The 35th Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations Regional Conference for Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) was held last week in Jamaica. Hundreds of delegates from 33 LAC counties were in attendance and discussed hunger and malnutrition, rural poverty, and climate change among other topics.

During the final press conference, Karl Samuda, the Jamaican Minister of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries, called for unity among LAC countries especially in the face of climate change.

Minister Samuda said that greater access to grants and higher investment in climate-smart investment is critical for the region, according to the Jamaica Information Service.

“Climate change is one of the biggest threats we face in the region today. We must educate our farmers on best practices so we will not be as susceptible to this problem as we are now,” Samuda said.

Seven priorities for food security and development in Jamaica were identified during a national consultation workshop organized by the FAO ahead of the Regional Conference.

These priorities included improved governance, increased participation of civil society, the streamlining of Information Management Systems, the promotion of experience exchanges across countries, improved Disaster Risk Management, building the resilience of Small Island Developing States and improved provision of nutritionally relevant food by production and trade systems.

Food and Agriculture Organization in Jamaica

The FAO’s mandate in Jamaica is to promote food security and sustainable development. The FAO works closely with Minister Samuda and the Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture, and Fisheries, and has recently expanded its cooperation with other ministries in Jamaica.

While food insecurity is moving in the right direction in Jamaica, the island still faces some challenges. The three-year average prevalence of undernourishment was 8.4 percent for 2014-2016. During the same period, the average food deficit per capita was 61 calories per day.

In its quarterly newsletter, the FAO described a project in Saint Ann, the largest parish on the island located in the northern-central region of Jamaica.

“Under a project that began in 2016, the FAO equipped the group of nine (9) women with financial resources and technical expertise to provide additional employment for women in the community and also expose them to pork production and business Management skills,” the newsletter explains.

The participants received training in livestock management and safety as well as business development and marketing.

Mexico to help fight climate change

At the end of the conference, Mexico and the Food and Agriculture Organization signed a letter of intent to improve climate change adaption and resilience in the Caribbean and Mesoamerica.

According to the FAO, Mexico will contribute the equivalent of 4.3 million US dollars over the next five years to a cooperation fund.

“With these funds from Mexico, FAO will be able to prepare projects immediately and mobilize resources. The multiplying nature of this fund is very important, since each dollar invested multiplies. I think we can mobilize up to 300 million dollars for the Caribbean countries,” explained José Graziano da Silva, the Director-General of the Food and Agriculture Organization.

The fund will be especially important for the small island developing states like Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and Trinidad and Tobago.

“For SIDS [small island developing states] in the Caribbean there is no time to waste to face climate change. For them, climate change is a matter of life and death”, said Graziano.