Lessons from the Other Side: Caribbean Farmers Tour JapanMay 8, 2018
More than twenty farmers and agricultural officers from 11 countries left the warmth of the Caribbean to tour Japan, with the hope of viewing transferable technologies. While experiencing jet-lag (picture them roaming the streets of Tokyo, Osaka and Nagano late at night because their bodies are telling them it’s lunch time in the Caribbean) and language differences, these practitioners found much to be hopeful for in the midst of the challenge climate change poses to the region.
With most of Dominica’s crop and livestock affected during the last hurricane season and another hurricane season beginning in a few weeks, Caribbean farmers are well aware of the impact of natural hazards, exacerbated by climate change. Frequent and unpredictable drought, flood, pests and soil erosion are just a few of the current phenomenon impacting their yield and by extension, the region’s food security.
At the end of the tour, the team shared their key takeaways and we now, in turn, share them with you:
• Visits to both technologically advanced (imagine growing produce without sunlight, soil, wind or rain) and very grass-root approaches like nature and organic farming during the tour was appreciated. Participants noted that public awareness will be necessary for Caribbean residents to accept some unfamiliar or seemingly undesirable aspects of both approaches.
• Plant factories and vertical farming technologies are transferable to the Caribbean region. Participants felt that these technologies could potentially strengthen climate resilience, particularly given the frequency of hurricanes, floods and drought. These technologies provide the opportunity for food security given their weather and climate proof mechanisms. It’s also environmentally friendly, energy efficient and can be practiced practically anywhere.
• While organic and nature farming exists within the Caribbean, participants felt they were able to experience varying approaches to these practices. Permaculture, they felt, was on one end of the spectrum, promoting complete harmony with one’s environment and nature farming holds similar principles but, can be scientifically based – this, they liked very much. The organic approach, they indicated, has the potential to ignite agro-tourism and develop agricultural cooperatives at the community level.
• They also appreciated the pairing of technical officers and farmers during the study tour. They noted that often, study tours include only technicians who make determinations of what could be applied and on return, farmers have differing outlooks on the approach. Having both present meant that those determinations would be made in unison and buy-in would be much easier on return.
• The benefits of private-public partnerships were underscored during visits to institutions such as Chiba University and The University of Tokyo where the institutions are actively partnering with commercial entities to advance research and by extension, the entity’s productivity and profits.
The study tour was supported by the UN Development Programme’s Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership, with funding from the Government of Japan.