OECS 8th Council of Ministers of Agriculture Meeting Focuses on Advancing Regional Cooperation on Food Security

Under the theme “Advancing Regional Cooperation on Food Security”, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) convened its 8th Meeting of the OECS Council of Ministers of Agriculture (COMA) on Friday, May 17th, 2024, in Montserrat. This meeting was intended to provide marked continuity of the ongoing execution of the OECS Food and Agriculture Systems Transformation (FAST) Strategy. 

Dr. Didacus Jules, OECS Director General, set the tone at the opening ceremony by stating high expectations for the meeting’s impact:

“I express the expectation that this 8th Meeting of the Council of Ministers of Agriculture would be the most consequential of the meetings held to date because we spent the last year mixing the concrete and making the blocks that we use to build this food fortress that we call the OECS FAST.”

Dr. Jules elaborated on the OECS FAST Strategy and its reliance on grassroots stakeholders.

“It is important to note that the FAST Strategy is not a structure that will be built from the top down but constructed from the bottom up. A persistent problem with Caribbean approaches to development is the tendency to use prescription, shaping solutions that are too reliant on expert opinion, sometimes not sufficiently informed by empirical data, and most importantly not having listened to the voices that matter the most — farmers and industry insiders.”

He also highlighted the multifaceted approach necessary for success.

“This is not just about agriculture. It is intersectoral, it is multidimensional and it is an ecosystem.”

Minister for Agriculture, Lands, Housing and Environment, Hon. Crenston Buffonge, of host country, Montserrat, shared remarks opening ceremony. Speaking on the expectations for the COMA, he said,

“Food security is not merely a policy goal, it is a fundamental right. As ministers of agriculture, we have a mandate to ensure safe, nutritious, and affordable food for our citizens by pooling our resources, our expertise, and our knowledge, we can leverage economies of scale, enhance our resilience, and foster better, sustainable, agricultural practices.”

The 8th COMA meeting was chaired by Hon. Lennox Andrews of Grenada, who delivered encouraging remarks to both his fellow council ministers and the people of the OECS at the opening ceremony,

“If there is one industry that can transform lives, that can eradicate poverty and that can bring an improvement in living standards for our people of the region, that industry is agriculture because agriculture has a strong linkage with all other sectors. A strong linkage with tourism, a strong linkage with manufacturing, a strong linkage with every other sector that you could think of.”

He also emphasized the commitment of the ministers to immediate and effective action, stating,

“If there is one message I would like all of you to take from this…meeting, it is that the ministers have all pledged to implement with alacrity all the decisions that they would take today.”

Key decisions from the meeting included the introduction of a youth in agriculture symposium slated for August 2024 and a conference focused on commercial and investment opportunities in Sargassum, which is scheduled for September 2024. These initiatives reflect dedication to engaging diverse stakeholders to adequately address pressing issues affecting the region’s food and nutrition security.

The 8th COMA meeting marked a milestone as it was the first time being hosted by Montserrat, and a moment of pride and anticipation, especially for Hon. Crenston Buffonge.   

The OECS remains committed to leveraging agriculture as a pivotal driver for regional development, fostering collaboration, and ensuring food security for its member states.

SOURCEOECS
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