19 February 2016 ¬Ė¬†CABI held its American and Caribbean regional consultation meeting in San Jose, Costa Rica, on 10-11 February. This successful event was highly interactive and highlighted emerging issues in CABI¬ís key areas of activity, particularly related to food security and improved agricultural productivity, food value chains, ecosystem management, food safety and nutrition. The meeting also looked closely at the impact of invasive species, specifically the threats facing livelihoods and ecosystems in the region. Around 50 delegates from 11 CABI member countries, four prospective member countries and 10 partner organizations in the Americas and Caribbean attended the meeting, together with CABI staff, to discuss priorities impacting sustainable development in the region.

Presentations from CABI and its partners, together with group discussions, highlighted other issues of strategic importance such as open data and mobile information delivery, successes and challenges in the Plantwise initiative, CABI’s role in facilitating trade and market access and the implementation of CABI¬ís policy on Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) to promote compliance with the Nagoya Protocol. Member country representatives and other delegates were very positive about CABI¬ís overall progress and what the organization has achieved over the last¬†three years to address their needs and priorities. The attendees were pleased to be engaged in a way that gave them a strong sense ownership of the organization.

The host country, Costa Rica, is a prospective member of CABI and the delegates were warmly welcomed by Dr Arlet Vargas, Deputy Director of Plant Health in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock. Costa Rican Minister of Agriculture and Livestock, the Hon. Dr Luis Felipe Arauz Cavallini,¬†gave a thought-provoking keynote speech in which he highlighted the crucial role of agriculture in development, globally, regionally and nationally. He stressed the importance of actively seeking solutions for climate change mitigation and adaption, and attracting younger generations to agriculture and farming. ¬ďThe competitive environment requires countries to transform from input-intensive agriculture to knowledge-intensive agriculture, making farming a profitable knowledge-based business. CABI as a knowledge organization can play an important role, and our country is committed to becoming a member country of CABI,¬Ē said Dr Arauz.

The Vice Minister, Mr José Joaquín Salazar also gave a comprehensive overview of the country’s agriculture and representatives from Costa Rica’s research and extension services presented an interesting and well-prepared showcase of agricultural projects and programmes in their country.

In his introductory address, Dr Dennis Rangi, CABI¬ís Director General for Development said, ¬ďThese triennial consultation meetings have become an important activity for CABI. Driven by the priorities of its 48 member countries, these meetings give CABI member countries an opportunity to influence the organization¬ís agenda and for CABI to listen to and engage directly with you.¬Ē Talking about sharing information and knowledge, Dr Rangi said, ¬ďThis region has a lot to share with the rest of the world. Although food security in particular and agriculture in general remain key challenges, especially in the Caribbean, over the past 20 years, Latin America has significantly increased its production and share in global agricultural trade and has the potential of becoming a food superpower.¬Ē

Looking at major food security challenges, Dr Trevor Nicholls, CABI¬ís CEO, pointed out ¬†the perfect storm of growing world population, dwindling mineral resources, food shortage, competition for land use and climate change. He talked about how we can make major improvements in food and nutritional security by losing less of what we already produce ¬Ė without any more land, water or inputs. He reviewed CABI¬ís strategies and progress towards tackling these challenges, covering nutrition security, farmer incomes, sustainable farming and protection of biodiversity.

The theme of this round of consultations was improving livelihoods through knowledge solutions and partnerships. Representatives of several member countries and partner organizations shared experiences and examples of partnership with CABI using case studies. There were dedicated discussions among member countries and partner organizations, which focused on how CABI can strengthen partnerships through, for example, south-south and north-south co-operation, and triangular co-operation with CABI as a bridge.

This was the third of CABI’s three regional consultations for 2015-16. The African consultation took place in Zambia in October 2015 and the Asian-Pacific consultation was held in November 2015. Priorities from the American and Caribbean consultation will be consolidated with those from the two other regional consultations and matched with CABI’s capabilities, resources and strategies. The consolidated results will then be fed into CABI’s Review Conference, scheduled to take place in July 2016, and help guide the organization’s overall strategy for the coming years.

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