Ja­maica needs a man­age­ment plan

Jamaica Gleaner - - WORLD FOOD DAY - Christo­pher Serju Gleaner Writer christo­pher.serju@glean­erjm.com

TO­DAY MARKS 71 years since rep­re­sen­ta­tives of 42 coun­tries gath­ered in Que­bec, Canada, to for­mally launch the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­ga­ni­za­tion (FAO) of the United Na­tions, with a man­date to end world hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion, in the process ef­fec­tively man­ag­ing the global food sys­tem. Each year, on Oc­to­ber 16, the FAO ob­serves World Food Day in more than 150 coun­tries, com­mem­o­rat­ing that 1945 mile­stone which is now one of the most cel­e­brated days on the United Na­tions’ cal­en­dar. The var­i­ous events pro­mote aware­ness and ac­tion for those who suf­fer from hunger as well as the need to en­sure food se­cu­rity and nu­tri­tious di­ets for ev­ery­one.

This year, ac­tiv­i­ties in Ja­maica, or­gan­ised in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Min­istry of In­dus­try, Com­merce, Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries, took place on Fri­day at the Col­lege of Agri­cul­ture, Sci­ence and Ed­u­ca­tion in Pass­ley Gardens, Port­land.

Much has changed since its in­cep­tion and in sig­nif­i­cant ways, a fact ac­knowl­edged by this year’s theme ‘Cli­mate is Chang­ing. Food and Agri­cul­ture Must Too’. And so while the mes­sage and meth­ods may have been al­tered over time, al­low­ing for dif­fer­ences re­lat­ing to ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy, as well as lan­guage and cul­ture in the coun­tries where it op­er­ates, the or­gan­i­sa­tion has re­mained stead­fast in its mis­sion.


Dr Jerome Thomas, coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive for Ja­maica, Belize and The Ba­hamas since 2010, re­calls that the FAO orig­i­nally fo­cused its tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance mainly in the ar­eas of agri­cul­ture, fish­eries, forestry and the en­vi­ron­ment.

“Cer­tainly, in the last cou­ple of years our man­date has been widened and so the fo­cus is on mak­ing a world free from hunger and mal­nu­tri­tion – in its widest form. So whereas six years ago we worked pri­mar­ily with the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture, we now have a project look­ing at a school-feed­ing pro­gramme. So we are work­ing with the Min­istry of Ed­u­ca­tion and also link­ing with the Min­istry of Health,” Thomas told The Sun­day Gleaner.

“We also have a project look­ing on the first thou­sand days of life. So, for ex­am­ple, at the breast­feed­ing launch this year and last year, FAO was in­vited to par­tic­i­pate and bring re­marks. So those have been some fundamental changes.”

Ja­maica joined the FAO in 1963, a year af­ter gain­ing po­lit­i­cal in­de­pen­dence from Bri­tain, and in 1979 they opened an of­fice here. Over the years, it has part­nered with the small is­land state in projects de­signed to foster and achieve sus­tain­able agri­cul­tural and ru­ral de­vel­op­ment, mainly through tech­ni­cal co­op­er­a­tion projects. In­ter­ven­tions have ranged from pol­icy formulation to tech­ni­cal agri­cul­tural de­vel­op­ment and emer­gency as­sis­tance projects. Co­op­er­a­tion to­day in­cludes a strong fo­cus on food and nu­tri­tion se­cu­rity in ur­ban pop­u­la­tions as well as the ru­ral sec­tor.

FAO’s strong pres­ence and ac­tive Per­ma­nent Sec­re­tary in the Min­istry of In­dus­try, Com­merce, Agri­cul­ture and Fish­eries Regi­nald Bud­han (right) ad­mires a root of cas­sava at the booth of the Ru­ral Agri­cul­tural De­vel­op­ment Author­ity, set up at the Col­lege of Agri­cul­ture, Sci­ence and Ed­u­ca­tion (CASE) in Port­land on Oc­to­ber 14, in ob­ser­vance of World Food Day. Oth­ers (from left) are: Pres­i­dent of CASE Dr Der­rick Des­lan­des, and the Food and Agri­cul­ture Or­gan­i­sa­tion Rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Ja­maica, Dr Jerome Thomas.

par­tic­i­pa­tion in Ja­maica has, how­ever, led to mis­un­der­stand­ing about the role of the United Na­tions agency, ac­cord­ing to Thomas.


“A lot of peo­ple, I think, as­sume FAO is a fund­ing or­gan­i­sa­tion. They call and ask, ‘Can you spon­sor this, can you spon­sor that’, and not only just the av­er­age per­son, but even at the min­is­te­rial level. So we have to keep say­ing we are a tech­ni­cal or­gan­i­sa­tion, we pro­vide tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance in ar­eas where tech­ni­cal gaps have been iden­ti­fied,” he ex­plained.

The coun­try rep­re­sen­ta­tive con­tin­ued: “For ex­am­ple, the Govern­ment is pro­mot­ing en­hanc­ing the pro­duc­tion of onions to re­place sig­nif­i­cantly, if not to re­place a hun­dred per cent, of the im­por­ta­tion, but there is a pest called the beet army

worm which has the po­ten­tial of de­stroy­ing any onion crop. It is a ma­jor chal­lenge to scal­lion, and onion be­ing the same fam­ily, is also vul­ner­a­ble. So the Govern­ment or the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture would need to de­velop a man­age­ment prac­tice that could at least con­trol, if not elim­i­nate, the beet army worm when it does sur­face.

“So when they looked at that, they need to de­velop a man­age­ment plan. How­ever, all the re­sources, ca­pa­bil­ity, the tech­ni­cal knowl­edge do not re­side in Ja­maica. So there is a gap to de­velop a man­age­ment plan to con­trol the pest. So that’s where the FAO comes in – you iden­tify a tech­ni­cal gap and we then would come in and fill that tech­ni­cal gap be­cause we have the abil­ity. Any­where in the world the tech­ni­cal re­source is avail­able we can ac­cess it. So we’ll bring it in and work with the lo­cal sci­en­tists and other stake­hold­ers, as is nec­es­sary.”

In this case, the FAO worked with sci­en­tists in the agri­cul­ture min­istry sta­tioned at its Bo­dles Re­search Sta­tion in St Cather­ine to de­velop a man­age­ment plan for the beet army worm. It in­volved a fore­cast­ing com­po­nent linked to the ideal en­vi­ron­men­tal con­di­tions un­der which the beet army worm is not only likely to resur­face but to thrive as well, ac­cord­ing Thomas.

“They can then fore­cast to farm­ers that lis­ten, the con­di­tions are gonna be such that you need to start im­ple­ment­ing the man­age­ment prac­tice, and if the farm­ers go and do it on a timely ba­sis, then it is likely to re­duce the preva­lence of the pest. But it is the skill of the farmer to re­spond, be­cause even if you get the in­for­ma­tion and you don’t re­spond timely, then you could still suf­fer ex­ten­sive losses. We did that with cit­rus green­ing, we are

now do­ing that with sea cu­cum­ber, and it’s hap­pen­ing now with the prob­lem with the co­coa (frosty pod rot),” he pointed out.

“In pro­vid­ing tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance, though, there is a dol­lar value and we do pro­vide in­puts when pro­vid­ing tech­ni­cal as­sis­tance. So, for ex­am­ple, with the cit­rus green­ing there was need to up­grade the green­houses, the in­fra­struc­ture, so we as­sisted in that. There was a need to en­hance their abil­ity to do tis­sue cul­ture, so you needed cer­tain equip­ment at Bo­dles. So if Bo­dles needs a green­house, we don’t re­spond to that – that’s fund­ing. But if in ad­dress­ing the tech­ni­cal gap, there is need for a green­house to be used, then the project can sup­port that. So that is what is crit­i­cal in un­der­stand­ing how FAO can pro­vide as­sis­tance.”

Dr Jerome Thomas

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