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Climate changing, so must food, agriculture and people too

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The annual World Food Day activities, spearheaded locally by the Ministry of Agriculture, reach a high point today, Friday, with the staging of an agricultural exhibition in Kingstown. This year’s activities are being organized under the global theme, “Climate is changing, Food and Agriculture must too.” To this we humbly add, “People must too.”

The continued focus on food is a most welcome one, but must be underlined consistently throughout the year. Every year, in keeping with the focus of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, food is prominent in the themes for World Food Day,{{more}} but one can be forgiven if one does not get the impression that we approach World Food Day more by rote than by conviction. It is more than time for these themes to take root, and have practical manifestations in terms of our daily lives.

This year’s theme provides another real opportunity to do so, for it is now manifest that climate change is real and impacting on our very existence on the planet. That is why the FAO has responded in terms of piloting the idea of “climate-smart agriculture”. The focus on increased food production is certainly a very vital one, given the pressure on the world’s natural resources and the mistaken belief that these must be utilized for the biggest immediate profits, to the detriment of the future of the planet and generations to come.

In the case of small countries like ours, with limited natural resources, there is intense competition to food production from other, non-agricultural sectors, and even within agriculture balancing the need to feed our population, nutritiously and in an affordable manner, with the need to obtain foreign exchange. The balancing act gets more difficult day by day.

Food and agriculture face enormous challenges in the modern world, where desires, tastes and fashions seem to rank above needs. These all have their bearing on national priorities and this in turn impacts on such critical areas as land use policy. Agricultural estates and land are increasingly being diverted to all sorts of seemingly non-agricultural purposes. Can we achieve laudable goals in such an environment?

Thus, climate change does not only apply in a physical and scientific sense, it also applies in the human and social sense. There is a direct correlation between climate change and human activity, and that human activity is more and more influenced by profit motive and the deliberate efforts to change human tastes and desires. That impacts on what we eat and consume, how we do it and our accumulation and disposal of waste. Local food consumption now has ever stiffer competition from food imports of all types. These are facilitated by the global climate removing restrictions on trade which place small underdeveloped countries more and more at the mercy of the global food giants.

For all these reasons, it is important that the ‘people’ aspect of the situation be given adequate recognition. Even as we give full support to our farmers and the Ministry of Agriculture, there must also be a personal commitment on the part of us all. We, each and every one of us, have critical roles to play both in the mitigation of the effects of climate change, as well in adapting our personal habits and actions to achieve the desired goals. We can make a difference.

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