Saint Lucia school feeding program receives major boost

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The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Ministry of Agriculture of Saint Lucia recently partnered with the Government of Mexico to train (40) farmers in a training on the development of agro-enterprise.

The training follows the agreement of the government of Saint Lucia to ensure that the national school feeding program is linked to farmers and food producers who can sustainably supply safe products.

The month-long training sessions explored topics such as low agrochemical input use, post-harvest handling, food safety, agribusiness management and marketing linkages.

It also enabled participating farmers to conceive of agribusiness ideas, which were launched during last week’s graduation exercise.

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The training program is one of many activities supported by Resilient School Feeding
sub-project of the Mexico-CARICOM-FAO Initiative “Cooperation for Climate Change
Adaptation and Resilience in the Caribbean”.

It aimed to support a cadre of farmers to improve their capacity to supply fresh, safe and nutritious produce to the national school feeding programme.

Participants included farmers from three farmer organizations including Helen’s Daughters, Black Farmers Co-operative, Belle Vue Farmers’ Co-operative and Farmers
with the disability group.

Some of the areas covered by the training included access to and use of low agrochemical inputs, post-harvest handling, food safety and quality, agribusiness management, and market linkages.

The sub-project also includes support to update the Farmer Field
School (FFS) Manual to integrate aspects associated with the national school feeding programme, as well as content related to climate-resilient and ecosystem-smart agriculture, and its gender sensitivity in agricultural extension and advisory services, to support school gardens and the training of farmers and their organizations was an integral part of the training.

Under the project, six school gardens that will be implemented in selected schools will receive an agricultural management plan as well as methodological tools, technological packages and training for the design and maintenance of their individual school gardens, while the pupils will receive basic training in gardening maintenance.

Six demonstration plots in six primary schools will also facilitate training in garden maintenance and guide the school’s farm management plan, as well as training to facilitate farmer training in Good Agricultural Practices (GAPs) and farming. resilient agriculture.

During the farmers’ graduation ceremony, several senior officials attended, including the
Honorable Alfred Prospere, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Rural Affairs
Development and Ambassador Luis Manuel Lopez Moreno, Mexican Ambassador to Saint Lucia.

Also present were Barrymore Felicien, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of
Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Rural Development and Soraya Niles–Regis, Deputy Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Rural Development.

In his official address, the Honorable Alfred Prospere, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Food Security and Rural Development highlighted the government’s vision to strengthen the national school feeding programme.

He said: “For us at the Ministry of Agriculture, the school feeding program in Saint Lucia is a vital undertaking in our attempts to reduce hunger and improve food security at the local level, in line with the objectives United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2, 3. and 4 on promoting zero hunger, health and well-being and quality education respectively”.

On behalf of the Government of Saint Lucia, Minister Prosper thanked FAO and the Government of Mexico for their support. In conclusion, he said, “What we have seen so far, through the successful implementation of the new school feeding program model in Saint Lucia, is an increase in school enrollment rates, a reduced absenteeism and improved diet. security at the household level.

The training modules include diagnosis and the basics of successful agricultural planning,
assess resources, profile the farmer and create an identity for the farm, followed by the development of the business, which will be based on the knowledge of crop selection, construction of farms through smart investments in the equipment and infrastructure, effective hiring and management of workers, regulation and certification.

During the third module, the focus will be on developing market development skills and engaging in practical exercises of creating marketing and farm plans, and identified strategies consistent with personal and financial goals, and that capitalize on customer needs and trends.

However, with the last module, the focus is on financial management, monitoring
production costs and pricing, establishment of record keeping and accounting procedures;
production activities using with minimal use of pesticides, good agricultural practices, post-harvest management, other agricultural production activities from the Farmer Field School and risk management during the last module.

Ambassador Luis Monero, Mexican Ambassador to Saint Lucia, said: “We will continue to
support the development of the school feeding programme. We are extremely happy for the
collaboration and the progress we are seeing”.

Meanwhile, Anthia Joshua, a retired Department of Agriculture marketing specialist and trainer on the programme, said: “We had a mixed group of farmers attending the training. Our youngest participant was 16 and the eldest was 60. We had a diverse group including youth, agri-entrepreneurs, disabled farmers and agricultural cooperatives. Our mission was to involve as many groups of farmers as possible”.

One of the participating farmers, Anthony Herman, credited the training experience with success. He further said, “I wish we could have ongoing training throughout the year on new farming technologies and practices. I am very enthusiastic, especially about the business training. I’m ready to make the changes.”

Meanwhile, Cherry Anne Smith, FAO national project staff, thanked the partners and facilitators.

She said: “Thank you to all of you who have collaborated with us so far. Special thanks to the Department of Agriculture and our counterparts Thaddeus Constantine and Barrymore Felicien and thanks to the farmers for your dedication thus far and the commitment you have shown over the past month. Let’s continue to work together. Congratulations farmers.

THE SOURCE: Food and Agriculture Organization. Main photo: group image.

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