Local farmers are to receive assistance in boosting productivity and accessing high value markets through a sustainable economic growth programme funded by the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) and the Canadian Hunger Foundation (CHF).
The World University Service of Canada (WUSC) and the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS) on Wednesday morning signed an agreement under which PROPEL –– Promotion of Regional Opportunities for Produce Through Enterprise and Linkages –– will invest $290,000 in a project which is also meant to help Barbadian farmers become more efficient.
“Part of it is looking at systems; trying to improve the ability of [the] BAS to work with their farmers and manage the scheduling of planting, so you get a more consistent supply; and also choosing and selecting what crops to plant, so you don’t get an oversupply of one crop and undersupply of another, but rather a better planned and more streamline flow of produce going into the market,” said director of WUSC, Douglas Graham, who signed on behalf of his institution.
Graham said technical assistance would also be provided along with the services of a Canadian field volunteer to work with the BAS in developing the project, which would begin with a test crop.
“We are also looking at setting up some model plots of particular crops, and we have selected onions initially to try to field test different varieties [to] make sure that the proper agricultural inputs and techniques are being used to try to increase productivity and quality of production on that front,” he added.
He said one of the key aspects of the project involved working with farmers and the BAS in sourcing materials in order to increase their capacity to meet the demands of the market.
Describing the project as a watershedin local food produce sector, BAS chief executive officer James Paul spoke about the benefits to be derived from an upgrade to the society’s data management systems and the availability of a Canadian volunteer.
“A key aspect is the data management system that we put in place. We do collect data at the moment on the farm production systems within the BAS; but what we recognize is that that system needs to be reviewed . . . revised and certainly upgraded.
“I think one of the key outputs of this project will be enhancing the ability of the BAS to be able to produce statistical information on the performance of the farmers,” Paul said.
He stressed that this was essential, especially if the farming community was to become market-driven status and satisfy
the demands for produce at the same time.
“And what is key is that that volunteer guest would be coming; but at the same time, written into the contract will be skills transfer that would be afforded. That is one of the things that would be extremely important.
“We are going to have BAS staffers at the same time being trained in implementing those processes and systems,” Paul noted, adding that the cooperation would take on an additional member of staff for training under the project.
He was also excited that while previous projects involved workshops, this one entailed more field activities, which would directly benefit the farmers.
“So we are going to go to the point where at least the demonstration effect is being made on individual farms, so farmers themselves would actually benefit from resources that are provided as a result of this project.” (EJ)