important freight transport mode.” That same paper noted that across the Region and the various industries combined, maritime transport was used for 89% of goods traded, with air and other modes of transportation falling far behind.
Develop a regional maritime policy to improve the transport market structure.
A major focus of a regional maritime policy should, as noted in the report, address merger control procedures and identify a reliable authority to oversee mergers and acquisitions which can often price small and medium-sized enterprises out of the market due to increases in transportation costs or decreases in transportation services.
Regulatory Reform
Establish regional guidelines on post-harvest handling of perishable produce to reduce product losses.
Recommendations in this area address the importance of preserving the appearance and quality of fresh produce en-route via air, land and sea. This requires standardising guidelines and regulations for expected shelf life and perishability, temperature, humidity and transit time requirements, transport unit design and hygiene, loading and offloading patterns, conditions and equipment, packaging, including good quality pallets and correct use of packing materials, as well the compatibility or incompatibility of transporting mixed loads of agricultural produce so as to preclude cross-contamination or cause unwelcome changes in odour or colour.
Revise regional port tariff structures to encourage interisland less-than-container-load (LCL) cargo trade.
The BFM study report concluded that: “Port tariffs that charge for inter-island containerized LCL cargo based on weight or measure, instead of by the container load, would enable small and medium-sized traders to enjoy the ability to ship cargo in volumes that are too small to fill an entire container, removing the burden of bearing the cost of shipping exclusive container loads or bearing the delays to achieve optimal stow”. These changes would encourage intra-regional trade by reducing costs and wait times associated with shipping containerised goods.
Improve cold chain logistics.
These measures should see to the provision of cool storage and special areas for handling at seaports and airports. Recommendations also include the establishment of “post-harvest cooling equipment to lower the temperature of agricultural products and livestock ahead of shipping in non-refrigerated transport.”
Physical Infrastructure
Develop indicators to improve port efficiency.
These indicators should address the ability of port handling facilities and operations to adequately respond to the needs of the food and agriculture sectors, in particular, to minimize food losses and improve food safety during transport.
Regulation and Development of Logistics Services
Expand development of LCL cargo services to improve supply-side logistics.
Consolidating service to and from the smaller islands of CARICOM through the use of a robust logistics system will help “add economies of scale and service reliability to agriculture transport and trade beyond that which regional volumes will permit”, states the BFM study report. “The expansion of the market for specialist LCL freight consolidators catering particularly to small- and medium-sized traders can thus help correct the misalignment between supply and demand for LCL services. This involves, for example, the use of local 3rd party logistics providers (3PL) who would consolidate multiple smaller shipments at their warehouse and present them to liner companies to ship as full containers in the usual manner.” The process would be managed through the use of information and communication technologies.The single-window system facilitates cross-border trading by allowing traders to submit regulatory documents at a single location or through a single entity.

Develop logistics zones to generate economies of scale across the agro-supply chain.
Creating hubs in the regional supply chain would allow small and medium-sized enterprises to amalgamate their shipments in a central location addressing issues of shipment size and cost. Further agricultural extension services should be offered in these logistic zones that include cargo-handling functions, storage operations with cooling, refrigeration and freezing facilities and further value-added functions such as sorting, cleaning, grading, cutting, packing, labelling, traceability, and quality control.
Customs and Border Reform
Expand single window schemes.
Further developing electronic platforms to streamline customs processes will reduce the time and costs required to support cross border trade.
Standardise customs procedures across the Region.
By harmonising and standardising customs procedures at ports across the Region traders will be prepared in advance to meet the requirements of exit and entry further reducing wait times, improper preparations and costs. Actions of standardisation will also lessen the ambiguity and subjectivity with which regulations are often applied and enforced.
“For the body to be healthy and vibrant, it is necessary to ensure that there exists an efficient system of transportation for oxygen to all of the organs,” says Dr. Antoine, “So too, for a vibrant agri-food trade system.” The Member States of CARICOM, as outlined in the vision for CARICOM and the CARICOM Single Market Economy, will benefit greatly when acting as one body supported by a strengthened transportation value chain.
“Forging greater distributional links through the operationalization of transport corridors between CARICOM Member States would serve to strengthen intra-regional trade flows, connecting local markets to regional markets, and in the case of agriculture, connecting current and future surplus agricultural production areas with deficit areas”, states the BFM study report. “This holds tremendous potential to satisfy domestic market demand, reduce the regional food import bill, and simultaneously address food and nutrition security concerns that are increasingly endemic to the Region.”
See also:
TF #9: Mainstreaming Climate Change and Disaster Risk Management in Agricultural Policy and Planning (November 2016)
TF #11: Moving Local Food Within The Region – Part Two: Breaking Down Non-Tariff Barriers (December 2016)
TF #12: Re-Building Regional Commodity-Based Industries (December 2016)

Seven Indicators to Measure Port Efficiency Used by the Caribbean Development Bank
Berth productivity

Labour productivity

Quality of infrastructure

Nautical accessibility

Equipment type

IT systems used in port operations

Level of autonomy of the port operator

Main Transport and Logistics Impediments to Import
as Reported by Traders

Potential Development Path for Corridors
Source: Adapted from FAO, 201

This is the second in a 4-part series of Thematic Features with a focus on key areas for a regional policy response, produced under the Agriculture Policy Programme (APP) Caribbean Action, highlighting work under Component 1 – Strengthening Regional Policy and Strategy. The APP is funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) as Executing Agency and the CARICOM Secretariat (CCS) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) as Implementing Partners.
This document has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The views expressed herein can in no way be taken to reflect the official opinion of the European Union.

TF#11 Non-tariff Barriers

The feature focuses specifically on the issues of removing or reducing non-tariff barriers and harmonizing trade policies and procedures across the Region, as recommended in a study carried out as part of the Caribbean Action under the Agriculture Policy Programme (APP). Such actions have the potential to open up intra-regional trade and provide more food for people’s tables; to put more money in the pocket of producers and keep more money in the pockets of consumers.