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SVG farmers officially introduced to FFS

SVG farmers officially introduced to FFS

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The farmer field school concept has been officially introduced to farmers in St Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

The project, which was originally designed for crop farmers, to assist in teaching them better ways to combat issues such as pests, was tweaked to accommodate the rearing of livestock.

In the crop farmer model, farmers would gather in the field for one day a week for a period of time, to observe how their crops grow from germination to harvesting.

In an address on May 16, Dr Cedric Lazarus, sub-regional director from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) expressed his happiness in being able to work with the participating farmers on the project.

“This is a very exciting project for me and for St Vincent and the Grenadines, because it is the first organized livestock farmer field school in the Caribbean,” Lazarus indicated.

Lazarus said the project would not have been a success without the aid of the Ministry of Agriculture and Dr Kathian Hackshaw, Chief Veterinary Officer, who has been working with him to bring the project to fruition.

“The project got to a stage where I could submit the project to my superiors for technical clearance,” he said. “The project will last until December. That is the intention”.

Additionally, Lazarus expressed his hope for the success of the project, so that it can be replicated in other countries and for other species of livestock.

“Now that the project is approved and about to be launched…it is not an FAO project. It is not a Ministry of Agriculture project. It is your project,” he stressed.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Raymond Ryan said his ministry earmarked the small ruminants subsector as one that will receive special attention for development.

“The sustainable development of the small ruminants subsector is considered a priority by the Ministry of Agriculture and all stakeholders within the subsector,” Ryan explained.

“In this context, the ministry has solicited assistance from the FAO in the development of the small ruminants subsector, by building the capacity of farmers who depend on the small ruminants subsector for their livelihoods”.

Ryan further stated that the project will place emphasis on the improvement of indigenous production systems and productivity of the small ruminant breeds within their own environment, which in turn should lead to an increased income for farmers.

“Sheep and goats are particularly important in St Vincent and the Grenadines, mainly because of their ability to utilize marginal and steep land for grazing and to tolerate unfavourable climatic conditions,” the permanent secretary said.

“While their numbers are increasing, a corresponding increase in productivity has not taken place”.

Ryan highlighted that it is for this reason, that training is essential.

He outlined some of the factors that limit meaningful and sustainable improvement in small ruminants, which include inadequate feeding systems and absence of good quality feeding pasture, low level of livestock management, lack of farm management skills and absence of breeding programmes.

Topics to be covered in the field school include small ruminant nutrition and feeding, pasture and bank development management, the use of local by-products in small ruminant production, reproduction and breeding, artificial insemination, preventative vetinary medicine, record keeping and marketing.

Following the launch of the farmer field school, a two-day workshop with farmers, in which plans for the practical initiation of the concept were developed, took place on May 16 and 17.

Lazarus and Hackshaw facilitated the workshop. (BK)

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