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World Environment Day: Addressing Food Security through Climate-Smart Agriculture

The recent collaboration between Walkers Institute For Regenerative Research and Design (WIRRED), Walkers Reserve, Scotiabank Barbados, the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator (CCSA), and Fork Farms culminated in a highly impactful Climate-Smart Agriculture Workshop held at Walkers Reserve from May 31st to June 1st, 2024.

As part of the effort to combat food insecurity, the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator (CCSA), with aid from the Sony Music Global Social Justice Fund, collaborated with Fork Farms in 2023 to introduce two indoor hydroponic vertical farms  to the Walkers Institute for Regenerative Research, Education and Design (WIRRED). Each of these hydroponic farms , capable of producing 25 pounds of fresh lettuce every 28 days, symbolise a tangible step towards sustainable food production. This pilot is part of a larger pilot project across three Caribbean islands, namely Anguilla, Cayman and Barbados. 

The workshop served as a crucial step in addressing the pressing issue of food security exacerbated by climate change in the region. Statistics from the World Bank highlight the profound economic impact of weather hazards on Caribbean countries, with average annual GDP losses ranging from 1 to 9 percent between 1990 and 2010. Furthermore, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that Barbados faced a significant food insecurity rate of 31.1 percent from 2020 to 2022.

Kiesha Farnum, Director of Public Sector Projects at the Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator (CCSA), highlighted findings from The World Food Programme and Caribbean Livelihoods Survey of May 2023, revealing that 52 percent of the population in the English-speaking Caribbean still grapples with food insecurity. “Ensuring access to fresh, nutritious, locally grown food is paramount, particularly in regions like the global South, where vulnerabilities are pronounced among marginalised groups such as youth and women.” Ms. Farnum said.

The workshops facilitated discussions on promoting sustainable food production within Barbados, attracting enthusiastic participation from students, educators, and industry professionals. Speakers, including Elize Rostant, Managing Director of WIRRED; Josh Mahlik, Partnership Development Director at Fork Farms; Kiesha Farnum, Director of Public Sector Projects at CCSA; Lana Fingal, Senior Relationship Manager and Team Lead at Scotiabank’s Offshore Banking Unit; and Georgie Thornton, Project Officer at WIRRED, each brought valuable insights to the realm of climate-smart agriculture and its importance to the region. Emphasising the importance of innovative solutions in addressing contemporary environmental challenges, they collectively underscored the need for proactive approaches to sustainable farming practices.

“Through our Environmental Resource Group, Scotiabank remains committed to supporting initiatives that prioritise environmental well-being.” said Lana Fingall, Senior Relationship Manager and Team Lead at Scotiabank. “These workshops empower participants to understand agriculture’s role in climate change and inspire action. Even small-scale efforts like vegetable gardens can make a significant impact by supporting pollinators, increasing green space, reducing carbon emissions, and improving overall environmental health.”

Attendees actively engaged in practical demonstrations and hands-on activities, gaining valuable knowledge and skills in hydroponic farming techniques, particularly focusing on the technology in the Flex Farms by Fork Farms and WIRRED’s experimental aquaponics system. Day one of the event witnessed the participation of 37 students between the ages of 14-16, 4 teachers, and representatives from the collaborating organisations. Day two of the workshop saw participation from an additional 30 individuals, including stakeholders from organisations across the island and local community farmers, reflecting a growing commitment to embracing climate-smart practices within the agricultural sector, especially among youth stakeholders.

Amalia Hooper, a Coleridge and Parry Secondary School student, found the workshop to be a valuable learning experience. “I thought it was very interesting,” she remarked, “and I learned a lot of new things, such as hydroponics and aquaponics.”

“We are thrilled with the overwhelming response to our Climate-Smart Agriculture Workshop,” remarked Elize Rostant, Managing Director of WIRRED. “The event served as a platform for knowledge exchange and collaboration, empowering participants to become agents of positive change within their communities.”

Director of Partnership Development at Fork Farms, Josh Mahlik, added that “Fork Farms is grateful to partner with WIRRED and CCSA to bring sustainable fresh food production technology to Barbados, expanding fresh food growing capacity and access on the island with organisations that share our mission and values.  This project, along with the level of engagement from students and community leaders present at the workshop, confirmed Barbados as a leader in climate-smart technology adoption and will lead to great outcomes moving forward.”

The success of the workshop was made possible through the generous sponsorship of Scotiabank, whose support enabled free attendance, transportation arrangements, and provision of meals for all participants.

As the workshop concluded, participants departed with newfound knowledge and inspiration to incorporate sustainable practices into their agricultural pursuits. The Caribbean Climate-Smart Accelerator remains committed to promoting climate-smart agriculture and fostering a culture of environmental stewardship to ensure food security in the region. Take a look at this and other projects on our Climate Smart Map (