Saturday, May 31, 2008

Update -- One Laptop Per Child

The OLPC (One Laptop Per Child) initiative that is the brainchild and initiative of Nicholas Negroponte has been scaled back in comparison to what Mr. Negroponte announced during TED Conference 2006 (Technology, Entertainment, Design). Back in 2006 the goal was to build 7 to 10 million XO laptops in 2007, and 100 to 200 million in 2008, at a production cost of $100. In reality since that announcement the cost is closer to $188 per laptop, and large countries have been slow to adopt the idea and buy the tool.

The biggest withdrawal from the educational initiative, surprisingly to me, came from India. What surprises me is that India is currently in the lead in its boom as an Information Technology facilitator. The country has been exporting its educated and talented IT services to first class industrialized countries. Many global organizations have set up their development and production support teams in the cities of Banglore and Hyderbad. The Indian Education minister, Sudeep Banerjee has reasoned that the OLPC program is "pedagogically [1] suspect", and added "We need classrooms and teachers more urgently than fancy tools." (This quote was cited from the Technology Review issue of May/June 2008)

Meanwhile, Peru has been an enthusiastic adaptor of the idea. The government has allocated one third of its educational budget ($80 million) to buy the XO laptop, and distribute them to the poorest schools in the country. The XO laptop comes loaded with 115 books, and the flash drives store introduction information for teachers, reading-comprehension programs plus educational software and programs that will allow children to explore and be creative. It also comes with a camera that can capture images and videos; and it is internet ready.

Oscar Becerra, Peru's Education Minister, reasons that it would cost five times more to distribute the books compared to the cost of the laptops. Also this is an initiative by the government to bring the schools up to date. Technology Review writer, David Talbot, traveled to Peru and made the first hand observation of how well the laptops have been received and being used by the recipients. 486,500 machines are destined to world's poorest and worst-educated children.

Since last summer almost 50 children from Arahuay have been using the prototype laptops. In his observation: "The teachers knew we were coming. The children were at their desks, pecking away at their now-battered laptops. The machines were clearly well worn, with names written in marker to distinguish them… Kevin Gabino, 11, was following a teacher's instructions to type a statement of the school's values into a text file (Llegar temprano al colegio – Be early to school – topped the list.) Several other kids were playing Tetris… Rosario says she uses her laptop to play games, take pictures, draw, perform calculations, write documents, and send e-mails to her 25-year old sister who works in Lima 'washing clothes and looking after babies'"

Despite the scaling back of the project, I think this report by Mr. Talbot, is an example that Mr. Negroponte and his team should not be discouraged in continuing to reach their goal of providing one laptop per child. The measure of success for the project isn't the production of an affordable, scaleable and reliable hardware. That's part of the process. The big picture is transforming education. It is showing a child such as Rosario, the possibilities of a lifestyle that is new and different. Without being overtly stating a cliché, teach the next generation of underprivileged Peruvians to reach for the stars.

-Analyn Revilla

Friday, May 30, 2008

New Pilot Program for HIV Testing to be launched in the Caribbean

In an effort to combat the rising rate of HIV infection in the Caribbean, a number of entities have come together to help more people get tested, as well as to offer advice about HIV and AIDS.

In Jamaica, the Bank of Nova Scotia in 2007 had what was called “Scotiabank HIV and AIDS Awareness Road Show” in the parish of St. Elizabeth.

Come June 27 this year, Scotiabank will be back at it, but this time it will be a Caribbean region affair. On that date, the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership (CBMP) on HIV/AIDS, the Bank of Nova Scotia and health organizations such as the Barbados Ministry of Health will be arranging for persons to be tested at various Scotiabank branches across the Caribbean. Islands taking part in the new pilot project include Jamaica, Barbados, Dominica, Anguilla, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis and St. Maarten.

The testing and counseling, which will be done by trained professionals will be done in private to ensure the confidentiality of the person being tested. This move is to help in educating, and hopefully preventing, the spread of HIV/AIDS. Studies have shown that efforts at prevention and improved treatment options result in people getting tested. Most people change their sexual behavior once they know their status. Early knowledge of one’s status also means earlier access to treatment.

According to, the number of persons infected with HIV and AIDS in the Caribbean was set at 230, 000 in 2007. Of this number some 17, 000 were new cases. According to some sources, the Caribbean now has the second-highest rate of infection in the world. Over two percent of the adult population in some of the larger islands are said to be living with HIV or AIDS.

The Ministry of Health statistics, which is available online, reports that between January 1982 and June 2007 there have been 12,063 reported cases in Jamaica.

Statistics also indicate that Haiti is the worst affected, with approximately 16,000 deaths from AIDS each year.

The impact of HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean is far reaching. Not only is it placing a strain on already over-stretched medical systems in many of the islands, but in many cases children are the worst affected. Apart from sometimes becoming infected through mother-to-child transmission, many are abandoned, or orphaned due to the death of their parents. The stigma and discrimination still experienced by those affected by the deadly virus make it difficult for proper care to be given to children affected and infected.

To get persons to come out and be tested, the Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership (CBMP) will be using print and television advertising to raise awareness about the program.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

What's He Doing Now?

'Why Twitter Matters', is a headline in this week's issue of Business Week. I came upon Twitter last October in an article in Technology Review (issue Nov/Dec 2007). It was about the founder of Twitter, Evan Williams, who is also known as the seller of Blogger to Google.

Williams' venture, only 14 months old, has gained considerable notice because of the momentum it has gained and continuous growth in its user base. The gross estimate is between half a million to a million (not including the tweets that stream in from phones.) This is still a Spartan count compared to the titan Facebook at 70 million users. Twitter won the Web award in March 2007 at the South by Southwest International Festival (Austin, TX.)
hat Twitter is, as described by the founder is, a question answering the question "What Are You Doing?" Williams explains the appeal as it fills the need for people to stay connected. As a free web service, Twitter allows sending messages maxed out to 140-characters via the website, instant message or your phone, to anyone who has chosen to "follow" you (twitterstream.) The followers will receive those messages via the medium(s) of their choice.

The newest "web service du jour", typically of any evolving community has developed its own language. Messages (aka twitters, twits, and tweets) have been explored by businesses as a marketing tool that allows production companies (e.g. HP) to harvest the opinions relayed between users about their products. Media groups are looking to "Twitterers" as the first to be present in any news worthy events such as the recent earthquake in China.

Other prominent users (source: Wikipedia) include:

* Los Angeles Fire Department in communicating the situation of the October 2007 California wildfires.
* University of Texas (San Antonio College of Engineering) uses it to convey important information to students
* CNN has used it to break news
* US presidential campaigns (Ron Paul, Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton) have used it as publicity mechanisms

Now that Twitter has gained some critical mass in its user base it has also needed an injection of funds to upgrade its technology to prevent the down times it has been experiencing. There were recent re-organizations internally. Williams, the founder of Obvious (the Web-product development company that incubated Twitter) is no longer at the helm of Twitter. He has passed the mantle to the other remaining co-founders of Twitter.

Evan Williams, from Clarks, Nebraska, is an interesting personality. At 16, he was keen on reading business books, the first of which was on real estate. He wasn't interested in buying property in Clarks, but he glued on to the of building a business and making money. He recalls, "I realized I could go buy books and learn something that people had spent years learning about. I was very intrigued with the idea that there's all this stuff out there to know that you could use to your advantage. It was written down in these books, and no one around was using it."

He sees Obvious as a different venture from Twitter. He sees it as think tank and incubator for products that solve obvious problems. It is amazing that Twitter is now just an after thought onto perhaps a runway success. What is Evan Williams going to do next?

-Analyn Revilla

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Introducing Blackberry Bold

In early spring I sat outside a café with a friend while we waited for our order of blueberry pancakes, and sipped our coffee. Our conversation was intermittent, because my friend kept excusing himself, "Sorry," as he typed text messages into his Blackberry Curve. He was carrying on a dual conversation, and I felt I was put into second position, though I was the one physically present with him.

I would consider my friend a "Crackberry", a term coined for users who cannot live without their Blackberries. "Crackberry" is a reference to the street-drug form of cocaine known as crack. Use of the term CrackBerry became so widespread that in November 2006 Webster's New World College Dictionary named "crackberry" the "New Word of the Year". (Source: Wikipedia)

I am also part of the community that own a Blackberry. I bought one on e-Bay, second hand, and have decorated it with a red silicon cover to protect it from accidental drops. I abuse my Blackberry in a sense that I drop it constantly, but I don't consider myself an abuser of the technology it offers in terms being accessible to anyone at anytime.

Blackberry announced on Monday, May 12, 2008 the release of a new model. It is named Blackberry Bold , and is expected to be available first in the UK this coming summer. This new model finally offers new multimedia effects which other PDA (Personal Device A…) has been offering for quite sometime. I owned a Nokia last summer which allowed me to record audio, video, and take pictures; and have the ability to send reasonable sized files over wireless networks. When I first got my Blackberry Pearl I lamented not having these features. I was able to take photographs and send them as e-mail to other receivers, and/or send it over the Blackberry network as part of text message.

These two features 1) e-mail and 2) Blackberry network is what separates Blackberry from its other competitors.

Blackberry was the first of the wireless handheld devices that supported: Push e-mail, mobile phone, text messaging, internet faxing and web browsing by delivering information over the wireless data networks of mobile service phone service companies (Wikepedia.) These convenient features along with the regular offerings of PDA options (calendars, address book, calculator) made it the most desirable wireless handheld device since its introduction in 1997 by Research In Motion (RIM), a Canadian headquartered in Ontario Canada.

For those technically savvy, here is a list of the hardware specifications:

Blackberry features
624 MHz ARM processor
256 MB Flash memory
1GB internal storage
480x320 pixel screen
2 megapixel camera
HDSPA support
802.11 Wi-Fi
Integrated GPS

I'm still set upon being aware to pay respect to the presence of physical companions over virtual companion. I don't fault the growth of technology, because to me it is a valuable tool in expanding our reach to other worlds and people. But, I feel we shouldn't lose touch with our immediate surroundings. I've noticed some people have developed a nervous tick of constantly watching the blinking lights of their phones. I have to watch myself too, less I become a "Crackberry" too.

-Analyn Revilla

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Bush not impressed with changes in Cuba

“Until there is a change of heart and a change of compassion and a change of how the Cuban government treats its people, there is no change at all.”

The above quote is from President George W. Bush's address to the Council of the Americas at the US State Department on May 7, 2008. With the resignation of Fidel Castro and the new presidency of his 76-year old brother, Raul Castro, many people are expecting a less strict, changed, "opening up", of the communist country.

Truth be told, while there has been some change, for many critics these have been seen as merely cosmetic. For others, it is a signal of a new day dawning, albeit slowly. However, Bush states that “If Cuba wants to join the community of civilized nations, then Cuban rulers must begin a process of peaceful and democratic change and the first step must be the release of all political prisoners.” He further stressed that US policies towards Cuba “…must not change until the people of Cuba are free.”

Today, Cubans can now stay at the same hotels as tourists if they can afford it, which unfortunately only a very few can do. Other changes that have been implemented include the fact that there is no longer a restriction on the purchase of computers, pressure cookers and taking out cellphone contracts. In referring to these changes, Bush noted that these are things that the average Cuban cannot afford anyway.

The American president stated that the reforms in Cuba are ‘empty gestures’ and accused Raul Castro of not being serious about implanting reforms in the communist island.

Interestingly, Jamaica’s current Prime Minister, Bruce Golding has done what no other Jamaica Labour Party leader has done before – visited Cuba and met with President Raul Castro. The Jamaican Prime Minister and his entourage made a state visit from May 4 – 7 to further cement ties with Cuba that already existed between the two islands thanks to the Socialist regime of the People’s National Party in the 1970s.

In a statement to Parliament on February 20, 2008 concerning Fidel Castro’s resignation, Prime Minister Golding said that “As far as Jamaica is concerned, we expect that under the new leadership that will emerge, good relations between our countries will continue. Indeed, just last week I received an official invitation from Acting President Raul Castro to pay an official visit to Cuba. I indicated to the Minister of Foreign Affairs that I am accepting the invitation and discussions will take place with the Cuban authorities to determine the appropriate time for that visit bearing in mind the transition that will now be underway.”

Although having good relations with the USA, Jamaica’s decades long relationship with Cuba has not been a major bone of contention since the 1980s. As such, Jamaicans are little concerned that this visit by the prime Minister will have any repercussions in spite of President Bush’s recent statements about the communist island.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Microsoft offer for Yahoo withdrawn

Last February 2008 the blog topic I wrote was on the Microsoft bid to buy Yahoo. The intent of the offer was to merge two giants to try to compete with Google on internet search engines and ultimately earning the market share and revenue on advertising.

On Sunday, Microsoft made the announcement that it has withdrawn its offer to buy Yahoo. Yahoo would've have accepted the offer if Microsoft's price was at $37 per share, however Microsoft was unwilling to raise its $33 per share offer. The company felt its offer was the worth value of Yahoo, and nothing more above that.

In my February blog I thought that the bargaining dance would continue for several months, maybe even up to a year, and both companies would come to an agreed price on the buyout. But such will not be the story. 'Asked if that was the end of the story with Yahoo, Mr Courtois replied: "Absolutely, that's the end of the story. We are moving on because our strategy is very clear."' (BBC article of 05/06/2008)

In an analysis of the failed transaction Mr. Tim Weber describes a technical failure named "Panama" which is an advertising platform that matches a user's search with the appropriate advertising. A Microsoft executive stated, "There's nothing in Panama that I would want to integrate with our offering."

The speculation is that Microsoft will shop around in the smaller Web 2.0 companies, which is similar in functionality and capability to some of Google's best offerings.

Meanwhile, there is probably a large relief from the staff in the Yahoo camp that there is not any major reorganization to happen for the next little while… at least not until another bigger fish comes along, and/or Mr. Yang breaks decides to please his real which are the shareholders. Then maybe, just maybe… he may reconsider Microsoft's office if the door is still open.

-Analyn Revilla

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The Black Cinema Stamp Collection

The United States Postal Service will release Black Cinema Stamps this June, as part of it’s 2008 Commemorative Stamp Program, this June. Dedicated to the history of black cinema during the 20’s and 30’s, the movie-poster style stamps depict: The Sport of the Gods which was released in 1921 and was written by Paul Laurence Dunbar, Black and Tan which was released in 1929 and featured the first screen appearance of Duke Ellington, Princess Tam-Tam which was a French produced filmed that was released in 1935 and starred film legend Josephine Baker , Hallelujah which was also released in 1929 and featured and all black cast, and the 1945 release Caldonia which featured talented entertainer Louis Jordan.

When speaking of the Commemorative Stamp Program, Postmaster General John Potter states, “This stamp series celebrates our greatest creative minds, our groundbreaking heroes, and the places, institutions and values that have made us who we are,” “We’re proud to be able to highlight noteworthy parts of our shared American history on stamps that people will use every day to connect with family and friends.”

I pay every single bill I have on the internet, even my rent, so it’s not too often that I make use of a stamp. I’ve had the same book of stamps in my purse for over a year, in fact the only time I’ve been to the post office this year was when I went to mail off my taxes and even then I didn’t go inside. I just slid that God-forsaken envelope in the blue mail box marked “stamped” in the parking lot, and prayed to God that they didn’t lose it or forget to stamp it with the correct date, because as we all know, Uncle Sam “don’t play!” Just ask Wesley Snipes. However, I am a fan of African American commemorative items, so needless to say I was happy when I found out about the Black Cinema collection. The last book of Black Heritage Stamps I purchased was the Jazz Greats series, so I’m more than overdue on a new collection and this one looks like a nice choice, if only I can just finish the ones I have.

-Tremaya Reynolds READ MORE

Friday, May 2, 2008

Another Stolen Election??

Some leaders in the Democratic Party are playing with fire. They think that they can betray the will of millions of voters and choose Hillary Clinton as the nominee, regardless of whether or not she is the choice of the voters. We can't let this happen. It would be the largest disenfranchisement in modern history, and it would mean the Democratic Party giving their stamp of approval to a clear and consistent pattern of race-baiting by the Clinton campaign.

If we make our voices heard, we can stop it. Please join us in signing an open letter to leaders in the Democratic Party -- DNC Chair Howard Dean, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and all superdelegates -- demanding that they reject an outcome that involves trampling voting rights and legitimizing the politics of division and fear:

By the time the last vote is cast on June 3rd under the rules of the Democratic Party, it's unlikely Hillary Clinton will beat Barack Obama among voters.(1) But there's a chance that superdelegates will hand Clinton the nomination anyway.

This would be a shocking attack on democracy, and it would destroy the Democratic Party's credibility on protecting the right to vote. Black people have a long history of fighting against voter suppression, and now the Democratic Party will be the enemy in that fight. As bad as that would be, there's another reason that a coup by party insiders would threaten racial progress.

Senator Clinton's plan to have superdelegates hand her the nomination relies on a parallel strategy -- she has to stoke enough division and race-based fear among Democratic voters to convince superdelegates that white voters will not vote for Senator Obama in the general election.(2) One of Clinton's key arguments to superdelegates is that America won't elect a Black man, and therefore she's the better choice for Democrats to beat John McCain.(3,4) While she makes that argument in private to superdelegates, in public, Clinton's campaign and her surrogates are doing everything they can to damage Barack Obama by ginning up fear and division and playing to the worst instincts of our society. It's an insult to Black people and all Americans, Obama and Clinton supporters alike.

The pattern has been clear and consistent to some party leaders. Last week, according to the Washington Post, James Clyburn -- who as House Majority Whip remains neutral and is the highest ranking Black member of Congress -- accused the Clintons of marginalizing Black voters.(5) Referring to this strategy in another interview, Clyburn said that "Nothing in this campaign has been by accident."(6) Congressman Clyburn warned that "black people are incensed" over the divisiveness of the Clinton strategy and that it threatens an irreparable breach between Black people and the Democratic Party.(7) He's right. And if superdelegates hand Clinton a victory despite her defeat among voters, they will be condoning and rewarding that strategy.
Some party leaders have expressed strong concern about superdelegates overruling voters.(8,9) But as a whole, superdelegates have not made it clear that they will respect the will of voters. Today, we want to send a clear, unequivocal message to superdelegates and other party leaders: Reject the idea that the nomination can be won with a strategy that preys on racism, sows division, and disenfranchises millions of voters.

Please join us:

-- James, Van, Gabriel, Clarissa, Mervyn, Andre, and the rest of the team
   May 2nd, 2008

1. "Analysis: Time, delegate math working against Clinton," AP, 04-18-2008
2. Keith Olbermann Special Comment on Clinton Campaign, MSNBC, 03-12-2008
3. "Mark Halperin Explains the Clinton Argument for Staying In," Mark Halperin on FOX News, 03-28-2008
4. "Clinton ally: Some whites 'not ready' for Obama," AP, 02-12-2008
5. "Party Fears Racial Divide," Washington Post, 04-26-2008
6. "Vexing Issue for the Clinton Campaign: What to Make of Bill?," New York Times, 04-29-2008
7. "Black Leader in House Denounces Bill Clinton's Remarks," The Caucus, 04-24-2008
8. "Brazile: I'll Quit DNC Position Over Superdelegates," News & Notes, 02-11-2008
9. "Brazile: Howard Dean And Other Party Leaders Should Be Prepared To Step In," TPM Election Central, 03-05-2008


DR Congo: End the Horrific Suffering in Eastern Congo

The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo, the armed groups, and international parties to the Goma peace agreement should urgently implement the accord and end the horrific suffering of hundreds of thousands of men, women
and children facing brutal violence and deadly diseases in eastern Congo, 63 international and Congolese human rights and aid groups said in a joint statement today.

The non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are urging the United Nations and the international players that helped negotiate the Goma agreement to appoint a high level independent special advisor on human rights for eastern Congo to focus attention and ensure action on protecting civilians at risk, specifically women and girls threatened by sexual violence. It also urged the international players such as the African Union, European Union, and the United States to support the appointment politically and financially.

"Hundreds of thousands of victims clung to the hope that the peace deal would end their suffering. Sadly, no meaningful progress has been made on human rights commitments," said Anneke Van Woudenberg, Senior Researcher at Human Rights Watch. "We urge for the immediate appointment of a special advisor on human rights to help the parties honor their human rights commitments and to provide a voice for the victims who suffer in silence."

On January 23, 2008, after weeks of talks, the Congolese government signed a peace agreement in Goma, North Kivu, with 22 armed groups committing all parties to an immediate ceasefire and disengagement of forces from frontline positions. Yet since the signing, scores of civilians have been killed, hundreds of women and girls raped, and many more children recruited into armed service, adding to the extraordinarily high number of civilians who have already endured such crimes over the past decade.

An estimated 1.1 million people are displaced in North and South Kivu provinces, of which 550,000 fled from the fighting since 2007. Malnutrition, cholera, malaria and other preventable diseases are taking their lives at an alarming rate.

"This is a humanitarian catastrophe on an enormous scale. It demands urgent and concrete action by all parties to the agreement as well as by the international community," said Colin Thomas-Jensen, Policy Advisor of ENOUGH, a project to end genocide and crimes against humanity. "Getting the parties to sign an agreement was an important first step, but now we must move to the next step of helping people return home in safety and security."

Humanitarian agencies still face difficulties accessing civilians at risk and human rights defenders who have raised concerns about the abuses face threats and harassment. Armed groups, as well as the Congolese military, continue to illegally exploit natural resources and use the profits to fuel the conflict.

Special envoys from the African Union, the European Union, the United States, the United Nations and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region played a vital role in negotiating the Goma agreement. They agreed to continue to play an active role in monitoring and implementing its terms.

Under the terms of the peace accord, the parties agreed to respect international humanitarian and human rights law, including ending all acts of violence against civilians, halting the recruitment of child soldiers, assuring the release of political prisoners, and allowing access for humanitarian agencies.

Last week, Human Rights Watch made detailed recommendations on ways to appoint the special advisor on human rights for Eastern Congo to Abbé Apollinaire Malu Malu, the independent national-coordinator appointed by the Congolese government to lead its peace efforts, and the international community representatives. The organization urged Abbé Malu Malu to bring about this appointment, emphasizing that since human rights concerns were central to the conflict, failure to respond to such issues could cause the peace process to collapse.

The recommendations included that the special advisor be appointed either by the signatories to the Goma agreement, by the Secretary General of the United Nations, or by the international sponsors of the agreement.

Juliette Prodhan, Head of Oxfam in DRC said, "Without the appointment of a special advisor on human rights it will be far harder to hold parties to account for violating the peace agreement. For the sake of the Congolese people and the whole Great Lakes region, this investment in human rights is needed to help avoid a return to conflict that has already claimed too many lives."

For further information please contact:

For Human Rights Watch: Anneke Van Woudenberg in London on +44
(0)20 7713 2786 or +44 (0)7711 664960 (English, French)

For Oxfam: Rebecca Wynn in Oxford on +44 (0) 1865 472530 or + 44
(0) 7769 887139 (English)

For CRONGD (North Kivu): Kubuya Muhangi in Goma on +243 (0)99 861
0651 (French, Swahili)

For Centre Olame (South Kivu): Mathilde Muhindo, in Bukavu on +243
998755223 (French, Swahili)

For Enough: Colin Thomas-Jensen in Washington DC on + 1 202 682
6136 (English)

For Global Witness: Carina Tertsakian in London on +44 (0)207 561
6372 (English, French)

For International Rescue Committee: Lydia Gomersall in London on
+44 20 7692 2741 or +44 7779 855 021 (English, French)

The group of international and Congolese human rights and aid
organizations includes
[full list available in the web version of this e-mail bulletin, at]



Thursday, May 1, 2008

The Justice Issue

Check out the Justice Issue of The Coup Magazine at

* Interview with Emira Woods from the Institute of Policy Studies about her campaign against Firestone in Liberia
*Spoken Word artist Young Ceez performs "21-year-old Child"
*Interview with Chanel Kennebrew, founder and designer of junkprints, an indie design label
*America Martin explores the study and practice of eugenics in American History
*Gallery by Sama Alshaibi

Spector of Food Insecurity in the Caribbean

Food security has always been somewhere under the radar for most Caribbean countries, but it is suddenly ‘the topic’ on everyone’s tongue. With the continuous increase in the price of oil and gas, food prices are increasing at an alarming rate. The Economist magazine published an article online where the food security crisis is referred to as the ‘silent tsunami’.

In early April there were riots in the improvised Caribbean island of Haiti as the price of food spiraled out of control. The result was a virtual shut down of the capital city, Port-au-Prince and the death of six persons, while many others were injured.

Jamaica is also making the issue of food security a priority. So serious is the matter that the government is looking at re-introducing rice farming to the island. The idea of backyard gardening encouraged in the socialist era of former Prime Minister Michael Manley is once again being put forward.

One of the problems facing Jamaica as it looks at improving food security and supply is how to be less dependent on exports and become more self reliant. The consensus now from many quarters and one being advocated by a former National Champion Farmer, Egbert ‘Bob’ Miller, is for Jamaicans to “eat what they grow and grow what they eat”.

Jamaica has been warned by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture to reduce its dependence on imports. A spokesperson for the Jamaica chapter of the organization said:

“We believe that Jamaica has to correct its heavy dependence on food imports and start consuming and producing more local food if the country is to maintain an acceptable level of food security over time.”

This is a message that is relevant for the other islands that make up the region.

There are now reports that rice is in short supply in Jamaica, especially since there is a problem with getting adequate supplies from Guyana. However, today (April 30) it was announced that the Jamaica Flour Mills will try to ease the shortage by importing 30, 000 tonnes of rice. The country’s Minister of Industry, Commerce and Investment, the Honorable Karl Samuda said of the move:

“We intend to bring that rice to the Jamaican people at a price that is competitive with the Guyanese rice under the same provisions that the rice from Guyana comes in.”

The seriousness of a possible shortage of food worldwide is not lost on Caribbean nationals at home and in the Diaspora. The widespread food riots not only in Haiti, but also in Africa (Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Senegal an others) and Asia (Indonesia, Pakistan and Thailand) is causing more than a little concern.

Many experts are predicting that food insecurity will continue to grow. One of the major concerns that few in the Caribbean want to address out loud is the issue of pending starvation if food prices continue to go up and food supplies decrease.

-Jessica McCurdy Crooks READ MORE