Official raises fresh concern about poor eating habits

With 7.5 million people said to be undernourished in the Caribbean, a senior United Nations official has warned that the problem was not one of access to food, but the amount of imported and processed food the region as a whole is consuming.

In support of her contention, Deputy Sub-Regional Coordinator for the Caribbean with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Lystra Fletcher-Paul reported that between 2005 and 2014 the average number of overweight adults in the region increased from 47.9 per cent to 54.9 per cent, while the figure for those considered obese, increased from 15.5 per cent to 21 per cent.

“This high incidence of overweight and obesity is linked to poor nutrition habits which contribute to the increased incidence of chronic non-communicable diseases which is the leading cause of death in the region.

“Poor nutrition is attributed to the consumption of imported food which is high in processed carbohydrates, fats, sugar and salt.

“To address this problem, we must increase our production and consumption of healthy, nutritious local foods,” she suggested.

Fletcher-Paul is therefore calling for  the region to produce more of what it eats and for “major transformations of our agricultural systems, rural economies and natural resource management.

“If we are to achieve food and nutrition security and by extension, Sustainable Development Goal 2 — a world free of hunger by 2050 — we must produce more local food,” she stressed.

However, the FAO official acknowledged that this was not an easy task, given that production must be done on the same land area, and utilizing the same water that is used by the regular populations which is a challenge, due to the impacts of climate change.

“Simply put, the current business as usual model is no longer an option. We must innovate.  Innovation is not just about technology, it is also about social, economic, institutional, organizational and policy processes. Understanding how innovation systems work requires analyzing the actors and institutions that shape and contribute to innovation,” Fletcher-Paul said.

“Central to [agricultural innovation systems] is the idea that [it] involves much more than just doing research and or that research is the sole source of innovation, implying that without research there is no innovation. It is the linkages, interactions, relationships, networking, capacities, learning, sharing among the elements that contribute to determining how the system operates as well as its outcomes and impacts,” she added.

The forum, which is taking place under the theme Innovation Systems for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development, has brought together regional agricultural planners to discuss the sectoral policies needed to support national and regional priorities. The final recommendations will be presented to the 71st Special Meeting of the Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED) to be held in Guyana from October 4-6.

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