Noting the importance of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) at a townhall meeting this week, Agricultural Minister Alfred Prospere called on farmers to embrace CSA in order for the sector to grow.
Whilst climate change continues to be a threat to the environment, farmers can take advantage of CSA, Prospere indicated. Climate-smart agriculture techniques can help farmers adapt to and prepare for impacts in order to preserve—and even improve—their livelihoods, Rainforest Alliance shared in an article on its website recently.
Further, Prospere said, farmers must be aware of climate change and its effects.
“Climate change is real and it is impacting the agricultural sector so our farmers must be aware of the implications that climate change can have on production, water quality and quantity (and) soils, and ensure that (they) are able to adjust to climate-smart agriculture,” Prospere said.
According to him, farmers must adopt new measures in order to move forward.
“We cannot do the same things we did 20 years ago; farmers need to change the way (they) do things,” the minister said adding that farmers “need to think (about) changing things (like) forks” as they no longer assist farmers.
“Your cost of production will continue to increase and your profit margin will always be low. We spoke to the Taiwanese and they have now brought into Saint Lucia some small implements that would allow our farmers to reduce the cost of production,” Prospere said.
Though the sector has its challenges, the Ministry of Agriculture is playing its part, he observed. Prospere also brought up the issue of food security noting that it’s not just a local problem.
“We are faced with challenges in the sector and we must do something about it. Agriculture is a very important sector in any country because we all depend on food. Food security is a global problem. The issues surrounding food security does not only exist in Saint Lucia. It’s a significant problem that we must tackle as a government,” Prospere said, adding that it is critical for government to diversify the sector.
Whilst the war between Russia and Ukraine dealt a nasty blow to the industry, the minister said government is trying to cushion the blow for farmers by way of subsidies. Government is also working towards getting some level of insurance coverage for farmers, fishers, and others involved in the sector.
“(The) sack of salt we were buying $48.00 two years ago is now $105.00. We didn’t know that would happen but it’s not government… that all happened because of the Ukraine-Russia war. Government understands the challenge our farmers face in terms of getting fertilizer and other farming goods and we are in the process of helping them especially our banana farmers,” the minister said, adding “we gave a 30% subsidy on fertilizer to our banana farmers in September last year and just two weeks ago commenced the second phase of the fertilizer subsidy.”
Prospere also provided an update on the 7-Crops Project which is currently in its second phase. According to the Ministry, the objective of the project is to create an enabling environment for the increased production of selected agricultural commodities in order to help in the reduction of Saint Lucia’s food import bill.
On its website, the Ministry noted that Saint Lucia’s importation of agricultural produce was approximately EC $27 million in 2016. The anticipated impact of this initiative will be an increased reliance on domestic agricultural produce for the supply of adequate, safe and nutritious food, to satisfy the national demand for food, the Ministry stated.
“We know our food import bill (is) high. CARICOM has taken a decision by 2025 to reduce our food import bill by 25% and as a government we are working towards achieving that. (The) 7-Crops Programme (was) funded by the Taiwanese government. We are targeting seven crops (amongst them) pineapple, watermelon, cantaloupe, cabbage, tomato and sweet pepper. Just last week we had a seedling distribution sale … we are targeting close to 250,000 seedlings (and we will sell it for farmers at) 20 cents for one,” Prospere said.
“We have a programme currently in my ministry where we are targeting one million cocoa trees (for us to help farmers). In the coming weeks we will be providing seedlings to farmers at a subsidized price; we will be rehabilitating a lot of those cocoa plantations to be able to get them back into production. We know there is (a) cocoa disease; we also will be working towards helping to control the disease,” he added.
Regarding Saint Lucia’s banana industry, Prospere said “we were able to recommence exports of our bananas to the UK but unfortunately because of supply chain issues and the consistent poor quality of our fruits going to the UK, we had to come to a halt in terms of exports of bananas… as a result we are only at this time exporting bananas to the region.”
The Ministry, however, is working together with farmers “to be able to resume exports of bananas to the UK. We have to do a number of things in terms of making sure that we get our quality right, but currently we are doing excellent work in terms of the region.”
Be careful wit the use of mechanized equipment in farming.
Conduct a comprehensive study of its effect on
1. Soil erosion, especially during the
frequent and heavy rainstorms
presented in this climate change
2. The loss of soil fertility as essential
minerals are depleted by over
mechanization of the land
While it is necessary for us to adopt innovative methods of food production in order to adapt to the changes demanded in climate and weather patterns, the result of rushing to throw away the “fak” to use the motor instead may prove more catastrophic to St. Lucia’s agricultural advance.
Please, study this thing carefully. Conduct a test sample, get all the pros and cons of the method before we end up eating sabre twapay ec wassin baboo in St. Lucia-dan.