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Rare show of solidarity in House as Opposition supports motion

Rare show of solidarity in House as Opposition supports motion

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In somewhat of a rare occurrence, a member of the Opposition has seconded a motion put forward by the Government in Parliament.

Last Tuesday, Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar put forward the motion for a ‘Parliamentary front against {{more}}hunger and undernourishment in St Vincent and the Grenadines,’ which aims to reduce hunger/undernourishment to zero through a ‘Zero Hunger Challenge’ initiative, with the assistance of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Caesar said: “Our step today… is a part of a bigger narrative, which is to establish and to have a hemisphere where we have zero hunger and undernourishment. Parliaments throughout Latin America have already started…”

He noted that SVG will be the first country within the English-speaking Caribbean to establish its Parliamentary front for zero hunger and undernourishment, and explained that he already possesses a draft copy of the 10-year initiative’s action plan (2015 – 2025).

“It’s very early… It has to go through the different stages and approvals, and I will definitely table this document, so that it can become a document of the House when we have the final copy.”

Caesar also announced that an ad hoc national committee for the initiative has been in place since 2013, doing “excellent work” thus far.

The initiative – which will comprise of both a Parliamentary committee and a national committee (stakeholders from public and private sector) – will focus on seven strategic points, namely: identifying persons who constitute the “extremely vulnerable” group; investigating causes of the overarching problem of hunger and undernourishment/malnutrition; making a customized food and nutrition plan for the vulnerable (utilizing local foods); providing financial and technical support of food production systems for families; establishing an integrated school-feeding programme (involving locally produced goods); working along with the social welfare department; and ensuring a system for transparent, ongoing analysis and assessment of the work of the initiative.

The Opposition’s Parliamentary representative for North Leeward, Roland ‘Patel’ Matthews – who seconded the motion – said that his side has “no problem” with supporting the initiative.

“In our opinion, it is something that is right for the country, and I want it to be done properly and effectively,” he asserted.

Matthews said that he had received literature on the initiative from the Minister of Agriculture the previous week, which he deemed “very useful”.

Additionally, he pointed out that the term ‘parliamentary front’ lends itself to cooperation from both the Government and the Opposition.

“I hope that this motion is not a mere ‘talk shop’. I hope that what we are about to establish here today is significant for the benefit of the people… of St Vincent and the Grenadines, despite of what political colour you are wearing…

“It is something that is doable… I am not expecting it to happen overnight… The hard work that we put into it, then we should be able to get positive results.”

The Government earlier this year received an award from the FAO for achieving targets set in relation to reducing hunger and improving food security.

According to FAO statistics, St Vincent and the Grenadines moved from having 19.2 per cent of its population characterized as ‘hungry and undernourished’ in 1990-1992 to 4.9 per cent in 2010-2012.

Caesar acknowledged that achieving ‘zero hunger’ in SVG is going to be a task that requires “intense work”, but was confident that it can be done.

“We need all hands on deck!” (JSV)

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