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Farmers’ co-operatives receive assistance from Taiwan Technical Mission

Farmers’ co-operatives receive assistance from Taiwan Technical Mission

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Eight farmers’ co-operatives have been selected to work closely with the Taiwan Technical Mission and the Ministry of Agriculture’s co-operative division to improve farming here.

The Rabacca Farmers Co-operative, Pineapple Growers Co-operative, Pitini Agriculture and Multipurpose Co-operative, Greiggs Multipurpose Co-operative, South Rivers High Quality Farmers, {{more}}South Windward Farmers in Action Co-operative, Mt Pleasant Farmers Co-operative and the New Prospect Marking Co-operative all received signage last week, which signified the Taiwanese government’s willingness to collaborate with them on their various projects.

Speaking at the launch of the “Project for Strengthening Farmers’ Organizations and Improve Fruit and Vegetable Production Technology” on February 11, the Ambassador of the Republic of China (Taiwan) to St Vincent Baushaun Ger revealed that the Taiwanese government will input EC$5.4 million, along with three permanent staff and 20 short-term visit experts over the four-year duration of the project.

According to Ger, the project aims to further strengthen the capabilities on soil analysis, probiotics incubation, fertility management and pesticide diagnosis.

The project includes a soil analysis laboratory, to be set up at Campden Park; a Pro Biotic Laboratory and Pro Biotic Incubation room at Orange Hill; Soil Fertility Management Laboratory, Laboratory of Pesticide Diagnosis and Field Administration Strategy Management (Safe Fruit and Vegetable), Potting Media Sterilization Facility; Screen Netting Demonstration Plot; and a Compost Processing Facility.

“We believe that when the agricultural co-operatives are equipped with better management skills and technologies, the farmers involved will grow and market their produce in a more efficient and competitive way,” he added.

“It is agreed that with our close co-operation, these projects will be another new hallmark in the development of agriculture in St Vincent and the Grenadines, the successful implementation will surely boost the capabilities, production and marketing of the selected crops and will benefit the farmers organizations and all others involved.”

During his remarks, Minister of National Mobilization, Social Development, Family Affairs and Youth Frederick Stephenson reiterated that the project will positively change the way in which farmers cultivate various agricultural crops, with sweet peppers, tomatoes, watermelons, pineapples and carrots being the targetted crops.

He said the agricultural sector has been transformed over the years and today farmers’ co-operatives and the producer co-operatives have to become “a sort of hub” for the single farmer who produces on less than half acre.

“If you have 10 farmers in a co-operative with a half acre and they working together and pooling the resources and getting their markets out there together, it would mean better benefits for those 10 farmers; one single farmer does not necessarily have to worry about finding the markets and transporting stuff from here to there to get the livelihood.”

The social development minister further stated that the laboratories would ensure production technology which would enhance the quality and quantity of the five targeted crops.

Additionally, he urged farmers to “think big” and not only produce food to be marketed in St Vincent and the Grenadines, but for the international market.

Stephenson disclosed that 14 officers from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Co-operative Division had been trained in production technology, marketing and group administration, which he says is critical for effective technology transfer and production sustainability.

He said he expected that officers in his ministry would provide ongoing training by sharing practical experiences with farmers’ organizations and co-operative societies in the areas of group administration, record keeping, and information technology, among other things.

Cecil Jackson, registrar of Co-operative Societies, Ministry of National Mobilization, Social Development, Family Affairs and Youth, during his remarks, outlined the project’s expectations.

He said the project is expected to further increase productivity and higher return on farm investments; increase rural economic activities, involving successful processing and marketing of fruits and vegetables by the various co-operative societies.

Additionally, the project expects to reduce the importation of fruits and vegetables, as a result of a constant supply of home grown, high quality and affordable fruits and vegetables; tremendous enhancement of marketing, production and record keeping systems of the various co-operative societies.

Jackson said the production and marketing activities over the next three years would ensure that long after the project life has ended, there will be sustainable production, not only in the eight selected cooperatives, but in the length and breadth of the agricultural sector. (AS)