BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, (CDB) – Enhancing food security and agricultural productivity are at the root of a new project, which seeks to improve the production, processing and marketing of sweet potato in the Caribbean region.
A US$600,000-grant from the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) to the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) will fund the research and capacity building initiative. With the estimated total cost of the project set to be US$810,000 CDB’s funding will cover 74 percent of that amount with CARDI providing counterpart funding for the remainder.
The project involves market research, including value chain analysis to gauge levels of consumer demand, potential areas for investment and defining the existing gaps in the market. Field research will validate climate-resilient varieties and genotypes, including strains that are high yielding, drought-tolerant, disease-resistant, and suitable for processing.
Videos and infographics will be made available on the market and value chain and field research. Targeting farmers and other stakeholders along the sweet potato value chain, these aids will demonstrate best practices in sweet potato cultivation, processing and value-added product development. In addition, an integral component of the project is the provision of training new technology for farmers, agro-processors, and other stakeholders.
Director of projects at CDB, Daniel Best said the project would help to break new ground for the sweet potato industry in the Caribbean.
“The goal is to help identify emerging or potential opportunities for market development, expansion and enhancement of the regional sweet potato industry. The planned research, particularly the business case development, will serve as a catalyst for more strategic investment in the industry while the technology transfer will accelerate its modernisation,” said Best.
He noted that with food import bills more than doubling in CDB’s Borrowing Member Countries over the past two decades, the project was a valuable part of wider efforts to increase food security.
“Increased production of local alternatives to traditional imports and value addition to provide healthy convenient options for consumers, can assist in reversing public health challenges and reduce the regional food import bill. Roots and tubers, particularly sweet potato and cassava, have been identified as areas of focus,” he noted.
The project is in line with CDB’s strategic priorities of supporting sustainable agriculture and rural development, as well as increasing food production in the Caribbean. It is also aligned with the bank’s regional objectives, which include promoting sustainable agricultural production; supporting the processing and consumption of safe, affordable, nutritious, high-quality Caribbean food; improving the efficiency and competitiveness of targeted value chains; and promoting greater investments in the agri-food sector.