St. John’s Antigua- Root and tuber crops are an important alternative to traditional staples and provide food to vulnerable groups at times of food crisis, especially in tropical developing countries. However, on an international scale, it is widely accepted that root and tuber crop research is underfunded compared to other crops.
This set the stage for the intervention of the Natural Resources Institute (NRI) of the University of Greenwich of the United Kingdom, which partnered with the Caribbean Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and other Institutions from Africa and the Pacific to execute the project entitled “Science and Technology for Enhancing the Contribution of Tropical Root Crops to Development in ACP countries.”
As part of this project, from April 23 to 27 a training workshop hosted by the International Society for Tropical Root Crops was held at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Trinidad.
The workshop’s goal was to sensitize early career scientists involved in root and tuber crops development in approaches to writing winning research proposals, which will lead to more research for development work being done. Since most governments in the region continue to experience financial inadequacies, efforts are required to seek external research funding resources.
Part of the experience for the participants was field exercises in research, production, marketing and value adding enterprises. They visited the Processing Facility of the Trinidad and Tobago Agri-Business Association (TTABA), where they viewed the processing of cassava for the National School Feeding Programme; Norris Deonarine Northern Wholesale Market; Cunupia Farms and the retail outlet of Xtra Foods – where they were enthralled by the variety of commercially packaged root crop produce. The participants also had the opportunity to sample TTABA’s sweet potato fries, prepared by Hyatt’s chef.
In delivering Welcome Remarks at the Opening Ceremony, Arlington Chesney, CARDI’s Executive Director said, “since non-communicable diseases are now the most critical contributor to our poor health in the region, focus is now on our roots and tuber since not only are they high in fibres and complex starches, but recent findings have found that sweet potatoes and dasheen/eddo have cancer fighting properties.”
Senior Research Officer with Antigua & Barbuda’s Ministry of Agriculture Maudvere Bradford said that due to budgetary limitations, some projects unfortunately never make it to trials or implementation. However with the training, “scientists can now develop robust proposals to more readily access international funding’. She said that the facilitators were experts in their fields and the sessions were “very interactive.”
Participants were also exposed to master classes where experts in root and tuber crops delivered insightful presentations.
Facilitators of the programmes came from as far as Australia, Uganda, United Kingdom and Zambia. The 30 young participants came from Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St Kitts, St Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines and Trinidad & Tobago.
At the opening, a Memorandum of Understanding between NRI and CARDI was also signed. The NRI is a specialized Institute and School of the University of Greenwich, UK. The MOU will now see NRI and CARDI collaborating in research for development, education, training and development in the Caribbean; and developing joint research, training and development project proposals for submission to prospective bodies for funding.
This EU funded workshop formed part of a series of meetings being held in the Caribbean, Africa and Pacific. To date, the NRI has held training meetings in Barbados, Nigeria, Zambia, Uganda, Fiji and Papua New Guinea; with a target to reach 450 early career root and tuber crops scientists.