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Sustainable food production practices in the caribbean thumbnail

Wayne G. Ganpat and Wendy-Ann P. Isaac

Faculty of Food and Agriculture, The University of the West Indies St Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago

At present, a grave concern facing the Caribbean is the creation of sustainable food production systems. Over the past four decades, the increasing unsustainable use of agricultural inputs has become very evident in the farming sector, without much warnings being given about the adverse health and environmental impacts associated with them. Over the next few decades, countries in the region can expect increases in food prices due to rises in fossil fuel prices and climate change events. Alternative, sustainable farming and food systems must be encouraged if we are to maintain a supply of healthy food at reasonable prices. Our region cannot afford to remain complacent about food security and must urgently take swift action to boost the agricultural sector and empower our food producers.

The 12 chapters in this book are a blended collection of sustainable best management practices that were not covered in the rst volume, Sustainable Food Production Practices in the Caribbean. Included chapters present other innovative technologies for adoption to meet food security needs in the Caribbean region. Topics covered in this volume include: the role of small producers, family farms and women farmers in sustainable food production and food security; youth as adding value to agriculture in the region; small animal systems (rabbits and ducks); rain shelters and net-houses for vegetable production; natural and indigenous crop protection methods; sustainable water management practices for food production in the Caribbean; sustaining the environment (farm and beyond the farm); appropriate logistics to reduce losses in the postharvest handling system; appropriate agrosystems in the Caribbean; agricultural diversi cation and non-traditional systems for sustainable food production; agroforestry systems and practices in the Caribbean; and a note that introduces a method for growing tilapia in Atlantic seawater in St Kitts.

This book should be useful for those involved in food production throughout the region as it seeks to educate them about practices that threaten the Caribbean’s conditions of sustainability, which have resulted in a misuse of resources, soil and water pollution, land erosion and loss of biodiversity. The book analyses these problems and offers approaches, methods, tools and techniques to enable a more sustainable and rational use of our resources which include our human capital – the people, especially the youth. It is anticipated that this book will be a useful reference to preserve and enhance sustainable productivity to ensure food security and sustainable agriculture in the region.

Chapter One begins with an analysis of the role of women and small family farming systems in the domestic food sector and food security in the Caribbean. The chapter reviews the historical role of women in Caribbean agriculture, brie y describing women’s work in the elds on the plantations, as well as in the production of food for home consumption. It describes the roles of women and shows how their contributions in the domestic food sector are particularly important for food security in the region and areas in which such contributions can be strengthened.

With the average age of farmers in the region being over 50 years, and the continuing perception that agriculture is unattractive to young persons, Chapter Two is positioned from a context of change and empowerment for youth engagement in agriculture across the Caribbean region. The authors contend that in order for young people to be fully integrated in society, they must be given the resources to become fully empowered for productivity. Based on an analysis of rural youth agricultural programmes across the globe and the formal reports of Caribbean youth leaders, a model for engagement is proposed. Because of the diversity in the region, a exible rather than a xed model is suggested. Each country could choose from the essential components to make its own model. Using this approach, the authors believe that the face, and more importantly, the productivity of agriculture can be changed. For this to happen however, young people within the Caribbean must be supported by appropriate, sustainable interventions that allow them to fully engage the sector. The chapter suggests several such interventions.

Chapter Three presents a production guide for potential rabbit and duck farmers. The authors point out that over the last decade, there has been a move from small backyard production to medium-sized intensive commercial and semi-commercial rabbit production systems in Trinidad and Tobago. In tandem, there has also been an increase in duck production and a similar trend towards intensive and semi-intensive production systems. The authors clearly outline guidelines for increased productivity in these enterprises. Those persons wishing to enter these areas will also nd the information quite useful.

Chapter Four provides a comprehensive overview of best management practices (BMPs) for sustainable production of vegetables in rain-shelters and net-houses. In contrast to the rst volume of this book, the focus is placed on the production of leafy vegetables, mainly lettuce, rather than tomato. However, owing to similarities among protective structures, some of the principles and practices, which are described in detail in the rst volume, have been summarized and new, valuable information is presented.

Chapter Five seeks to undo the historical emphasis on synthetic pesticides through a review of various natural and indigenous/traditional crop protection strategies used throughout the Caribbean. It details the signi cance of promoting and supporting these ecologically based strategies for the sustainable production of food by small producers to ensure food security in the region. The results of surveys conducted among aging farmers throughout the Caribbean are used in this chapter which also explores other examples which could be successfully adopted from other countries. The chapter concludes by emphasizing the need for research and development to capture, assess and disseminate natural and indigenous crop protection strategies widely across the Caribbean.

With expected decreases in the amount of rainfall in coming years, water availability for agriculture within the region will be severely affected unless sustainable water management practices are engaged. Therefore, to achieve a sustainable, functioning environment and a food secure Caribbean region, water management practices that are appropriate must be an integral part of the way we use our water resources. Adopting sustainable water management practices will alleviate several economic, social and environmental impacts, and will have far reaching bene ts to cope with the myriads of constraints that are inimical to achieving food security in the Caribbean region. Chapter Six outlines some of these sustainable water management practices for food production in the Caribbean.

Chapter Seven examines what is involved in sustaining the environment of the farm by focusing on several of the complex interrelationships that exist between food production and food safety within an environmental context. The chapter also provides recommendations to reduce the adverse impacts of agro-environmental hazards and food safety considerations which have a direct impact on societies globally.

The need for logistics management of fruits have come to the fore following the recent global energy crisis followed by the global nancial crisis. Logistics management is an important tool in the area of post-harvest management and its main purpose is to enhance competiveness, while ensuring a focus on serviceability. Chapter Eight outlines some of these logistic management strategies available for adoption, using mangoes as an example.

In the Caribbean, multi-species systems whether mixed cropping systems, livestock farming systems or integrated ones, provide several environmental services. Using these systems as examples, Chapter Nine examines the major driving forces that condition changes in farming practices – agro-ecological engineering, and proposes methods that might support the design of innovative agricultural systems. The authors provide concrete examples from several Caribbean and other tropical environments.

Chapter Ten treats with agricultural diversi cation and non-traditional systems for sustainable food production. It deals with the challenge of creating a sustainable supply of food for local consumption in the Caribbean with some potential for export. While it is important to note the recent trends in large-scale production, including a long decline in plantation systems geared for the export of single crops, and more recent attempts to boost commercial farming for delivery to niche export markets, the chapter looks at recent and emerging efforts to implement non-traditional systems geared to small-scale farming. These systems are aimed at strengthening local food security and adapting traditional farming methods in the face of climate change.

Chapter Eleven traces the historical evolution of the agro-forestry system, and gives a broad overview of agro-forestry from an international perspective. Agro-forestry is presented as an exciting opportunity for farmers but not as a cure-all for all our land-use problems. As with any other land-use option, agro-forestry involves trade-offs, i.e., some short-term gains may have to be given up for the sake of long-term sustainability. Throughout the chapter, references and examples are provided for countries belonging to the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The nal chapter in the book, Chapter Twelve, presents a note that introduces a method for growing Tilapia in Atlantic seawater in the island of St Kitts as a sustainable alternative to the traditional coastal shery systems.

In conclusion, it is our deep desire that this book will be a tting complement to Volume 1 and that all who read it will be greatly enriched by the wealth of information presented by the various contributions.

About CTA

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Paci c (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). Its mission is to advance food and nutritional security, increase prosperity and encourage sound natural resource management in ACP countries. It provides access to information and knowledge, facilitates policy dialogue and strengthens the capacity of agricultural and rural development institutions and communities.

CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU. For more information on CTA, visit www.cta.int

Publication Details

  • Published: 2015
  • Publisher: Ian Randle Publishers
  • ISBN-13: 978-976-637-889-9
  • Dewey Decimal: 338.19