CARDI St Lucia hosted a training workshop on Crop Scheduling and Water Use Efficiency for Climate Change on September 24-25, 2019. Sessions were held at CARDI’s field station and the Bethel Blessings Events and Conference Centre in Dennery. Participants included farmers, students, and agriculture stakeholders from across OECS Member States including Antigua & Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Kitts & Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent & the Grenadines. Over 30 persons were in attendance. The workshop utilised Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to analyse market trends, schedule production, map farm locations and integrate automated and injector irrigation systems into farm practice. The workshop was part of the Advancing ICTs for Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) project funded by the Japan-CARICOM Overseas Friendship and supported by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Cooperatives of St Lucia. Ezechiel Joseph, Minister of Agriculture in St Lucia, and Toshihide Kanaya, Second Secretary at the Embassy of Japan in Trinidad were present on the first day of the workshop. Minister Joseph on visiting the workshop expressed, “I am happy to see so many young farmers here today; we have to embrace the technology and begin to make the necessary changes if we are going to reduce our food import bill. We also need a regional approach in creating and implementing policies, so I am pleased to have our OECS member states represented here today. There is need for serious research in adopting these kinds of technologies that consider the challenges of climate change.”
Climate variability and change continue to impact the Caribbean region and affect food production systems. Changes in temperature and rainfall directly affect crop yield and animal production and can create an unstable market. In St Lucia, cultural festivals also affect the demands and supply of the market. Farmers therefore need to implement practices that allow for an effective and consistent supply of produce to meet market demands. Coupled with increases in production and productivity, this will contribute towards reducing the food import bill of St Lucia. CARDI supports the Government and the Ministry of Agriculture of St Lucia in working towards a reduced import bill for cabbage, lettuce, tomato, bell peppers, cantaloupe, watermelon and pineapple under the Import Substitution Programme.
ICTs which were examined in the workshop to enable consistent production included a web-based crop scheduling application and an automated irrigation application, both of which can be used on mobile phones. Fertigation and injector irrigation systems were also examined along with the use of sub-surface irrigation and soil moisture probes to effectively manage water. The mobile application ‘Terra Sync’ was used on over 100 farms to map locations. These maps allowed for recognition of soil types, landslide and flood zones. Information was shared on how to reduce the impact and prepare for such potential hazards in these zones. These ICTs are simple and practical allowing farmers to adopt the technologies and improve production. In the words of farmer Garvey Charlemagne, “I would definitely endorse the use of ICTs on farms around the island, especially in an effort to mitigate the effects of climate change. We need to embrace the use of technology in agriculture which results in major cost savings for the farmer, as it is less labour intensive, ensures that water is used effectively for irrigation and addresses the high cost of weed management.”
He added, “The technology we were exposed to in this project will undoubtedly enhance the agricultural sector, not only here in St Lucia but for our Caribbean colleagues as well. I have embraced the use of ICT as a tool for marketing and networking with other farmers and I am presently working towards implementing other aspects that I was exposed to. This includes fertigation, automated watering, the use of tools to measure soil water levels, the application of sub-surface drip tapes and the use of mulching to eliminate the need for constant weeding. I must say thank you to CARDI St Lucia, Andrea Veira, the Japan-CARICOM Friendship and Cooperation Fund, Dr Govind Seepersad, Dr Dave Goorahoo and Ms Shivani Seepersad.”
The workshop was facilitated by Dr Govind Seepersad, Dr Dave Goorahoo and Ms Shivani Seepersad and the project managed by Ms Andrea K Veira at CARDI St Lucia.