The Caribbean is being warned to get policies right in order to attract more investment and participation from young people in the agriculture sector to ensure food security.
This advice has come from senior coordinator and lead specialist on Climate Change and Agriculture at the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) Oluyede Ajayi.
He told Barbados TODAY that while there were many ways to ensure food production was ramped up and food security was guaranteed, a key component was putting the right policies in place.
“Get the policies right to encourage private sector investment in agriculture in the region so that we can get fresh fruits and so forth. Private sector operators are risk takers. They want of course to go into agriculture, they want to invest, but they want to make sure they are investing where they can get a return. And for that you need a stable policy environment, a coherent policy that encourages investment in agriculture. That is essential,” he explained.
He said authorities needed to also do everything possible to minimize post harvest losses, pointing out that estimates showed that it could reach as high as 30 per cent.
“Thirdly, make agriculture encouraging for farmers, make it profitable for farmers through the various fiscal administrative policies,” he said.
Pointing to the thousands of university graduates each year, he said it was also important that policymakers look for ways to better encourage school leavers to get involved in the sector at various levels.
He said the use of information and communication technology was a key component of getting the youth involved in the sector.
“There are so many levels that the youth can engage themselves in. Agriculture can potentially absorb the youth,” said Ajayi.
He said Barbados could look at best practices from around the world, adding that there were countries that have already created “enabling policies” and use public funds to leverage some private investment to kick-start investment in agriculture.
The agriculture official said it was understood that the sector attracted varying degree of risks including that of heavy rainfall and drought, and it was therefore important that governments find ways to “shield farmers and people who invest”.
“There are some policies that can be used to protect and support them at the beginning of their investment,” he pointed out.
With access to funding being cited as one of the major challenges facing farmers in the region mainly because of the procedures involved, Ajayi said famers could form alliances to access available international financing, while governments should create policies to encourage investment from the local private sector community.
“Sometimes it is very difficult for farmers but then how can they come together as a group so they can apply for this funding? Secondly, there are some domestic resources that can be found within the country. You have to encourage private investment in agriculture. So I think it has to be both international and domestic,” he explained.