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Strengthening Food Security in the Caribbean: Nourishing Resilience

The Caribbean may be renowned for its stunning beaches and vibrant culture, but each passing year, that is threatened by extreme weather events such as hurricanes, floods, and droughts, which are increasing in frequency and intensity due to climate change. At its extreme, the impact of these types of weather phenomena is obvious - property damage or loss of life - but much more than that, they make the region vulnerable to a more significant challenge: that of food security. 

The United Nations Committee on World Food Security defines food security as the ability of “all people, at all times, [to] have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.” Around the globe, this speaks directly to the abilities of individuals and households, regardless of race, gender, or class, to feed themselves adequately despite the rising cost of goods, supply chain issues, or the drastic impacts of climate change.

Closer to home, natural disasters disrupt food production and create an undesirable dependence on imported goods. In fact, the Caribbean, once self-sufficient in food production, now imports around 80 percent of its food, making it highly vulnerable to price fluctuations in global markets and disruptions in trade routes such as those created by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing war in the Ukraine. This worrying reliance on food imports has underscored the urgent need to strengthen local food production systems and implement innovative strategies to nourish resilience and ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for the region.

To address the threats posed by climate change, Caribbean nations can continue embrace innovative strategies to enhance climate resilience and adapt their agricultural practices.

  • Investing in climate-resilient crop varieties and diversifying agricultural production to include resilient indigenous crops can help reduce dependence on imported goods and enhance food security.
  • Empowering small farmers, who play a crucial role in Caribbean agriculture, by providing access to technology and improved entrée into markets as well as fostering cooperative models like farmer-to-farmer networks that can facilitate the sharing of best practices.
  • Promoting sustainable farming techniques such as agroforestry, aquaponics, and hydroponics to enable farmers to maximize productivity in limited spaces while conserving resources.
  • Creating capacity-building programmes and providing financial support for entrepreneurs to enhance food-related productivity and contribute to overall food security.
  • Building sustainable food systems by promoting local production, reducing food waste, and enhancing distribution networks.
  • Supporting local food markets and farm-to-table initiatives to encourage the consumption of fresh, locally sourced produce while creating economic opportunities for farmers. Notably, investing in post-harvest infrastructure and technology, including cold storage facilities and efficient transportation systems can reduce food loss and improve the availability of nutritious food.

Food security is a critical concern in the Caribbean, but the region is taking proactive steps to overcome its challenges. By embracing climate-resilient farming practices, empowering small farmers, and promoting sustainable food systems, the Caribbean can nourish resilience and foster a more secure future. By prioritising food security, the Caribbean can not only mitigate the impact of climate change, but also build thriving communities with access to nutritious, locally-produced food.

Watch the upcoming edition of the Central Bank of Barbados’ Caribbean Economic Forum, “Addressing Food Security in the Caribbean,” on Wednesday, July 12 at 8:00 p.m. to hear more about what’s being done and what can be done in future to support the region's food security.