Over the past few years, RAFI has forged new relationships in the U.S. Caribbean territories, leading to the development of the Caribbean Farmers Network (CFN). As founding members of this multi-organizational collaboration RAFI, Alliance for Agriculture in Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands Good Food Coalition seek to connect Caribbean farmers with resources and support, from farm financial information to policy advocacy. These farmers, being U.S. citizens, qualify for many of the same USDA programs as mainland producers. However, geographic isolation, the lingering systemic effects of colonial dynamics, the intensifying effects of climate change, and cultural and racial differences often leave Caribbean farmers out of the loop.
RAFI’s Executive Director Edna Rodriguez helped guide the formation of this collaboration. Given her own experience growing up in the Dominican Republic, she feels strongly that working in partnership with organizations on the islands is the best way to strengthen farmer viability. Working side-by-side, we can avoid repeating the dynamics of “parachuting in to save the day,” and instead provide assistance where it’s most needed and sought.
Our efforts in the region have grown to include
- Encouraging USDA to provide better service and support farmers.
- Increasing the visibility of the territories and farmer challenges among food/farm organizations with the intention of bringing new programs, services, resources, and funding.
- Strengthening the capacity of local organizational partners.
- Extending and modifying the Farmers of Color Network re-granting programs to offer grants to CFN farmer members.
- Extending RAFI programs of technical assistance and farm advocacy in partnership with organizations on the ground.
- Incorporating issues identified as relevant by farmers in the territories in RAFI’s Farm Bill platform, and sponsoring a delegation of farmers and advocates from Puerto Rico and the U.S.Virgin Islands to lobby Congress in D.C.during the Farmers for Climate Change: Rally for Resilience in Spring 2023.
- Engaging culturally competent, Spanish-speaking staff to serve as a point of contact for farmers.
RAFI’s engagement in the region reflects our unwavering commitment to racial equity and climate resilience. We focus on serving those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, a commitment central to our organizational ethos. Working in partnership with our colleagues on the islands, we look forward to building a farmer-driven network focused on regional food sovereignty and resilience.