CWA MEETING CONVENESWednesday 17th October 2012
Dr. Victor Villalobos, the Director General for the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), has reiterated his organisation’s commitment to the development of the sector in the region by providing training opportunities and working more closely with key stakeholders and agencies.
Dr. Villalobos gave the reassurances on Tuesday as he began a series of important meetings with government ministers and officials and organisations and other interests groups who are attending Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) in Antigua and Barbuda this week.
Dr Villalobos, who arrived Monday, has so far met with Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of Agriculture, Hon. Hilson Baptiste, in a one-hour discourse which covered a wide-range of topics of mutual interest.
During the talks, they discussed cooperation assistance for the Antiguan government, farmers’ needs and scholarships for students and officials, to increase their knowledge and build capacity in the agriculture sector,
In thanking Minister Baptiste for hosting the 11th CWA, Dr Villalobos called for a closer working relationship.
“Communication is important,” said Dr. Villalobos who is based in San Jose. Minister Baptiste agreed: “We have to narrow the gap.”
On the issue of scholarships, Dr. Villalobos said IICA is modifying its programme to provide more opportunities for regional students and technocrats.
He said that four Caribbean nationals are among 27 students currently studying in Mexico and that a further 68 scholarships will be offered in January, 2013.
“This programme will strengthen international capacity,” the IICA DG said.
The Antiguan minister, although recognizing that the Spanish language could be a barrier, requested more training opportunities through IICA’s funding.
Mr. Baptiste said that studying in Mexico would be ideal for Antiguan students who were schooled in Cuba in agriculture.
“If they go to Mexico for a six-month course it would help. We need to build capacity,” he said while noting that his ministry has experienced a brain drain as many technocrats accepted the government’s Voluntary Separation Programme (VSP) a few years ago and left a void.
Mr. Baptiste embraced the idea of higher learning: “Agriculture is scientific. We have to make an adjustment.”
Dr Villalobos acknowledged that the scholarship programme “is a long-term investment” and suggested that studying could be undertaken in Trinidad & Tobago to which Minister Baptiste replied: “it is not a problem.”
Other issues touched on were the bio-gas project; the white potato production initiative and livestock development. They also spoke about the Executive Committee meeting held in Costa Rica last week and IICA’s 70th anniversary celebrations.
Later on Tuesday Dr. Villalobos met with the Executive Director of Caribbean Agriculture Research & Development Institute (CARDI) and the Director and senior officials of the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) to discuss matters impacting on the work and collaboration of all three organisations.
In his meeting with the CTA director, Mr. Michael Hailu, Dr. Villalobos suggested an extension of the alliance on the projects they collaborated on in the past.
The IICA head said he was interested in policy-making, capacity-building, and climate change.
“We are interested in working in those areas,” Dr. Villalobos said. “It would be good if we can work jointly on these areas.”
IICA and CTA agreed on developing a one-year work programme within a month, the results of which will be reviewed at next year’s CWA.
“We will also see in what other areas we can collaborate,” Dr. Villalobos added. “I think the issue of market information systems providescommon ground.”
In wide-ranging discussions with Dr. Arlington Chesney, CARDI’s executive director, Dr. Villalobos pledged IICA’s commitment to maintenance and development of greenhouses in the region. At present, Presently, there are three such facilities in Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica and St. Kitts funded by IICA, in collaboration with partners.
“We need proper methodology for the construction of greenhouses,” he said,
CWA is being held under the theme: “Celebrating Youth & Gender in Caribbean Agriculture.”
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