IICA country manager, Kent Coipel
IICA country manager, Kent Coipel

Agriculture in Dominica and the rest of the Caribbean face several challenges and to cope with them requires the collaboration of all agencies operating in the field.

Kent Coipel, technical specialist of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) believes these challenges exist at all levels of agricultural production in Caribbean and Pacific countries; these include issues of climate change, natural disasters, high food prices, small internal markets and resilience on a few export commodities.

Coipel spoke at the Fort Young Hotel on Tuesday, September 29, 2014 at the kickoff event of the Agriculture Policy Programme (APP), a scheme designed to contribute to regional and interregional capabilities of the agricultural sectors in eradicating poverty. The APP aims at ensuring that small producers, including women and youth in CARIFORUM, are directly involved and benefit from market demand and economic development.

The programme was funded under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) between the European Commission and IICA with partners, the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the CARICOM Secretariat.

The budgetary allocation for this programme is 8.6 million EURO and is to be implemented within 45 months; the funds will be shared between Dominica and the Caribbean region.

"The specific objective is to increase the capabilities of the regional agricultural development organizations of the Caribbean and Pacific regions to address the development needs of small holders in agriculture," Coipel said.
He added that the three major components of the programme will be led by the three organizations - CARICOM, CARDI and IICA.

In the meantime, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, Harold Guiste, said undoubtedly agriculture still plays, and will continue to play, a major role on the social and economic landscape of Dominica and noted the challenges faced by the Ministry of Agriculture.

These include, Guiste said, fragmentation of farm, small size of individual holdings, multiple farming systems, mountainous terrain, high cost of production and other adverse conditions brought about by the effects and the impacts of climate change.

To face up to these new and emerging challenges the Ministry has been working with private sector and regional and international organizations.

Guiste said the APP has come in the time of significant relevance in agricultural development.

"It comes at a time when there is great competition in the market place, a time when quality poses a challenge to maintain and volumes of production difficult to achieve in the face of a bombardment of plant disease, invasive species, high cost of inputs compounded by the effects and impacts of climate change on the agriculture sector," he said. "It has come at a time when Dominica and the rest of the region are grappling with the concept of value change to ensure that the right mechanisms and strategies are employed to foster the linkages that will link agricultural producers to the markets of the consumers".

The priority commodities of the programme will be roots and tubers: dasheen, yam, sweet potato; livestock: pork, poultry; other crops: plantain, banana, vegetables, fruits and minimally processed and cottage products.

"Applied research which is led by CARDI focuses on building human capacity, improving stock of genetic material and transforming to climate smart agricultural systems and the third component is enterprise development led by IICA focuses on building capacities, instigating networking, enabling effective engagement with markets and supporting creation of enabling environment for small producers and entrepreneurs," said Coipel.