FAO PROJECT SUPPORTS FEMALE FARMERS
Every year since 1992, the United Nation had declared 22nd March as “World Water Day”. We can all agree that Water affectionately called H2O is a vital commodity for life and is essential for every living thing on this planet.
This year’s theme “2023 Accelerating Change”. Most if not all, can concur to the fact that WATER is a precious and scarce necessity. Therefore, this year’s focus is on fostering change in the mindset of many. Foster a change of responsible usage, less wastage, conservation and more storing.
In recent month the Ministry of Agriculture and its partners such as IICA, CARDI and FAO embarked on the quest of a water conservation drive which has several components that include rainwater harvesting, drip/sub-surface irrigation and pond restoration. The ministry’s most direct involvement is that of the ponds and is happy for the success great reviews received from farmers, schools and the general public.
However, our work has to be a continuous effort and We ought to be mindful that. We are the custodians of earth and its resources. Therefore, the time is now to accelerate this change by being in a survival mode and STOP the nonchalant behaviour about our WATER CRISIS.
‘Addressing the Water, Energy Food Nexus in the Caribbean’ sub-project component of the Mexico-CARICOM-FAO Initiative “Cooperation for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience in the Caribbean” is supporting Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Jamaica and Saint Kitts and Nevis in boosting agricultural productivity through water-resource efficiency. Using an integrated Water-Energy-Food nexus approach, it promotes technological innovations, such as solar-powered (micro) irrigation systems to improve water efficiency and management (e.g. hydroponics and rainwater harvesting), and access to clean and climate-smart energy (solar and wind), to increase the agricultural productivity of water.
The goal of this initiative is to provide support to farmers in beneficiary countries, such as Antigua and Barbuda, by offering access to water storage, training, and renewable energy to combat the adverse effects of climate change.
To achieve this, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has partnered with the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) which has done extensive research in areas such as water resource management, climate change and agriculture, risk management, water resource management, and sustainable agricultural systems.
Collaboratively, FAO and CARDI have organized a series of workshops which started Monday 20th and Tuesday 21st and respectively concluded on Monday 27th and Tuesday 28th. Over thirty farmers and backyard gardeners were trained therefore the expected quorum was basically met. With the focus on educating the food producers on good and environmentally sustainable practices in agriculture on various considerations and concepts for pursuing agriculture while dealing with current climate challenges and how to curtail these adverse effects.
The workshop was coordinated by Mr. Mali Barnes, National Project Coordinator for the FAO Water Energy Food Project, and facilitated by Mr. Paul Lucas, Sustainable Water Management Specialist and the CARDI Representative for Antigua and Barbuda. In addition to the Food producers, agricultural extension officers also attended this workshop, their participation was anticipated will give allowance for the continued dissemination of vital information and assistance to other farmers and interested persons that may be seeking solutions for similar concerns. They received presentations on the effect Climate Change has had on both livestock and crop farming in Antigua, different climate-smart technologies and practices available and best suited for agriculture in Antigua, water harvesting and storage, and also substitute-protected agriculture practices.
The participants were given tours of the CARDI facility for a more hands-on view of what they have implemented to ensure the security of their crops. Paul Lucas introduced several varieties of hot peppers, sweet potatoes and cassava, he demonstrated different types of planting mechanisms/materials and practices such as submerged irrigation systems. All of which aid in better yield and the reduction of water usage which are also affordable. They also learned about simple methods of pest eradication, production/germination of seeds and seedlings to ensure top quality/high productivity. Additionally, Mr. Lucas explained the importance of safe water storage and also what they could implement to cause less damage/degradation due to the changing weather conditions or the scarcity of one of the main natural resources, WATER!
The Opening ceremony and the first day of the FAO (based on the FAO’s Strategic Framework 2022-31) two-day workshop was held on Monday 20th at CARDI. This workshop specifically for food producers and backyard gardeners was fully supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, IICA, GARDC, CARDI and facilitated by Mr. Paul Lucas, (Water Resource Management Specialist) CARDI representative for Antigua and Barbuda.
The participants were divided into two groups and the workshop would be held over the next two weeks on Monday and Tuesday. Therefore, participants who started on a Monday were expected to complete the workshop on the following Monday and vice versa.
In his remarks, Gregory Bailey, Director of Agriculture emphasized that “Agriculture” is to be regarded as a business and that it is expected that everyone in attendance would learn something and share information. “We are here today to educate each other on various considerations and concepts for pursuing agriculture generally and specifically to Climate Change Adaptation challenges”, said Mr. Bailey.
With great expectation, it is anticipated that this WEF forum will continue to provide the platform to better comprehensively define this concept within our local context towards effective implementation at the grassroots levels, Mr. Bailey added.
The director also mentioned that in Antigua and Barbuda suffers from the scarcity of water and the cost of energy is the key contributing factor to the availability distribution and access. This further contributes significantly to the reason why we import over 80% of the food we consume.
“I challenge this forum and stakeholders to strive to forge a better link between water and energy towards improving food production, transportation, storage and use in an integrated manner”, Mr. Bailey said.
Director Bailey concluded his remarks by adding, that We all ought to strive for resilient and sustainable agri-food systems that promote better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind.
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the University of the West Indies (UWI) under the FAO-UWI Transformational Agri-Food Systems Project, a fact-finding Mission was undertaken by two members of the consulting team (Erica Haughton-Project Coordinator, and Dr. Dale Rankine- Lead Consultant) to Antigua & Barbuda. The first phase of the project was a mission which was convened over the interlude December 4-8, 2022, and was ably coordinated by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), Antigua & Barbuda, with support from the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Barbuda Affairs. A total of 25 face to face consultations were undertaken with key stakeholders (including field visits).
Overall, the mission was successful and allowed the team to ascertain a key understanding of the nuances of the agriculture sector in Antigua & Barbuda. The range of stakeholders met was diverse, and meetings were well attended. All participants were very hospitable and where face to face meetings were not possible virtual platforms were utilized.
As a result from this fact-finding mission, a national consultation (second phase) was held in Antigua with key stakeholders and ministry technicians on February 14th-15th at the Environmental Division, with representation from Crop and Livestock farmers, Agro-processors, Agricultural Science Teachers, Stakeholders and Extension Division Officers. The consultation entitled, Scenario Planning Workshop for the Development of Baseline Climate Impact Assessments for Development of Transformational Agri-Food Systems Programme in the Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDs). Over thirty-five (35) persons participated in the two-day consultation strategically to review the report produced by the consultant from their 1st visit which highlights the characteristics of the country’s agricultural sector and how agriculture and climate change challenges are affecting food and nutritional security and productivity in Antigua and Barbuda in addition the conservation of its natural resources.
Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) National Specialist, Craig Thomas explained that ’IICA’s role in the project was to coordinate and bring together all the key stakeholders. In December they interviewed several farmers on the island to get the perspective of farmers and even educators, so they were able to collect a cross section of good information. IICA’s approach to the project is to see how they can aid in fostering solutions and address and support the sector.
Director of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs, Mr. Gregory Bailey addressed the session and acknowledge the multi-dimensional requirements in terms of the challenges on the ground and the problems and possible solutions. With water shortage being a major concern across the entire sector from his own observation and experience when he thinks of water in agriculture especially where crop production is concerned, he was pleased to receive the consultation as it targeted Potential Climate Smart Adaptation Options of Relevance for Antigua & Barbuda.
Dr. Dale Rankine-Lead Consultant/Facilitator elaborated on the changing climate in the Caribbean and the importance continuous adaptation this, in order to sustain food security. In Antigua and other parts of the Caribbean, Dr. Rankine emphasized that due to climate change there is now reduced rainfall and a hotter climate that has now greatly hampered the agriculture sector and given that it cannot be controlled the sector now has to adapt to the changes and innovative ways to work around it.
Project Coordinator, Erica Haughton, explained that the project is being funded the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) through the University of the West Indies and that their approach to the project is different as the donors are now saying let us consult with the direct beneficiaries on particular projects and find out first-hand what their needs are on the ground, find out about previously implemented projects, and what can be done differently so that the project can be more impactful to the livelihood of the farmers.
Aim of the project is to enable the development of baseline climate impact assessments for Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda, and the Bahamas. The objective of the exercise is to facilitate three (3) primary outcomes; (1) to make Caribbean agriculture, forestry and fisheries more productive and sustainable, (2) to increase the resilience of livelihoods to threats and crises and (3) to develop three sector specific concepts for agriculture, forestry and fisheries projects in Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda and the Bahamas.
Participants were also able to work collaboratively amongst each other to come up with solutions to some of these problems and construct plans which include budgets on how they can be executed.
The next stage will be the formulation of the concept document once completed will be shared with all stakeholders for comments before its submitted to the FAO for review to be considered for a full proposal consideration.
Pulses also knowns as “legumes” are edible seeds of the leguminous plants grown for food purposes. Dried beans, lentils and peas the most consumed and are known as either pulses or legumes.
The United Nations General Assembly in 2018 made the decision to allocate 10th February as World Pulses Day (WPD) and it was first commemorated on 10th February since 2019. This is an annual event designated and led by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in recognition of the importance of pulses in our diets, the significant and nutritional benefits they contribute to our health.
The theme for 2023 is “Pulses to empower youth in achieving sustainable agri-food systems”. This observance is anticipated to increase the awareness of both the nutritional and environmental benefits of legumes as a significant part of sustainable food production and a “Zerohunger” world. FAO recognizes eleven types of pulses to include dry beans, dry broad beans, dry peas, chickpeas, cow peas, pigeon peas and lentils.
Pulses or legumes contributes less to the carbon footprint, requires much less water for cultivation, withstand climatic stress better than most crops, they are cheaper to mass produce and easier to store. Additionally, they help to improve the soil microbiota while restoring minerals such as Nitrogen which is depleted from the soil by other crops and they are included in crop rotation practices worldwide.
Water-Energy Food Nexus Approach Highlighted during CARICOM Energy Month Activities
Saint John’s, Antigua and Barbuda, 9 December 2022- The important and inseparable link between the water, energy and food sectors was a key message at the recent Sensitization Talk on Renewable Energy in Agriculture, held on 28 November in commemoration of The Caribbean Community (CARICOM)’s Energy Month.
The event, hosted in collaboration with ‘Addressing the Water-Energy Nexus in Agriculture’ (WEF) sub-project of the Mexico-CARICOM-FAO Initiative “Cooperation for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience in the Caribbean”, or Resilient Caribbean Initiative in short, and Antigua and Barbuda’s Ministry of Public Utilities, Civil Aviation and Energy focused on raising awareness on sustainable energy through the theme “Energy Consumption and encouraged Energy Saving Actions”.
Funded by the Mexican Agency for International Development Cooperation (AMEXCID) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in 14 CARICOM countries, the Resilient Caribbean Initiative supports Small Island Developing States (SIDS) using an integrated Water-Energy-Food nexus approach in Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica and Saint Kitts and Nevis.
This approach is particularly useful for SIDS like Antigua and Barbuda as it seeks to build social, economic and climate resilience. As the effects of climate change become more evident with sea levels rising and rainfall patterns changing, freshwater availability and quality is decreasing while the frequency and severity of droughts increases. This, coupled with inefficiencies in the use of water, particularly affects agricultural production, which is in strong competition with other sectors for water resources.
FAO National Project Coordinator for the WEF Sub-project and featured speaker, Mali Barnes emphasized the benefits of improving the efficiency of water resources to increase agricultural productivity, sharing how the project is using technological innovations, such as solar-powered (micro) irrigation systems to improve water efficiency and management, and access to clean, climate-smart energy to increase agricultural water productivity. The sub-project is also supporting twenty farmers in Antigua and Barbuda with the provision of climate-smart technologies like those mentioned.
The talk provided an opportunity for participants, which included farmers, extension officers, representatives from the Department of the Environment and other key stakeholders to learn about the usefulness of the Water-Energy-Food Nexus approach, which highlights the interdependence and synergies between the water, energy, food security and natural resource sectors and its practical applications for Antigua and Barbuda.
Other speakers included Energy Officer at the Ministry of Energy, Ita Jah Simmons, and Owner of OWIA Solutions, and solar photovoltaics installer, Daryl Jackson. District Officer from the Extension Division and participant, Victor Wade, shared, “Considering the conditions Antigua and Barbuda is facing, being one of the driest countries in CARICOM and now coming out of a severe drought, the Water-Energy Nexus in Agriculture sub-project is very timely. This project combines innovations in climate smart technology to promote water sustainability, food security and renewable energy in agriculture. These are all critical areas for resilience building, we are grateful for FAO’s support through this project.”
In promoting climate-resilience and awareness of climate-smart technologies in agriculture, the WEF sub-project is commencing additional capacity-building activities in early 2023, which will seek to train farmers and extension officers in the various concepts and practical approaches behind climate resilient and sustainable agriculture.
For more information:
Project: GCP/SLC/MEX/018 CARICOM-FAO-Mexico Initiative “Cooperation for Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience in the Caribbean”
FAO National Project Coordinator
Antigua and Barbuda
The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in collaboration with the Department of Energy within the Ministry of Public Utilities, Civil Aviation and Energy participated in an awareness campaign on “Energy Consumption and encouraged Energy Saving Actions” held in the CARICOM Region during the month of November. However, for Antigua and Barbuda the awareness was based on Energy Conservation, affordable Food Production and FAO’s Nexus Project.
A Sensitization Talk on Renewable Energy in Agriculture was held on Monday the 28th of November at the Department of the Environment. During this meeting some challenges were highlighted pertaining to Energy Security in the agricultural sector. Mali Barnes, National Project Coordinator for the FAO Nexus Project, illustrated some practical and technological solutions that could mitigate some of these challenges. The main component of the Nexus Project is Water harvested or produced as inexpensively as possible to support Agriculture more so Food Production.
In his presentation ‘The Water-Energy Food Nexus and Agriculture’, Barnes outlined what were Food Security, Water Security, Energy Security and their importance for our very existence. Additionally, he demonstrated how farmers, government, FAO and other stakeholders are to be proactively involved in this quest. “Knowing and seeing how this project works and its benefits, I am surprised that it wasn’t implemented before now,” said Barnes.
The second presenter was Ita Jah Simmons, a mechanical engineer in the Department of Energy, at this forum he wore two hats because he is also a farmer. Simmons being both a technician and a food producer effectively and efficiently shared his experience and information from both sides.
His presentation was focused on RE and Agriculture, why it is a hot ongoing discussion in regards to emission, food security and energy. Additionally, he referred to areas in Agriculture that are energy intensive such as Fertilizer production, cold storage and transportation. Although, it was very apparent that he felt and shared the pros of RE which is indeed the way forward he also acknowledged the cons which were the high initial cost of investment, threats of natural disaster, high insurance premiums and theft.
The Final Presenter was Daryl Jackson, an energy expert and he reiterated the importance of Renewable energy as a resource especially in Agriculture for now and beyond. In his address, he outlined several crucial and pertinent information pertaining to the lengthy processing and astronomical cost of fossil fuel production compared to that of Renewable energy production. Additionally, he advocated that before investing in Renewable Energy Technology (RE) there are several key decisions to be considered such as the problem that needs to be solved, which will be most suitable for the need and the ability to afford the cost of the choice made. Further, he suggested that making the correct selection of RE is paramount for optimal production. “Some of the RE technologies that could be considered for use in Antigua and Barbuda are Solar Electricity or Thermal Energy, Wind Electrical or Mechanical Energy, Bio Energy and Battery Energy Storage” Jackson announced. His presentation was concluded with a quote by Buckminster Fuller (an American architect, System theorist, writer, designer, inventor, philosopher and futurist) “The Best Way to Predict the Future is to Design it”.
Considering that it was the first workshop of its kind, ‘The Renewable Energy in Agriculture Sensitization Talk’, I thought it went really well. The engagement between the farmers, the extension officers and other stakeholders was very good and everybody learnt something, including the presenters and me. I’m looking forward to the next session which will be the training schedule to commence in early 2023 and I consider the event was a success,” Barnes said.
The populace of this forum consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, UNDP, GEF SGP- UNDP, UNRCO, Department of Environment, Ministry of Tourism, UNICEF, Agricultural Extension Division, Farmers, and other stakeholders.
Antigua and Barbuda like most of the other small island developing states in the region is highly and disproportionately vulnerable to the impacts of climate change; the effects of which has caused increasing atmospheric temperatures, changing rainfall patterns and increasingly intense storms and droughts that pose severe threat to our socio-economic sectors, Agriculture being no exception.
In light of these factors, our region has no choice but to place particular focus on climate-smart Agricultural practices in hopes of building resilience to existing systems in a bid to foster sustainable development. It is against this backdrop, that the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs, spearheaded a three (3) day workshop in October which allowed 27 participants, most of whom operate protected Agricultural systems such as hydroponics and aquaponics, to strengthen their knowledge, innovation and management practices.
The training session forms part of FAO’s Technical Cooperation Programme under Innovative Protected Cultivation Systems Project, which will be implemented in four major beneficiary countries, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada and Barbados.
Activities included capacity building technical classroom and field sessions where participants were immersed in presentations on protected agriculture technology by FAO International Consultant, Mr. Jervis Rowe, who covered important areas such as structural design and engineering of PA systems, Pest and Disease Management and Crop Nutrition.
“Over the years, our Agricultural production has faced serious challenges. Crop production continues to be adversely impacted by pest and disease related issues as well as climatic conditions. Further compounding the situation is the high labor requirements coupled with limited access to land, which have caused seasonal variations in vegetable supply. Despite these extreme effects, our Agriculture holds great prospects for development once the appropriate technologies are adapted and applied by our farmers. The artificialization of vegetable cropping systems under protected cultivation are being viewed as a viable solution to these challenge,” explained FAO National Correspondent, Ika Fergus.
The FAO is committed to giving special attention and providing the necessary technical support to the region in innovative protected cultivation systems in a bid to foster sustainable development in Agriculture. To this end, the project will be implemented over a period of two years with an allocation of US $500,000, which will be shared amongst the aforementioned beneficiary countries.
The Director of Agriculture, Mr. Gregory Bailey was invited to attend a policy meeting organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The meeting, which was the 9th Session of the Governing Body of the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture (ITPGRFA) was held in New Delhi, India from 19th to 24th September.
The Governing Body is convened under the provisions of Article 19 of the International Treaty and is open to all Contracting Parties to the International Treaty and relevant observers. Mr. Bailey attended, represented the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs and duly participated as the National Focal Point for Antigua and Barbuda. This meeting was not the first ITPGRFA meeting the Director attended and it is normally held biennially, however, due to the Pandemic the last one was held in 2018.
According to the Bailey, there are similarities to Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) but goes beyond plant variety. “This goes beyond any one particular variety, it seeks to protection plant genetics resources in food and agriculture, because we have losing genetic diversity for years, Bailey said.
The treaty is there to preserve this diversity in an effort to have a futuristic resource. “This treaty is looking at how do we preserve these Genetic Material for future generation to use. So, they have what they call seeds box or genes box based around the world and all members who contribute can stored their genetic material for longevity in these boxes”, Bailey added.
The last three meeting Bailey attended complimented each other because their main focus was pertaining to the preservation and management of plant materials. All of which falls under the umbrella of “Food Security”.
Bailey added that in addition to the meeting there was a launch of the platform for the International Year of the Millet. Millet seemed to be a crop that requires less input for more output. “Traditionally, Millet has been grown in Antigua but been used as animal feed but it is being reconsidered for human consumption and there are hundreds of varieties of Millet, similar to corn there are a wide variety of corn. So it might be a crop for the future,” advised Bailey.