Seven Farms will Pilot an Organic Farming Transitionary Project Funded by GEF.
The land bank project aims to preserve Saint Lucia’s agricultural lands for future use, ensuring food security and encouraging sustainable livelihoods for the future.
Saint Lucia’s agriculture will soon transition from the use of toxic to non-toxic organic chemicals.
Anthony Herman, Project Co-Ordinator of the Belle Vue Farmers Co-Operative, one of the co-operatives chosen to take part in transitionary project, said the process will take some time as educating via demonstration and advocacy is something that cannot be rushed.
“The project is about transitioning, which is a gradual process,” he said.
“The project is funded by Global Environment Facility (GEF) and they are working with other strategy partners to help us implement as well as co-fund. This project aims to do a number of things. In the first instance it is about training and organising seven farms. So in two years we are going to have seven functioning organic farms. Then there are about four schools that would also have transitioned from the use of toxic chemicals to non-toxic at the level of the environment. We plan to expose a number of persons, community leaders, housewives, etc. to the question of harsh toxic chemicals to human health and the environment.”
It is hoped that national sensitisation will culminate through the hosting of an organic farming symposium.
“At the end of the two year period, a functional booklet will be presented for persons who are interested in starting organic farming,” said Mr. Herman, “and after this we will hold a two to three-day symposium which will most probably be the first in the OECS, where we will be inviting a whole heap of organic practitioners, and researchers in the organic field to talk about their research, especially where it comes to breaking myths that organic farming is expensive. Through this process, over a period of time we will have a functioning organic farmers’ network that will champion the cause of organic farming in Saint Lucia.”
One of the major aims of the project is to eliminate the use of toxic chemicals in farming within Saint Lucian schools. Non-toxic organic chemicals include fertilizers and pesticides.
Ministry of Agriculture Pilots Land Bank Project.
Agricultural crown lands in Babonneau and Mabouya Valley have been chosen as the ideal locations to pilot a project currently underway within the Ministry of Agriculture.
Kwesi Goddard, Agricultural Engineer connected to the National Land Bank Project, said the first point of action was to sensitise major stakeholders and national counterparts.
“We’ve had an inception workshop to bring together heads, farmers and potential land users, to get everyone on the same page, and identify the challenges that may limit us from achieving the stated goals. This is one of the first things, to get everyone on board, following which we will have the input of the majority into the proper design of the project.”
The second point of action was to identify the pilot areas.
“So far we’ve identified two pilot areas – one in Babonneau, and in region three in Mabouya Valley. We’ve had some participatory role appraisals with farmers who voiced their concerns and identified issues they think would be a hindrance to the project. They also made reference to various uses they had in mind. They really supported the project in that sense, and said the initiative was very timely.”
“This initiative, could not have come at a more opportune time,” he said. “It is deserving of our national focus and our national efforts, because it is for future generations.”
The pilot project, funded by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), has a brief 18-month duration, which will thereafter continue with support from the local government.
“The first stage of the project stops from the establishment of the pilot sites. We want the pilot sites that we selected to be up and running, in the sense that we have a lease and payment system established, a farmer comes in with his own investment, and you have the Ministry of Agriculture supporting his production.”
Mr. Goddard noted that agricultural land acquisition is vital for national development.
“A people, a country, and a nation that can become self-sufficient by the development of agriculture can look to the future with confidence,” he explained. “Agriculture is one of the fundamental prerequisites for industrial and other development, and at the root of the expansion of agricultural development is land and the access to land.”
The Ministry of Agriculture endeavors to ensure that Saint Lucia’s agricultural lands are protected. ¤
Original Source: GIS