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Minister of Agriculture, Roger Clarke emphasised today that the shared efforts of the public and private sectors in developing scientific innovations to advance the agricultural sector, would prove critical to its future. “The challenge we face today in trying to move the agricultural sector forward is, in simple form, making two or three blades of grass grow where one is growing now. It is only through the application of science and technology that this can be achieved,” the Minister said. Mr. Clarke was addressing the opening of a Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA) and National Commission on Science and Technology (NCST) Caribbean Training Workshop, being held at the Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.
The workshop will focus on the theme: ‘Analyzing the Agricultural, Science, Technology and Innovation System’.
Mr. Clarke noted that the application of science and technology (S&T) to agriculture would result in a considerable increase in its contribution to economic growth and development. He further pointed to the innovations that S&T was already creating within the agricultural sector.
“The Science Research Council (SRC), has been working in the area of food technology to create opportunities for increasing the value added component of a number of local crops, including coconut, ackee, sorrel, guava and a variety of meats and fresh fruits and vegetables,” Mr. Clarke explained.
In addition, he informed that the SRC was introducing farmers to technologies with the potential for substantial crop yield improvement, as was demonstrated by the Council’s production of disease free plantain, ginger and banana plantlets.
The Minister also cited other innovations by the Ministry’s Research and Development Division. “The sector’s competitiveness is also being enhanced as a result of the successes of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Research and Development Division, in the areas of crop development, disease control, irrigation, crop/land yields and farm management,” he said.
Mr. Clarke pointed to the development of the jherri curl resistant tomatoes, a new pumpkin variety, nutraceuticals or medicinal herbs, indigenous animal forages, integrated pest management as well as assisting bee farmers in the marketing of honey as some of the innovations which have so far been created by the division.
On the NCST’s role in linking science and technology to the advancement of the agricultural and other sectors, the Minister said that “in all of these developments and innovations, the NCST is playing a pivotal role in bringing about a sense of cohesion and co-ordination”.
The workshop is being held from July 18 to 22 and is the second phase of a process of competence-building in a number of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in applying the innovation systems framework to supporting science, technology and innovation policy development and implementation.