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Bellairs Research Institute celebrates 60th anniversary

6/10/2014

The Bellairs Research Institute of McGill University, located in Barbados, was praised last week for its grand contribution of contributing the creative and intellectual thinking, interacting and research. In celebration of its 60th anniversary, the institution of higher learning hosted several activities including a presentation and panel discussion held at the Grande Salle of the Central Bank of Barbados and under the patronage of Dr. Delisle Worrell and his wife Monica Drayton Worrell.

The anniversary celebrations, which coincided with World Environment Day, Canadian Environment Week and the International Year of Small Island Developing States, were attended by His Excellence Richard Hanley, High Commissioner to Canada, Ambassador Achim Steiner, Executive Director of United Nations Environment Programme and feature speaker Dr. Hugo Melgar-Quinonez, Director of the Institute for Global Food Security, McGill University.

During his introductory remarks, Canadian High Commissioner Richard Hanley told the audience, inclusive of past and present students of the McGill University, that the people of Canada and Barbados had been able to enjoy a positive relationship in many aspects, including higher education and training.

“We enjoy a true learning exchange in which Barbadian students and professors collaborate with Canadian universities and colleges through scholarships and exchange programmes... and Canadian researchers come to Barbados for an experience unlike any other in Canada”, Hanley remarked.

Thanking the Academic and Managing Director of the Bellairs Research Institute Susan Mahon and team for their dedicated work in progressing the school the High Commission said that over the last 60 years, researchers who came there were able to engage in rich collaboration in areas inclusive of Marine Science, Mathematics, Computer Science, Robotics, Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security.

Hanley also pointed out that Canada remained committed to “ensuring that people around the world have access to sufficient safe and nutritious foods”. To this end, he noted that that country had been engaging in several projects, one of the most recent in the Caribbean being a project PROPEL which is worth $19 million Canadian dollars and which seeks to helps farmers increase the quality and quantity of fresh grown fruits and vegetables. “[PROPEL helps] small producers link to market in the region and internationally... the technical assistance provided helps the farmers to provide sufficient qualities of produce and maintain internationally accepted food, quality and safety standards”, the High Commissioned explained.

Mrs. Monica Drayton Worrell, who spoke in the absence of her husband, the Governor of the Central Bank Dr. Worrell spoke on the relevance of the theme of discussions “Feeding Ourselves Now and in the Future – a Reality or not”. She was of the view that Barbados should seek to develop a modern, export-oriented agriculture that could be highly profitable and that offered farmers a comfortable, middle-class livelihood.

“Barbadians do not consume enough of any single productto make it worthwhile for a majority of farmers to grow that product. It only takes a handful of sizable producers to cause a glut in the market of 270 000 people,” she said, adding that in order to ensure profitability, farming had to result in exporting to much larger markets.

She also said that we could not be naive into thinking that praedial larceny was only a “Barbadian problem” and that to remain viable, farmers should consider shifting to produce that was harder to steal and sell.

The remarks were followed that evening by a panel discussion on “Growing and Producing our Own Food” which included as presenters: David Bynoe, National Coordinator of Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme, an arm of the United Nations Development Programme; Jill Parlee, Graduate of Bellairs Research Institute, McGill University; John Hunte, Secretary of the Organic Growers and Consumers Association of Barbados and Dr. J.R. Deep Ford, Sub-Regional Coordinator of the Food and Agricultural Organization – Latin American and the Caribbean. (RS)

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