AGRICULTURE will be the major topic of discussion when the OECS hosts its next Public Education Forum at the Union Orchid Garden in Saint Lucia tomorrow from 1:00 p.m.
The Public Education Forum Series, dubbed ViniKoze – Kweyol for ‘Come Chat’ – is aimed at educating and informing the people of the OECS on the social, economic and political benefits of Integration. It seeks to ensure citizen engagement and active participation in the regional integration process.
The theme for the Forum is: Agriculture: Investing in the Caribbean’s Food Bowl. Discussions will centre around the state of agriculture in the OECS as it relates to crop production, pest and disease control, diversification into non-traditional crops, agro processing, agri-business development, domestic production, food security and our growing food import bill as a region.
The Agriculture Forum will feature a diverse panel comprising representatives of Government, International Organisations (FAO/IICA), Private Sector (agri-business), Non-Governmental Organisations (CANROP), and Civil Society Groups involved in Agriculture. Panellists will articulate their perspectives on the topic and respond to questions from the moderator as well as members of the ‘live’ audience.
The St. Lucia Forum comes on the heels of the just concluded Forum in Martinique on OECS Regional Integration which saw spirited discussion on the merits, challenges and imperatives of closer cooperation between the Territorial Authority of Martinique and the islands of the Eastern Caribbean which make-up the OECS.
Martinique became an Associate Member State of the OECS on February 4 2015. OECS Director General, Dr.Didacus Jules says the relationship with Martinique is a very special one since Martinique is a gateway to Europe with tremendous opportunities for trade, especially in services, as well as closer collaboration in tourism-related initiatives, arts and culture.
Though Martinique is an Associate Member of the OECS, Dr. Jules believes “we must look beyond the technical elements and give due consideration to the broad vision, and what we are seeking to achieve as a region.”
The Forum Series Kicked-off in the BVI in mid-January. The BVI Forum evoked discussion on successes in Education in the OECS, and created greater awareness of deficiencies. It also generated a range of fresh ideas, strategies and possible solutions that can be applied in creating a better education system across Member States.
The second Forum on Youth Empowerment and Development was held in Anguilla in late January. The Anguilla Forum discussed youth unemployment, youth crime and violence, the juvenile justice system, as well as development opportunities for young persons, especially in the areas of education, sports, and the arts. Like Martinique, the BVI and Anguilla are also Associate Member States of the OECS.
The third Forum held in Dominica on February 10 focused on Climate Change, its impact on small island developing states, as well as adaptation and mitigation measures being implemented by OECS Member States to cope with the effects of Climate Change. Lessons learnt from Dominica’s experience with Tropical Storm Erica in 2015 was a major talking point, with the region being warned to brace for more intense and more frequent weather systems, especially hurricanes and storms.
The Public Education Forum Series (PEFS) will close-off in Grenada on March 17. That Forum will focus on Economic Growth in the OECS, within the context of the OECS Economic Union.
The Forum Series is part of the public education component of the Economic Integration and Trade Programme of the OECS region, funded by the 10th European Development Fund. It is being produced by ElShaFord Productions on behalf of the OECS Commission.