Ladies and gentlemen, the vulnerability of the Caribbean States necessitates continuous investments in disaster risk reduction capacity and capability building if we are to retard or reverse the epidemic of hazard related losses we have experienced over the last decade. To this end, CDEMA wishes to acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Brazil in contributing to the convening of today's capacity building workshop for disaster risk management in the agricultural sector. The Government of Brazil is the newest partner of CDEMA in its efforts to broker Comprehensive Disaster Management (CDM) in the region.
This initiative was a direct outcome of the first ever CARICOM-Brazil Summit, aimed at fostering closer collaboration and cooperation between Brazil and CARICOM; strengthening their historical and cultural bonds; and developing opportunities for the deepening of their relationship in a number of areas, including Climate Change; Cooperation on Haiti; Disaster Management and Civil Defense, Education and Culture; Agriculture, Health, Energy, Tourism and Trade.
The Declaration of Brasilia reflects a commitment of the Government of Brazil to establish a fund for the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) to enhance regional coordination of humanitarian actions. The intent is to mitigate and respond to social, man-made and natural disasters as well as to assist with reconstruction efforts in CARICOM Member States.
As part of our agenda of strategic partner engagement, we have sought to tap Brazil's competitive advantage in agricultural development thus the Cooperation Programme emphasizes technical cooperation geared towards the reduction of risk in the rural sector of CARICOM States. This is in line with Priority Outcome 3 of the CDM Strategy and Framework which seeks the mainstreaming of CDM in key economic sectors of states.
The agriculture sector in the Caribbean has traditionally been a main contributor to GDP, foreign exchange earnings as well as a generator of employment and livelihood. Though there is some decline in its relative importance in national GDP it is still critical for employment and livelihood sustainability. It has also historically been one of the most severely impacted sectors by disasters but also most invisible in our response and recovery interventions.
Activities targeted for implementation through the funding provided by the Government of Brazil, include:
a) Drought monitoring and management;
b) Establishing or supporting a micro-insurance initiative for a secure agricultural mechanism for domestic farmers confronted with disaster risks in Haiti and one other CARICOM county;
c) Supporting recovery and rehabilitation in CARICOM states affected by disasters;
d) Development of a schools safety programme relating to disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation;
e) Technical exchanges of tools and expertise related to food security;
f) Support to tertiary level students in the area of disaster risk reduction and climate change adaptation; and g) Retrofitting of schools to reduce vulnerability disasters.
To date, the government of Brazil has provided over US$1m under this Cooperation Programme on disaster risk reduction. To ensure maximum uptake in the sector we have sought to engage the agriculture policy constituency through the Agriculture Sector Sub-Committee (ASSC) of the CDM Coordination and Harmonization Council (CHC) which is the Chaired by the FAO. Key functions of the ASSC include:
a) Providing overall guidance at the agriculture sector level to facilitate the mainstreaming of CDM at the national and regional levels;
b) Providing technical input to harmonize sector work programmes towards the achievement of the prioritized CDM results; and c) Identifying opportunities for inter and intra sectoral linkages to avoid duplication of work and ensure efforts are complimentary.
The work of the ASSC is guided by the Jagdeo Initiative which is aimed at "The fundamental transformation of the agricultural sector towards market oriented, internationally competitive and environmentally sound production of agricultural products."
This workshop is aimed at identifying agricultural good practices for mitigating disaster losses. Similar workshops have been held in Belize and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
We consider these workshops both critical and timely. Recent events suggest our traditional coping capacities may be blunted by the climate variability and the extreme nature of events. Understanding our current loss reduction practices is an important first step in planning for the adaptations that may be required.
You are at the frontline of impact and need and can be can for action also. Your input is indispensable.
I wish to challenge the local organizers to find creative ways that may keep you involved in this dialogue. These may involve awards for good community plans that embrace the farming sector, inter-island DRR farm exchange programmes and advanced training for local leaders. I therefore invite your full engagement in this workshop.