For too long farmers in St. Lucia have single handedly had to
deal with all aspects of the industry, from land clearing to
marketing, and all the other activities in between. The banana
industry has been in constant decline since the late 90's and
now with the passage of hurricane Tomas, the industry has all
been totally destroyed. Cash strapped farmers have little
choice but to abandon their fields as they do not have the
necessary income to create the essential infrastructure needed
to produce at optimum capacity, such as drains and the finance
needed to operate non producing fields for the next nine
months when the first harvest is due.
The liquidation of the SLBC signals the official end of the industry. Apart from the banana farmers, many short crop farmers have been surviving at unacceptable living standards due to the fact that there is absolutely no assistance given to them to tackle the many problems that they encounter in their everyday farming activities. Livestock farmers seem to be doing somewhat better having fewer variables to negotiate but rising feed prices will be an important issue to deal with in the near future. The issues of food to weight ratio and the cost of feed seem to be the major obstacles being confronted by farmers.
A green holistic approach to food production is the only answer to reducing our food import bill. Much of the food that is presently imported can be produced right here in St. Lucia.
As global warming is an accepted fact, so too is climate change, the results of which have been a series of natural disasters on a scale as never seen before, from hurricanes and super typhoons to earthquakes and tsunamis, droughts, excessive flooding, volcanic eruptions and major landslides.
All these factors are not only taking its toll on a human
level but is also having a major effect on the worlds
agriculture and the ability to produce food for the worlds
population. Millions of hectares of agricultural land have
been damaged or totally destroyed due to recent natural
disasters. Millions of head of livestock were killed as well.
In the case of Japan where farmland was saturated with sea
water, agriculture will be impossible for many years.
All of these natural disasters have reduced the amount of land needed to produce food. Apart from the effect of climate change, there is that movement of young people from rural areas to cities in developing countries such as China and India where in cities like New Deli, people arrive at a rate of one thousand a day. This is causing a reduction in the number of people producing food and an increase in the number of people that need to be fed.
The average age of a North American farmer is fifty four and the average age of a European farmer is fifty six. These are important factors responsible for a reduction in the worlds food supply.
As we here in St. Lucia depend on imported food to feed ourselves, with the world food supply under pressure, coupled with the rising price of fuel, we are definitely going to experience a rise in food prices. We need to consider food independence much more seriously.
Some Green Initiatives
small plots of agricultural land so that citizens
with no access to land that want to grow crops for home
consumption will have an opportunity to do so. Provide the
plots with drainage, irrigation and land preparation.
To introduce a Young farmers program that will encourage young people to look at agriculture as a field that is worth getting into as a lifelong career.
To produce dynamic cooking shows,
nutrition shows, advertisements and programs that would
educate the general public on nutrition, production and food
preparation etc that would encourage the population to prepare
locally grown produce.
Continue the small garden competition that the Government has started.
Agriculture in St. Lucia is a labour intensive, high-risk job, with farmers having many variables to negotiate. The following is a list of some of the many problems that farmers have to face:
- Unfavorable weather conditions
- Adverse soil conditions
- The challenging topography of the land
- The inaccessibility to the land itself
- Access to a water source
- Lack of equipment and infrastructure
- Lack of support services
- The inability to access new technologies
- No financial support
- The unavailability of inputs and their prohibitive costs
- Poor work ethics of the labor force
- The lack of ready markets for their produce
- Competition from imported produce
- Market prices lower than the farmers cost of production
- Predial larceny and finally
- The lack of support from the St. Lucian public itself
These are all problems and issues that are impossible for the farmer to deal with unassisted. If we take examples from other countries, we see that Governments provide many safety nets and services that help to protect their farmers from failure and bankruptcy. For example, they provide grants, low interest loans, gifts, subsidies, agricultural services, price support, tariffs on imports as protection for their farmers, and in some cases, the Governments even pay farmers not to grow crops at all if the conditions are unfavorable. A Green Government will initiate and engage in practical and achievable programs that would result in farmers realizing real financial benefits at the end of any agricultural project.
This manifesto will contain a series of suggestions of how a Green vision could better deal with agricultural issues and policy, and how to develop and implement projects that would benefit the farmers of this nation and the whole population in general.
In order to deal with all these issues, we must first establish certain facts:
- How many legitimate farmers are there.
- What agricultural activities are they presently involved in?
- Size and location of their holdings.
- Soil conditions.
- Road access.
- Access to water.
- How much agricultural training do they possess from an institution or otherwise.
When we analyze this information, a much clearer profile
emerges of the average St. Lucian farmer who is involved in
diversified crop production. We see that there are about two
to three thousand farmers, predominantly males between the
ages of twenty- five and sixty, on lands of varying soil types
and topography with many having poor access to a reliable
water source. Almost 90% of them have less than three acres of
land under vegetable production at any one time and very few
have irrigation or have their land properly drained and
cultivated by machinery. A large percentage of them have not
had the benefit of formal education of any sort and depend on
traditional technologies handed down to them by previous
generations of farmers. This is truly a dismal picture.
Lands prepared by hand, plants watered by bucket, farmers using practices almost 1000 years old, and expected to compete with imported produce grown in first world nations that have all the advantages of limitless amounts of land, subsidies, protection from imports, equipment, a cheap labour force and technologies that enable them to produce at optimum levels of production. It is important to note though that when all the conditions come together for the farmers here in St. Lucia, they can produce crops of international quality which tastes often surpass that of the imported produce. But as stated in the introduction, there are many problems that the farmers here must overcome to attain bumper yields of top quality produce.
When considering location there are other sub factors that must be observed, such as:
Road access Many farmers in St. Lucia have to walk too far from a road to access their holdings. The proximity of a farmers’ holding to a road will determine if the farmer will be able to easily deliver inputs, materials or machinery onto his farm; the difficulty it would take to transport produce from the field to the road; how long it will take him to get to the market and in what condition will his produce reach the market due to the road conditions. Having to physically transport anything for long distances on ones head is not only laborious, but costly if the farmer has to pay for this transportation. It is sometimes impossible to negotiate a heavy load on hilly terrain during a rainy day. The construction of access roads is a costly venture and the farmer will definitely require outside assistance.
Solution: A Green Government could provide assistance to farmers by constructing a reasonable road system. This assistance could be handled in various ways: by either providing monies to the farmer in the form of no interest loans to be paid back over a long time period, to enable the farmer to rent equipment to construct the road himself, or for the Government do the work by hiring private contractors. The funding necessary to finance road works of this kind which would specifically benefit farmers can be sourced from the donor agencies.
Topography The slope of the land will determine what sort of equipment will be able to operate on the land. If the slope is too steep, most machinery including a wheeled tractor responsible for land preparation will not be able to operate there and will affect the choice of crop to be cultivated. Excavating the land to provide a less steep slope is not an option as removal of the top- soil is a practice that is unacceptable. Many times is the case where a farmer tries to cultivate a crop that is totally unsuitable for the terrain results in failure. Trying to use unsuitable, marginal hillside slopes can also result soil erosion and siltation of waterways, a practice commonly used by farmers here, which is proving detrimental to the environment.
Solution: Stricter guidelines regulating land use need to be enforced by the Government, which would prevent the farmer from getting himself in an adverse situation in the first place. If the slope is steep but workable, technologies on how to work with hillside lands need to be transferred to the farmers such as having mini excavators terrace and cultivate the land,
Soil type The physical nature of the soil, its ph and fertility levels will determine the choice of crop that should be cultivated. The only way for a farmer to know his soils’ make up is by taking a soil test. A farmers’ ability to take, read and understand the implications of a soil test is important and would affect his decision when considering what crops he wishes to plant. Farmers using marginal soils of low fertility for crop production often end up in failure.
Solution: Technical assistance is necessary at this point, whether from Government or from the private sector, for the farmer, as different crops require different soil conditions, and farmers may have to be guided as to what crops would better suite their specific soil conditions or may need to know how to improve their existing conditions. Farmers may not be able to take the tests themselves or even realize the importance of a soil test, as a result these services must be provided to them. The Ministry of Agriculture operates a soils lab in Union and there are costs associated with conducting these tests. Extension officers can assist farmers by taking soil samples for them and delivering them to Union. The costs are not extremely expensive, but they may be subsidized by the Government.
Access to a reliable water source is one of the most critical elements in vegetable production simply put, no water, factors consider when choosing plot land for production looking at availability are
- How close is the water source to the plot of land.
- What is the quality of the water at the source.
- How close is the water table to the soil surface.
- Can the source supply an adequate amount of water to the farmer during his cropping season.
These factors would determine the size and type of irrigation system and the choice of crops the farmer may choose. The ability of the farmer to irrigate his crops is crucial, but many farmers here either have no irrigation system at all, or have some sort of make up system that is less than efficient, resulting in poor yields and poor quality produce.
Solution: Providing a cheap and effective irrigation system is not a difficult task, but the farmers need technical advice when designing a system, and also need to be able to acquire the components of the system itself, not something a farmer can easily do here in St. Lucia. Irrigation will be dealt with in more detail in the following section.
Once the farmer has chosen his plot and has decided what crops are most suitable for cultivation there, he must then begin to provide the necessary infrastructure to insure success.
This consists of two basic factors; drainage and land cultivation. These two factors combined are one of the most important factors in insuring the farmer gets good yields.
Cultivation A well prepared seed bed will enable the farmer to transplant or direct seed efficiently, reducing labour costs, and help in weed control which is one of the most costly activities in crop production, by first providing a weed free seed bed as well as reduce the amount of labour it would take to pull weeds during the hand weeding cycle. A well prepared seedbed also allows for the free percolation of water, whether from irrigation or from precipitation through the soil.
This too is an extremely important factor in crop production as an entire crop may be completely lost due to poor movement of water down through the soil resulting in water-logging. A well prepared seedbed will provide air for roots to breath and provide for efficient nutrient transfer to the plants from the soil. It also greatly assists the movement of water out of the beds into the drains which then moves the water away from the plot of land being cultivated. Unlike banana cultivation, vegetable production requires more intensive land preparation practices: the actual deep ploughing and rotovation of the soil which commissions the use or a four wheeled drive, wheeled tractor with the relative implements. It is physically impossible to cultivate by hand, but the sad truth is that many farmers actually do try.
There are about eight or nine wheeled tractors on the island that are capable of doing the work, but six of them belong to private farmers who are reluctant to rent them out, or who are sometimes using them when it is required by other farmers. The cost of tractor rental for land preparation is also a deterrent to the farmer and is sometimes as much as twelve hundred dollars per acre without rotatating. This is totally unacceptable. The availability of hand held land preparation equipment for the farmer to complement the preparation done by the large machinery is almost non- existent here in St. Lucia, and what is available here is usually not the correct machine for the job, and more often than not, is over priced.
Farmers need access to these machines to cut down on the energy and labour necessary to complete certain tasks such as cultivating and mechanical weed control that end up being extremely labour intensive and costly as a result.
Solution: Micro financing and rental pool of heavy equipment.
Drainage This is another expensive operation. Bed drains are essential for the efficient removal of water out of the area of the bed itself. This operation is done with a back-hoe or mini excavator. With back- hoe rental costing about one hundred and twenty five dollars per hour, and tractor rental running at about eight hundred dollars per acre, we see that the farmer has to spend at least two thousand five hundred dollars per acre for his land to be suitably prepared. Apart from on farm bed drains, the water needs to move from the immediate area of the holding itself to the major water way. Larger secondary and tersery drains leading to the main water course need to be excavated by much larger equipment and regular scheduled maintenance of these drains is a necessary operation and is essential for the drains in the farmers plots to operate effectively. Obviously, this operation cannot be the responsibility of the farmer.
Solution: Proper land preparation is essential for a farmers’ success and must be provided to the farmer. Not every farmer will be able to own his tractor because of the cost, and the farmers that do own tractors cannot be forced to rent out their machines to other farmers, therefore this service must be provided by outside assistance. The Ministry of Agriculture did have an engineering department at one time, but because of lack of maintenance and bad management, it had to be shut down, so to suggest that the Ministry take responsibility for land preparation is not advisable. One solution is the formation of tractor pools where a group or co-op will collectively own and make the tractor available to its members. Obviously purchasing of a tractor is not a cheap undertaking, so some source of funding must be found.
At present, the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College and the
Mabouya Valley Development Project are in possession of
tractors and implements at their respective offices in the
Mabouya Valley. Making these tractors available to farmers to
rent at reasonable rates is one way to assist. The
transportation of these machines over long distances via truck
or “low- boy” can add to the already high cost of rental
though. It is sometimes impossible for the farmer to come up
with this money at the beginning of a crop.
This service needs to be provided on credit or subsidized in
some way either by way of grants, loans or the farmer is given
a grace period until his crop can be harvested, when he will
be able to pay the costs of his land preparation. Apart from
having heavy preparation done by a large tractor, the farmer
will need to own smaller hand held machines to keep his land
in good tilth and control weeds during the crops cycle.
Duty free concessions need to be given to farmers who need to purchase machines. Like the land preparation equipment, the drainage equipment should be treated in the same way. When dealing with the larger off farm drains though, the Government should provide regular maintenance and upkeep. This practice not only benefits the farmers of the area but the residents of the environs as well, by assisting in excess water removal from heavy rains during the annual rainy season. Providing this infrastructure and maintenance of this scale is a costly exercise that can be realized by the Government applying for EU funding.
Water is the most essential element in plant growth. Without
it plants would simply die, so providing water for crops is
another crucial factor in vegetable production. As stated
earlier, the location of a farmers holding in relation to the
water source will determine the method in which the farmer
will irrigate his crops. A clean, abundant water supply close
to his holding, whether from river, pond, well or dam is the
optimum situation for the farmer. For vegetable production
though, drip irrigation is the preferred method, but is
dependent on the water quality at the source. If the water is
dirty, meaning that there are too many solid particles present
in the water, heavy filtration will be necessary when choosing
a drip system.
Overhead sprinkler systems are not generally recommended for
vegetable production as water droplets from the sprinklers
when making contact with the soil, splatter soil particles
containing bacteria on the leaves of the crops leading to
plant diseases. Yet we see many determined, innovative farmers
though uninformed about irrigation technology, design and
construct some creative irrigation systems with the components
made available in local hardware stores here. They always end
up with a sprinkler system constructed with p.v.c. and garden
sprinklers though, as that is all the irrigation equipment
that the hardware stores have to offer. These systems often
prove to be inefficient, costing the farmer in the long run.
Whether a drip system or a sprinkler system, these systems are always expensive as the cost of a five horse power pump alone is no less than two thousand five hundred dollars, coupled with the price of p.v.c., filters and parts plus the cost of construction, the total cost of a system per acre could be in the range of four to five thousand dollars per acre, depending on the proximity of the water source.
Solution: Farmers who have no access to a water supply should not be involved in vegetable production and should be directed as to what crop is most suited to his specific conditions. Farmers who do have access to a water supply, but who have no irrigation system, or who have a less than efficient system need to be given assistance to construct a proper one. The farmers need a supplier of these irrigation components as well as the technology with which to construct a system. At present, only Wizo in Vieux Fort stocks drip lines and parts, and Farmer’s Choice in ….. stocks drip lines. The technology necessary to design and construct a drip irrigation system takes know how and experience, and this information must be provided to the farmer by experts in the field.
The many products and items used in the production of the crop make up the inputs. These include seeds, seedling trays, herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, soil mixes, fertilizers etc. The availability of all of these inputs is necessary if the farmer is going to be successful in his project. Too often is the case when a farmer requires any one of these inputs and they are not available, or what is available is of sub standard quality. For maximum productivity, farmers need to use his inputs effectively, which means using the correct products at the right time. I would like to deal with a few of the most important inputs.
Seeds It is extremely important to get the
best start possible, and fresh, high quality hybrid seed
varieties or good quality planting material is essential to
the farmer if he is to have a good yield. These hybrid seeds
are bred to be tolerant or resistant to certain diseases,
which could mean the difference between success and failure.
Strong healthy plants produce high yields of good quality
fruit. Many farmers do not realize the importance of this
factor and use any seeds they may obtain from discarded fruit
or unclean planting material from anywhere to start their
This often causes the loss of many of the plants during the crop cycle due to the introduction of diseases brought in by unclean planting material, or the fact that the seeds were not bred to be tolerant or resistant to specific disease which results in low yields. Although we have agricultural outlets that do sell hybrid seeds, the choice is limited and hybrid seeds are sometimes very expensive which discourages farmers from making that important purchase. Farmers need more choice.
Agro Chemicals Although trends suggest that
we are moving away from the use of chemicals in crop
production, to more organic methods, farmers need more choice
of agro products, both organic and chemical, to deal with
problems that may arise during the crop cycle. In St. Lucia,
there is a limited range of products available in agro outlets
from which to choose, and there are often problems with
regards to the availability of supply.
Certain basic products as well as new, more effective
products are constantly being invented and new agronomic
practices are being developed, and we need to keep up with the
new technology. We need to supply our farmers with the new
products by keeping our researchers up to date with all of
them being developed, so that they in turn will be able to
recommend the products to the farmers as well aa hasten the
long bureaucratic process associated with registering new
products in St. Lucia.
We need to get our farmers using this new technology by transferring the information to them via a series of regularly scheduled ongoing workshops. How go encourage participation?
There is a saying that states that, “A carpenter is only as
good as his tools”, well it can be said as well, that “A
farmer is only as good as his equipment”. It is extremely
important for the farmer to use the right tools for the job,
as agricultural work is physically demanding and strenuous to
say the least.
Having the correct blade on the right bush-cutter, or having
the right size tines on the cultivator, or using the correct
size nozzle on the spray machine can make what seems like an
almost impossible task, one that is physically less demanding,
cost effective and achievable, making the farming experience a
more profitable, enjoyable one.
Too often is the case when the farmer is literally at war with the elements, battling the earth, attacking the weeds in the sun and rain, day and night. This situation must be changed. We must provide the farmers with all the necessary equipment they require to enable them to complete their tasks more easily resulting in greater profits. Many farmers are unaware that there are machines and equipment out there that can assist them in their labourous tasks. They must be introduced to these tools and the tools must be made available to them duty free. Import the equipment over the internet or through businesses.
Many activities in farming require manual labour, such as transplanting, hand weeding, cultivating, harvesting etc. Getting good personnel to perform these tasks efficiently is almost impossible these days as the majority of people that possessed good work ethics are now too old or have already died. The attitudes of the young towards farm work needs a lot to be desired. The perception that farming is a strenuous, low paying job for the lowest of the low is one that must be changed. For this to change, farming must start to show that it is a financially viable, honorable profession even for the worker, by giving the worker a fare days pay for a fare days work. Other incentives such as crop sharing for example is one way to encourage workers to take more interest in their farm work, but farmers cannot be required to implement this measure. With the help of good equipment to make tasks less labour intensive, coupled with sound agronomic practices resulting in good yields, plus getting fare prices for their produce, farmers could realize significant profit margins which will in turn enable them to treat their workers to better wages and working conditions, encouraging people to take up farm work as a serious job.
One of the most stressful and disturbing factors associated with farming in St. Lucia today is the alarming frequency of stealing that occurs on an hourly basis. Farmers are loosing their crops every day to thieves. The thieves come in many varieties, day and night from every direction. There is your local ‘zombie’ who would steal anything, ripe or not, to sell to any buyer, destroying crops in the process, just to buy a ‘rock’, or the ‘zombie’ who is commissioned by market vendors or wholesalers to steal produce for them to sell in turn, or more organized thieves who come initially as legitimate purchasers, only to return, equipped with vehicle and staff and try to make huge hauls of produce. It is truly an epidemic. It is a real disgrace that farmers, after all the months of blood sweat and tears they take to produce a crop, they then have to become full time security guards. Worst of all, there is absolutely no assistance from the police. Because of the escalating crime wave now being experienced on the island, police resources are being stretched to their limits, as a result, vegetable theft is a low order of priority for the police. Thieves can be seen regularly walking by the side of the road with bags filled with stolen produce, or even selling the produce as if it were theirs and not one apprehended by the police. This is unacceptable. Fencing does provide some degree of protection, but farmers, if they intend to make any profit at all need to secure their crops, and the only way possible is to have a twenty-four hour presence in the field. The cost of this security is an added expense never taught to students enrolled in agricultural courses, which obviously increases the cost of production. Just consider the costs associated with paying two men thirty dollars a day for forty days for security services and how that additional cost increases the total cost of production.
Solution: Farmers I.D for all farmers registered with the new ad improved marketing board. Wholesalers I.D for all purchasers of agricultural produce and Vendors I.D. When there is proper documentation of all the parties mentioned above, when a suspect is held with produce and does not possess a relevant ID, that individual can then be easily prosecuted. The laws that deal with predial larceny must also be strengthened as a deterrent for individuals that are considering robbing farmers.
Another main reason for agriculture failing to be profitable
in St.Lucia is the fact that the level of education and
training held by the farmers is very limited. Farming
practices here are basically based on traditional methods
handed down by previous generations of farmers. As a result,
many of the agronomic practices are outdated and ineffective
leading to very low yields and fruit of poor quality.
All the factors mentioned above such as choice of seed, depth
and direction of drains, method of irrigation, timing of
pesticide sprays etc. combined, play a major role in the
outcome of the crop. Where will farmers be able to access this
essential knowledge? Many of our farmers are unable to read or
comprehend what they read so agricultural publications and
fact sheets are rendered useless, as a result the transfer of
information is incomplete and the farmer is left un informed.
It is essential that the farmers get this knowledge to improve
their agronomic techniques and therefore increase yields.
Field officers in the Ministry of Agriculture are in
possession of all of this information, but the transfer of
information is the problem. Unfortunately, the extension
services in the Ministry of Agriculture have created for
themselves a bad reputation over the years with the farmers,
leading to negative attitudes from the farmers when having to
deal with extension officers.
The problem now is how to re-build confidence in the extension division of the Ministry. The truth is that the officers who visit farms are perceived by farmers as non- farmers, and the question is asked, “How can a non farmer tell me how to grow my crops?” This is not an easy problem to fix.
If the market is demanding high quality regular supply of produce by farmers in St Lucia, it is important that the farmer gets the best price for his produce. As a result, farmers seek out markets that give him the best prices. His options are basically,
On farm sales which fetches the lowest prices, but which eliminates transport and delivery time and the added costs associated with these functions, but which is usually dealt with as a cash on delivery transaction. This is probably the best situation for the farmer providing that the price is beneficial to him, meaning that he covers the cost of production and make a reasonable profit.
There is roadside sales which involves packing, transportation and time for marketing which attracts it own costs but usually attracts higher prices and the farmer is paid cash on delivery.
There is wholesale marketing to institutions such as hotels, supermarkets, the marketing board and other retail outlets. The best prices are realized by selling to these institutions, but not all farmers can sell to these institutions as these institutions have quotas, which cause other farmers who are rejected to find alternate means of marketing their produce. What is most crucial is that these transactions are usually not cash on delivery transactions and some hotels take up to ninety days to pay the farmer. This is completely unacceptable.
A combination of all of the above. The most undesirable of all options as it involves the most post harvest work , which attracts its respective costs. Too much time is spent by the farmer marketing his produce thus cutting into his profits.
Solution: Revamp the Marketing Board.
The location of the marketing board must change to accommodate increased amounts of produce, provide more storage facilities and provide more parking area for deliveries.
All farmers will be asked to register with the Board so that all farmers produce will be received by the Board.
A grading system will be established so that even sub standard produce will be accepted at lower than cost of production figures. This way, the farmer may be able to re-coop some of his investment.
A price control system to be introduced: Even though a farmer sells his produce to the board and gets grade C prices, this may not be enough for the farmer to break even. (See price control)
It will be the duty of the Board to then market the produce delivered by the farmers, meaning either to deliver wholesale to hotels and groceries or to provide a wholesale outlet for vendors to purchase for resale and a provide a retail area for single householders.
The board will then pay the farmer within the next seven days.
Leftovers will then be sold at token prices for livestock farmers.
Scheduled Plantings For the system to work effectively, there must be co ordination between the board and the farmer when it comes to what, when and how much to plan so as to try to eliminate gluts and to ensure regular supply.
Price control To accurately calculate the price that farmers should receive for their produce, it is necessary to determine the cost of production of that specific commodity. Obviously prices are also determined by supply and demand, but when supply drives the prices of an agricultural commodity down, below the cost of production, the farmer will obviously realize a loss. This is where price support should be introduced. There should be a mechanism in place which complements the low market price the farmer receives for his produce to make up the difference to achieve the cost of production figure. Vegetable farming is not like any other job where one receives a salary at the end of a month regardless of the production level. A farmer may work for four months, spending money on land preparation, pest control, irrigation etc. before his first harvest. The farmer must take care of all expenses until that point where he can sell his first harvest and start paying himself back all the money he has spent to produce the crop. It may come in the form of a Government subsidy, or part of a crop insurance scheme, but it is imperative that the farmer does not loose.
Crop insurance The concept is the same as any insurance scheme. The farmer must be part of a farming association or credit union that manages the scheme. A farmer will then make contributions reflecting the size and species of the crop that he is producing. If the farmer is successful, the funds stay in the account and builds up the schemes capital. If the farmer fails, the scheme makes contributions that would take care of he loss in revenue by the farmer. Obviously the farmer will have to be assessed to ensure that he was using established farming practices and his loss was not as a result of negligence. The scheme would have o hire officers to visit the farmers regularly so as to keep a history of that respective farmers practices. There are established farming organizations that exist that could be used as a vehicle to work the scheme. EU funds through the NFA or the NFCCU.
Manufacturing Extending shelf life by any means is a desirable option for every farmer as it would give that farmer time to market his produce. Unfortunately, this is an impossible goal for every farmer, but if the private industry would take on this task, this would not only benefit the farmer by insuring the sale of all his produce, but would benefit the country a whole by providing the public with a variety of locally produced products. By applying processes such as preserving, drying, juicing, canning, this would lead to the creation of new products such as nutra bars, dried fruit and juices. The completion of the abattoirs will assist livestock farmers tremendously as well as provide the public with a clean healthy environment for the sale of fresh meat. Meat processing plants for both poultry and livestock need to be invested in as this too adds to shelf life and as a result this would also add value to the raw material which would make the farmer realize a better price for his produce.
Companies such as Frootsy, Baron and other small manufacturers of cashew nuts, plantain chips and cassava etc. are making some in- roads in this area, but a greater push is necessary to really affect the country's GDP.
Greenhouse Technology revisited Now more than ever we need to consider large scale greenhouse farming as weather patterns are changing dramatically because of global warming. We see extended drought conditions followed by intense rainy periods which are impossible to predict. These conditions are detrimental to crop production. Obviously we cannot make rain during the dry spells, in fact dry conditions are perfect for vegetable production providing that there is sufficient water to irrigate. It is during the rainy season that vegetable production is at risk when excessive precipitation leads to more fungal and bacterial diseases as well as conditions like flower drop which sometimes causes complete crop failure. Flooding causes the greatest damage of all. If crops are protected from the precipitation by a clear plastic cover, then some sort of climate control is achieved and as a result increased crop production is realized out of season. But greenhouse production is technical and education is necessary. There was a greenhouse association, but due to the technology involved, many farmers failed and now there are a number of out of production greenhouse frames. We need to get these greenhouses back into production so as to increase locally produced vegetables for the country’s consumption as well as for the tourism industry. With the help of foreign technology from Taiwan.
Re introduce the Ministry of Agriculture Engineering Department Farmers need help when dealing with land preparation and drainage. Many are too small to consider purchasing a tractor and implements. If he Government purchases the necessary machinery, the farmer will be able to get his land prepared at an affordable price, increasing potential yield and quality, and increasing profit margin.
Agro Forestry This is an industry that needs investigating. The possibility that we may be able to supply our local joiners with lumber is encouraging. This may be a way to reduce our import bill for building materials as well as manage our forest resources in an ecologically sustainable manner.
Agricultural Tourism (see Tourism manifesto)
Cocoa When we observe what goes on in the world’s largest supplier of cocoa, the Ivory Coast, it is truly baffling. The people that do the most strenuous work in the fields are the ones that receive the least money. The world price of the finished product is so high yet the money never gets to who it really should. We here in St. Lucia now have a chocolate factory in Soufriere so that we now have the ability to add value to the raw material by producing finished products. When we add value locally, we then have the capability of being able to pay the cocoa farmer more for his beans. In theory, re invigorate the cocoa industry by producing high end products for the world market. (see Hemp).
Coconuts The coconut industry took a big hit a decade ago when the western propaganda machine went to work spreading dis information about coconut oil, convincing the world that coconut oil was unhealthy to consume. A move used to eliminate competition for their soy and corn oil. The price of copra fell and many farmers abandoned their fields. Now we realize that the evil plan concocted by the western nations were all for their benefit and not for ours. Coconut oil is a valuable resource as it can be used in the food industry, the cosmetics industry and as a fuel. We need to add value to the raw material by producing high end, end products in the body care industry such as soaps shampoos, body oils and creams. (see hemp). This movement not only creates a manufacturing industry, but we can now pay farmers more for their copra and as a result, re invigorate the coconut industry as well.
Sweet Cassava Potato supplement
Aloe Can be introduced to be grown for the body care industry to complement other raw materials used in that industry. Aloe will grow on marginal lands. Increase the potential for people to experience income growth.
Hemp The potential that the Hemp Industry offers the people of St. Lucia is limitless and so GREEN! Oil for body care products, nutrition and fuel, roasted seeds for a snack, raw fibers for use in weaving and macramé, the ideal plant to jump start a cottage industry as well as a full fledged manufacturing industry. Even though we will not be able to process the fibers into fabric, the fabric can be imported to be used in a fashion industry. Crochet and macramé can be used to garnish hemp garments. Two hundred women lost their jobs when Belle Fashions closed down in Dennery. These women were making high end garments. The skills of these women can be used again in the fashion industry. Other hemp products like natural jewelry, knitted hats and so many other products can produced by many people for the tourism as well as the local market
Hemp will also be used as a lure for young farmers, encouraging them to get into agriculture by grow something new and trendy. (see Industrial Hemp Initiative).
Banana Since the inception of the banana industry, the two main products have been green bananas and ripe bananas, both very perishable items. Apart from that, there is little value added. When processing the banana by drying, the shelf life can be extended to up to six months. Value can be added by producing an up market product using the dried banana as an ingredient. Local consumption must be promoted.
Soy Beans A good source of protein that can supplement traditional sources like imported chicken and beef. The Rastafarian community has embraced the growing of the plant but still fall short of the required production to keep the processing plant stocked. As a result, beans have to be imported occasionally. With a soy processing plant already operational, a Green Government will give financial support for upgrades in processing equipment that will maximize the production process and provide a wide diversity of protein products as well as give support to growers. The soy can also be used in a crop rotation cycle with hemp.
Beef Production – At present, Saint Lucia is not self sufficient in beef production mainly because of inefficient animal husbandry techniques and the lack of pasture lands for the required amount of animals to graze, but the local producers do supplement the imports. Many of the cattle farmers tether their animals as opposed to pasturing them. Many of the grasses available to the animals are of little nutritional value and the management of those lands are almost non- existent resulting in low weight gain to food intake ratios and low quality produce. This traditional beef production method is almost cultural and well accepted by the population and does serve a large section of the meat eating society. Strengthen the capacity of these beef farmers to achieve a much higher food intake to weight gain ratios through workshops will be the first goal of a Green Government.
Small ruminant production – Small ruminant production seems to suffer the same fate as beef production. Poor animal husbandry, low quality pasture grasses to feed on, the high cost of imported food supplements etc. plague the industry. Again, workshops to improve the animal husbandry methods will be paramount.
Broiler production – At present traditional production methods of production exist, that is birds in pens fed with imported feed that is costly. There is no feed mill in Saint Lucia and raw ingredients to make feed such as corn is not grown in the Caribberan, as a result, producers have no other alternative but to pay for imported feed. A Green Government will encourage farmers to experiment with non traditional methods of production such as free range production which is gaining popularity around the world. Using this method, the birds will no bet entirely dependent on feed but complement their feed intake by foraging.
Layer production – Saint Lucia is self sufficient in egg production. All necessary support that the industry requires will be given to the industry so as to keep he industry operating at a profit to the farmer as well as to provide a top product to he Saint Lucian public.
Ocean The state of the fishing industry seems to be relatively good with many fishermen recording bumper catches during the high season. A Green Government will be actively involved in the preservation of fish spawning habitats and the conservation of these areas to ensure that we have sustainable levels of fish stocks for the future. The Government will also actively search and assist fishermen that would like to diversify the fishing methods to increase their profit margin. A good example of this is the introduction of live bait fishing where the boat does not need to move at fast speeds as in trolling, but needs to move at very slow speeds that will save on gas consumption, thus saving money.
Fish farming With support from the Taiwanese Government, expand the local production of freshwater fish and shrimp to complement the ocean fish production.
A Green Government will support and strengthen this sector.
FUNDING: Too often we find monies specifically intended for farmers and farm programs, end up either sitting in accounts waiting to be accessed, or in the hands of technocrats who make their living by inventing impractical projects that are never implemented. The result is that the monies are all squandered and the farmers end up in more serious financial situations while the technocrat ends with a big pay cheque. Too often the people in charge of agricultural policy have absolutely no idea what farmers or the industry needs, in fact many of them have never even grown a plant or know the practical side of the industry. Having an Agriculturally focused Green Government will insure that the country makes the most of international funding specifically designed for agricultural projects.
With the future of the world economic situation looking extremely bleak, and with the world food supply in steady decline because of the loss of farmland, the high incidence of crop failures and complete crop destruction due to adverse weather conditions, the cost of food will increase. Coupled with the growing unemployment situation that we are experiencing here locally, there will be less income to spend on food, resulting in a real crisis situation. There is only one option and that is to start taking food security seriously. We the Lucian Greens see the Dennery North Constituency as the bread basket of the island. The area has all the necessary resources to be able to produce a large percentage of the food that is now imported. There is the human resource to work on the land provided by the large number of unemployed young people in the area, there is the arable, flat, fertile land that can be easily worked with equipment and covered with greenhouse structures and finally, the water to feed the crops. The Valley is centrally situated on the east coast where there is less rainfall that so that there is a longer growing season for open field crops with excessive rainfall being less of a factor as compared with other locations. Apart from jobs that will be provided in the field, jobs will be provided in post harvest production. Not only will we focus on the reinvigoration of the agricultural sector in the Mabouya Valley, there will be a reinvigoration of the industry island wide under a Green Government. We need to eat what we grow and grow what we eat!