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Farmers’ Field School Project aiming to improve farmers’ productivity

Farmers’ Field School Project aiming to improve farmers’ productivity

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Progress is being made in relation to the Farmers Field School Project, which was set up earlier this year.{{more}}

According to Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar, approximately 250 head of cattle were exported to Grenada this year, and a small ruminant organisation, with over 50 farmers participating and learning from each other, was formed.

Caesar made this disclosure last Thursday at the mid-term review session of the Farmers Field School at Tariq John’s field in Fairbaine Pasture. The project was launched in St Vincent in April, 2013, by the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) for farmers of small ruminants to engage in discussion and exchange information and learn from each other, about things that affect them. In this project, farmers are expected to apply the knowledge gained from the field school to their own animals on returning to their farms.

The minister thanked the FAO for continuing its work as the ministry continues to work to develop the sector.

“We are witnessing the mid-term review of the farm field school project and what this is showing is that we are seeing an evolution in the way in which we approach agriculture,” Caesar said.

He explained that the farmers are working in a more organized way and are using the requisite technology available to them to increase production and productivity.

“In 1990, when bananas were at its height, you would not find farmers on a Thursday taking time to come to a small ruminant programme, but as we seek to diversify the agricultural sector, taking into consideration the onslaughts that we are continuing to face with the banana industry, we are seeking the development of other sectors,” the Minister of Agriculture said.

According to the coordinators of the project, the critical areas that have been looked at in the field school include the improvement in the feeding systems, establishment and maintenance of pasture and forage banks, improved livestock management systems and skills, improved productivity of animals and the production of quality meat and value added products.

According to Dr Cedric Lazarus, sub-regional director of the FAO, the farmers’ field school normally lasts between six months and one year; however, seeing that it was the first of its kind in the country, a mid-term review was held to reflect on what has been done so far.

“So, today is a day to get feedback from facilitators on one hand and to get feedback from you, the farmers, on the other hand, so that one can move forward,” Lazarus said.

He added that this project was of great importance not just to St Vincent and the Grenadines, but also for farmers across the region, because it was the first livestock field school in the region and depending on the success that is recorded here, it can be replicated in neighbouring territories, Lazarus said.

He said the objectives of the programme are to get farmers to improve their productivity of small ruminants and to make more money. According to the FAO official, if farmers are not achieving these objectives, they are wasting their time.

The project was also started in an attempt to address the high food import bill which includes a high percentage of livestock products.

“And we cannot continue down that road,” he said.

“So, if you are willing to produce more and more meat products, then hotels will be willing to buy,” Lazarus said.(DD)

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