The Trinidad-based Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) said, last week, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the region’s food insecurity and warned against a possible hunger pandemic.
In a message to mark World Food Day 2020, CARDI established in 1974 to serve the agricultural research and development needs of the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM), noted that the COVID-19 pandemic “has revealed very clearly that although the world is producing enough food to feed all seven billion plus of us, widening inequality gaps are threatening the most vulnerable with hunger and malnutrition.”
It said in May, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) estimated the number of people experiencing severe food insecurity in Latin America and the Caribbean will increase from 3.4 million to 13.7 million over the course of 2020.
“COVID-19 has placed the region’s food insecurity in the spotlight. As countries slowly embark on post-COVID-19 recovery plans, we must be mindful and fiercely guard against a hunger pandemic,” CARDI said, warning that “as rebuilding efforts continue it is important that plans are grounded in improving productivity, access and availability to safe, nutritious food, climate proofing the sector and preventing food wastage”.
CARDI said it was working on several initiatives to improve regional food and nutrition security and is continuing to leverage its extensive network of regional and national partners to ensure the agriculture sector is productive, resilient and sustainable.
“We remain supportive of governments initiatives which target vulnerable households to expand and improve emergency food assistance and social protection programs,” CARDI said, adding that ongoing evaluation trials for key commodities such as roots and tubers, herbs and spices, coconuts and small ruminants are geared towards improving the quality and availability of planting materials and introducing new technologies and practices for boosting productivity.
It said that resilience continues to be a priority area to guarantee impacted countries and communities quickly recover from climate-related shocks.
“Evaluations on drought tolerance and other resilient high yielding varieties are ongoing in Jamaica and other territories. Complementing this work are focused efforts on preserving and safeguarding local agrobiodiversity.
“Availability and affordability to nutritious food must be a pillar in all countries development plans. In Belize, yield trials are ongoing to identify and select the most adaptable biofortified beans. These beans will be useful in delivering much-needed micro-nutrients to lower-income families, where nutritional needs are largely unmet across the Caribbean.”
CARDI said its vision is to have a food secure region.
“We view this as a shared responsibility and CARDI remains committed to working with all stakeholders to improve the region’s self-sufficiency whilst, exploiting our full production potential in a sustainable manner,” says CARDI’s executive director, Barton Clarke.
World Food Day 2020 was observed under the theme “Grow, nourish, sustain. Together. Our actions are our future.”