On April 19, a panel composed of four voices from Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands addressed the issue of food security at the 3rd Caribbean Climate Change Conference. Social, justice and equity elements were incorporated into the discussion, without ignoring the environmental and agricultural production elements.
Christina Chanes, a researcher at the University of the Virgin Islands, commented on various projects that have involved the citizens and farmers of the archipelago to provide them with tools and resources to monitor and safeguard the water they collect. The various projects she has catalyzed, including the creation of community gardens and the planting of hundreds of fruit trees, reflect the importance of involving communities and the agricultural sector in strengthening food security, producing food for sale, for bonding and fostering intra-community support.
Following that line, the presentation by Sommer Sibilly Brown, director and founder of the Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition, emphasized how many times initiatives are developed that do not have the expected results, even though they have good intentions. She invited us to reflect on the people who are ignored and who are not included in the development of these projects or public policies focused on addressing food security situations in the communities where they live. It is difficult to safeguard the food security of a place if elements of inequity and injustice that undermine social welfare are not addressed.
Mariolga Reyes Cruz, documentary filmmaker and community psychologist, stressed the importance of participatory mechanisms for action and the right of people to healthy food. She also brought to the conversation the contrasts between food security and food sovereignty. Reyes Cruz also commented on the initiatives of the Trust of Community Lands for Sustainable Agriculture (FiTiCAS), some of which have been reviewed in this newspaper, which aim to safeguard Puerto Rico’s lands as common goods and make them accessible to diverse people who wish to produce food in harmony with the environment. The FiTiCAS director also spoke about the social and environmental obstacles facing the agricultural sector and the population in general.
Such obstacles become more visible during disasters. Uriyoán Colón Ramos, a researcher at George Washington University, shared findings on food security in Puerto Rico before and after the onset of the pandemic. Similar to what happened after Hurricane Maria, people with less access to resources saw a detriment in their food security. Therefore, strengthening food security must integrate social and health elements, such as reducing poverty and taking into consideration the nutritional values of foods that are supplied in emergencies, for example. The conversations generated in the panel reflected the complexity of what food security is when approached from perspectives that link different social and environmental elements. This was one of more than twenty panels and plenaries from the conference, organized by the Caribbean Climate Hub and other agencies and organizations, which are available online.
Non-technical translation performed in the free version of DeepL by the author.