Fifteen Countries, One Language

Banana-farmer-009
Banana farmer in St.Lucia

Effective knowledge and information sharing is at the heart of translating research into impact. During the recent  Third Global Conference for Agricultural Research (GCARD3) I spoke with Pamella R. Thomas, a Regional Director from the Caribbean Farmers’ Network (CaFAN), about a fascinating information-sharing strategy from the Caribbean that by-passes political territorialism.

The Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN), formed in 2004, is a regional network of farmers’ associations and non-governmental organisations in the Caribbean. CaFAN’s major focus is to foster links, training and information sharing among Caribbean farmers so that they are in a better position to respond to the key challenges facing the agricultural sector in the region.

In the 15 English-speaking Caribbean countries there are four major agricultural clusters: Business and Trade, Food and Nutrition Security, Transportation and Investment, and Climate Change. Each cluster comprises a representative from the region’s core organizations and international institutions.  As well as CaFAN, these include  the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA),  the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO),  the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI),  the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH),  the Caribbean Agro-business Association (CABA),  and the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).

Each cluster  has an overarching mandate to consider gender equality and youth in their projects. Every cluster has a chairperson and a vice-chairperson, with responsibilities that include organizing and arranging three face-to-face meetings annually.  Virtual meetings are held monthly using video conferencing across all 15 countries.

The chair of each cluster committee has the responsibility of sourcing funding for the travel and accommodation of committee members. The vice-chairperson plays a supportive role and primarily ensures timely dissemination of minutes of each meeting. The representative of each cluster ensures that all 15 countries are aware of the programs, research and impacts pertaining to the theme of his/her cluster. For example, Ms.Thomas, as the CaFAN Representative on the Agricultural Climate Change Cluster, ensures the latest data on climate change data is available to members of her cluster.

Projects are funded by the government of all 15 countries (CARICOM) collectively, as well as by funds from the international, regional and national organizations . The projects are implemented in the country that is most suited to the project objective, but all countries participate in various capacities. What is most unique about the arrangement, however is that it is a political. Because governments are not represented in any of the agricultural clusters, there is also no political rallying in this information sharing platform.

The success of this information strategy is due to the commitment of each country to participate in the approach,  public-private sector collaboration, and the fact that all 15 countries speak one language. A minor obstacle is that each country has a different constitution that must be complied with, which means any implementation plan has to be thoroughly reviewed to make sure it complies with the legislative framework of each country. However, this obstacle is managed through the open dialogue created by agricultural clustering strategy.

The ultimate goals of the agricultural clusters are to improve information sharing between countries, as well as project implementation and delivery, which ultimately leads to improved livelihoods, successful capacity building and social integration.

Blogpost by Olivia Pitt-Manonga, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – ogmanoka(at)gmail.com
Picture courtesy Simon Rawles/The Guardian

This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.


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