THERE is no doubt, that the friendship between the government and people of Taiwan and the government and people of St. Lucia is bearing much ‘fruit’. And we must complement the Taiwanese Ambassador, Peter Chen, and members of his Taiwanese team for ‘germinating and rearing’ the friendship to the extent that St. Lucia is presently experiencing a beacon of light and hope.
In a previous article, I pointed out the involvement of Taiwan in the “Application of Information Communication Technology for Education Development” in St. Lucia, and the involvement and participation of students from our Primary and Secondary schools.
In this article, we will investigate the thrust of the Taiwanese government in Phase 1 of the Enhancement of the Efficiency of Production and Distribution Supply Chains in the Fruit and Vegetable Sector.
Now over the last year or two, there has been much talk about Food Security in our country. Food Security is the state of having reliable access to sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
Indeed, it is no secret that a large percentage of our population suffers from Diabetes and Hypertension. And it has always been suggested that people should consume more vegetables as part of their diet.
There are two operative words that need to be examined in that suggestion; ‘access’ and ‘affordable’. In fact the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) in 1996, in its summit in Rome, declared that food security is achieved when everyone has physical, social and economic access at all times to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and health life.
From my understanding, physical access means that the food is available in the backyard garden, in the supermarkets close by, or in government approved sale outlets.
Now most St. Lucians do not have vegetables planted in their backyard garden. When I speak of backyard garden, it does not mean that you must have a large plot of land in your backyard. Far from it! A few containers with rich soil in the yard can make it happen.
Indeed, vegetables and fruits are available in the supermarkets but to be frank, a lot of them are imported into St. Lucia. And imported goods such as vegetables and fruits are usually more expensive than those locally produced.
Now in terms of outlets with the available vegetables and fruits, government only has one, the St. Lucia Marketing Board which is only now determined to meet its objectives. The St. Lucia Marketing Board has come a long way. I have told all that to come to the point that the Taiwanese Mission in St. Lucia has come to the rescue.
The objective of the Mission is to increase 30 percent in volume of agricultural produce sold by St. Lucian farmers to hotels and supermarkets.
Very importantly, the project aims to decrease St. Lucia’s import bill through the increased production of seven crops. And by now everyone should have heard of the “Seven Crops Programme”. Other crops include, cantaloupes, honeydew melons, lettuce, tomatoes, pineapples, watermelons, cabbages and bell peppers. Through the seven crops project, the Mission will be able to enhance the efficiency of production and marketing supply chain in St. Lucia. This surely will be the wonders of the Taiwanese Mission!
The Mission also plans to enhance biodiversity with climate smart agricultural practices. In short, a lot of effort will be made to help our farmers manage their agricultural production with effective climate change techniques and to enable those farmers to channel their production in areas which are easily accessible to the populace.
In addition, the Taiwanese Mission will provide hoop green houses, irrigation systems and drought resistant seedlings in response to climate change and enable the farmers to adapt to climate resilient agriculture. In other words, the plants which the farmers will rear, would be able to withstand the dry periods in St. Lucia.
We all know that in the past, we were unable to purchase certain crops in the dry season, period. That will now be something of the past!
Now what are some of the main achievements of the Taiwanese Mission in St. Lucia as far?
They have held 29 classes on capacity building; 60 stake-holders meeting; 64 consultations regarding post-harvest processing and packaging; 72 consultations regarding pest management, use of pesticides, and established 3 meteorological station demonstrations to assist farmers to provide local produced regularly throughout the year.
The Taiwanese Mission has completed 64 six week capacity building workshops on topics such as: Production and Marketing; Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), traceability system, and post-harvest processing.
Indeed, this is good Education and Training!
The Taiwanese Mission has built one National fresh produce pack house, this is actually being operated by the St. Lucia Marketing Board (SLMB). It is also serving as a hub where harvested produce is kept and prepared for transportation to various markets.
The Mission has also held 36 farmers’ markets on a monthly basis to help promote and sell farmers’ agricultural produce.
The Mission has also had 16 site visits of supermarkets and field visits to farmers’ plots. They have also had 16 consultations with market suppliers to stabilize the order of local produce; and established special sections for premium local produce at 12 branches of national supermarkets.