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Canada’s CA$10 million project to empower Belizean farmers and entrepreneurs

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Posted: Monday, June 10, 2024. 9:31 am CST.

By Horace Palacio: Farmers and entrepreneurs in Belize, along with those across seven other Caribbean nations, stand to benefit from the newly launched CA$10 million Regional Gender-Responsive Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Systems project. Officially introduced on June 3 at the United Nations House in Barbados, this four-year initiative (2024-2028) is funded by the Government of Canada and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

The project is a collaborative effort involving Canada, the FAO, and local government and civil society partners. It aims to enhance the resilience of Caribbean farmers to climate change while contributing to economic growth. First announced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the Canada-CARICOM Summit in October 2023, the project is expected to improve the livelihoods of women and youth involved in climate-resilient agriculture value chains in the region.

In Belize, the project will work closely with the Ministry of Agriculture, farmer organizations, gender bureaus, research institutions, and community-based agro-processing centers. The goal is to transform and upgrade agricultural value chains to be market-driven and data-informed. Public-private sector partnerships will be facilitated to support this transformation. Additionally, the project will promote the use of climate-smart technologies, innovations, and practices, enabling agricultural stakeholders to make data-driven decisions and advocate for more inclusive, gender-responsive, and climate-resilient value chains.

At the media launch, the High Commissioner of Canada to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, H.E. Lilian Chatterjee, highlighted the significant impact of food and input price inflation, supply chain disruptions, and climate change in the Caribbean. She emphasized the importance of empowering women and closing gender gaps in agri-food systems to achieve sustainable and resilient agriculture.

Dr. Renata Clarke, FAO’s Sub-Regional Coordinator for the Caribbean, underscored the organization’s efforts in promoting climate-smart technologies adapted to the region. These technologies aim to increase efficiency in water and nutrient use, biological control agents, and reduce pesticide usage. The project will also integrate renewable energy solutions, such as solar pumps for irrigation and digital agricultural sensors, to improve overall crop management.

The project aligns with regional strategies such as the ‘CARICOM 25 by 2025 Initiative’ and the 10-year Food and Agricultural Systems Transformation (FAST) Strategy. Vice-President of the CARICOM Youth Advisory Body, Jerard Darville, noted the project’s potential benefits for youth, emphasizing the creation of more inclusive and forward-thinking governance. President of the Caribbean Network of Rural Women Producers, Carmen Nurse, expressed the need for women farmers to build their skills in climate-smart agriculture technologies.

The Regional Gender-Responsive Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Systems project aims to reach up to 2,500 direct beneficiaries, with women making up 50 percent and youth 20 percent of the beneficiaries. Over its implementation period, the project will engage more than 30 farmer organizations, including those led by women and youth, providing broad regional benefits for all CARICOM Member States.

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