PRESS RELEASE — CARIBBEAN people know coconuts. The long-time staple of tropical cuisine is practically an emblem of the region’s culture and climate. But a new international initiative is refreshing coconut’s traditional image, and shifting it towards an icon for business process innovation, wealth generation and sustainable livelihoods.
In the last four years, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) has been implementing a major regional project, working alongside the International Trade Center and stakeholders along the coconut value chain to transition the region’s small-scale operations to enterprise-level profitability in the global coconut industry.
On Wednesday 5 December, all CARDI offices across the region will be celebrating CARDI Day under the theme “Celebrating the potential of the region’s coconut industry.”
This year the focus will be on highlighting the Institute’s work under the EU – ACP funded Regional Coconut Industry Development Project.
Through a series of exhibitions, workshops, public lectures and school tours participants will see first-hand some of the practical ways that the project is breathing new life into one of the region’s oldest industries.
The date holds special meaning as it is on 5 December 1974 Caribbean government representatives met in Georgetown, Guyana to sign the agreement establishing the Institute.
Worldwide, a growing demand for fresh coconut produce is being driven by recent trends in the global food and beverage sector and the health and beauty markets.
Caribbean farmers are exploring new ways to get more out of the coconut value chain, converting every part of the iconic tree into marketable assets. But it’s not that simple. For many farmers, issues like pests, disease and limited market access are still severely constraining their ability to make a sustainable living from coconuts.
CARDI is working alongside a number of stakeholders in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago to help other farmers benefit from the window of opportunity created by an upsurge in global demand.
In St. Lucia for example, CARDI continues to assist with the replanting of old coconut trees. Suitable mother plants and their nuts are selected and established in nurseries until they are ready for planting in fields. The CARDI Field Station presently has a nursery that sells nuts to farmers, landscapers and home-owners.
The Union Vale Estate in Soufriere, managed by Mr. Terry George, has successfully established a nursery of tall varieties for sale.
An Integrated Pest Management Plot was also set up in Roseau with Farmer, Mr. Jai Rambally, seeking to control the Red Palm Mite Pest.
Germplasm collection and preservation of unique varieties is also in progress with nine different types collected at present from what is locally found on St. Lucia.
These will be grown at the CARDI Field Station to ensure the materials are conserved and later multiplied.
The National Stakeholders Platform for Coconuts chaired by Mr. Kenny Daniel is also working to promote the use and benefits of coconuts as well as share what the local processors are producing.
In Jamaica, the project has focused on developing farmer’s business skills in order to open up crucial access to financial products and services.
A recent collaboration saw the International Trade Centre and the Development Bank of Jamaica providing financial literacy training to several Jamaican producers.
Those kinds of interventions are happening across the region’s coconut value chain, bringing together smallholder farmers and small-scale processors with representatives from finance and other sectors so that they can more easily share technical knowledge and market information.
Barton Clarke, Executive Director of CARDI, says the multi-stakeholder efforts will add up to a more competitive coconut industry for the entire region.
“Through this Regional Coconut Industry Development Project, CARDI is working to improve income and employment opportunities, food security, and overall competitiveness of the Caribbean coconut sector,” Clarke said.
“This project has laid a firm foundation from which growth and expansion of the industry can now be accelerated. CARDI will continue to work alongside national stakeholders, regional actors and international agencies to deepen linkages with players from sectors such as health services, manufacturing, finance and tourism,” said Maurice Wilson, regional project coordinator.
CARDI (www.cardi.org) was established in 1974 to serve the agricultural research and development needs of the Member States of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and is positioned to contribute to the sustainable development of the Caribbean by the co-generation, diffusion and application of knowledge, through agricultural research for development.
The Institute’s Headquarters is located at the University Campus, St. Augustine, Trinidad and Tobago, but it’s work is seen and felt across the region.
Meanwhile, related seminars will be held in Saint Lucia at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College Farm, Dennery.
The first takes place on Monday December 3 from 9.30-10.30am, when the subject will be ‘Coconut Production.’
The second seminar will be on Tuesday, December 4 with three separate discussions on ‘Establishing a Coconut Nursery’, ‘Integrated Pest Management of Coconuts’ and ‘Coconut Germplasm and Intercropping’.
Tuesday’s seminars also start at 9.30am. 9CARDI)