Monday, 25 February 2013 02:30
By Delana Isles
Antigua St. John's - The government of Antigua & Barbuda has taken up the Zero Hunger Challenge. It was the first Caribbean country to implement the programme after the UN secretary general gave priority to the elimination of hunger around the world.
On Friday, Minister of Agriculture Hilson Baptiste signed the memorandum of understanding with representatives of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in the ministry’s boardroom, ahead of the programme’s implementation on Monday.
The Zero Hunger Challenge invites all nations to work for a future where everyone enjoys their right to food, and all food systems are resilient.
Minister Baptiste noted that the real work now begins.
‘It is important to note that Antigua is the first Caribbean country to launch such a programme since the United Nations had several countries in the world committing to the zero hunger initiative, and Antigua is the first country in the Caribbean to implement this. I think the government, Prime Minister Spencer... we all need to be applauded for that,” the minister said.
He stressed that eradicating hunger is not the only important thing.
“The real work will be making sure that we eradicate any hunger in Antigua & Barbuda and to make sure it is sustainable, and to make sure we don’t go back into that situation again,” Baptiste said.
The key component, he added, is helping people to help themselves in a more sustainable way. He called on all agencies involved in the process, and the entire country, to work to make the programme a success.
According to Baptiste, it is now important to document the country’s efforts every step of the way so that the partner agencies will find it easy to duplicate Antigua’s efforts throughout the region.
“Every country in the Caribbean has some level of poverty, and to deal with it, you have to have a format and a strategy as to how to do it,” he said. “I think what we are doing in Antigua is to set the stage for it to be duplicated across the region.”
FAO Regional Director designate JR Deep Ford thanked the minister for his leadership, and commitment to the implementation of the Zero Hunger initiative in the country.
“This is a challenge the United Nations secretary general gave to the world, and the government of Antigua and Barbuda has accepted that challenge and are working on it in a determined manner,” he said.
He noted that the IICA and the other agencies are working together and supporting their efforts on the ground.
The initiative has five areas of work; three are being launched immediately.
“In the area of agriculture, we are starting with home-based gardens,” Ford said. “In the area of nutrition, we are look very importantly at the school feeding programme. We are also going to start activities in the area of social protection very shortly. Very critical also is the area of governance and employment creation. We have on board now with us a national board that is going to be working with all of the agencies to deliver the promises, the commitment to this programme.”
He assured his organisation’s commitment to working with the government to eradicate hunger.
Meanwhile, IICA Regional Director designate Gregg Rawlins said, “Without the very active participation and involvement of the various departments of government, this programme would not be able to move forward as we would like.”
He added that they are hoping to have the programme implemented in a very integrated manner, helping people to help themselves and eventually graduate from poverty.
“If we can assist individuals to move and graduate from hunger and poverty, we want to keep them in that position and move to a point where we can, as far as possible, remove hunger and poverty from Antigua and Barbuda,” Rawlins said.
Stressing IICA’s full commitment to the programme, Rawlins added that the director general is very committed to the process, and has attached a lot of significance to the programme.
Last November, the two agencies initially signed the MOU for the eradication of poverty within two years, the findings of which would have formed the foundation of the plan of the Antigua and Barbuda ZERO Hunger Initiative.