Technical Mission on FAO’s Innovative Protected Cultivation Systems Project 

PR The Ministry of Agriculture and Lands,  Fisheries and Cooperatives, through the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), has recently  concluded a four-day technical training mission that focused on scaling- up protected cultivation  systems to enhance efficiency and sustainable value chains for safe and nutritious vegetable  production

It was held at the National Stadium from November 07 – 10, 2022. 

This mission is part of the FAO’s Innovative Protected Cultivation Systems in the Caribbean  Project (TCP/SLC/3803), which highlights technical assistance to pilot and scale up innovative  protected vegetable production systems in Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, and St. Kitts  and Nevis, as well as the enhancement of National capabilities to promote protected cultivation  systems of vegetables and seedlings production. 

Farmers, Extension Officers and Assistants, and input suppliers were exposed to a blended learning  approach of in-classroom and field activities facilitated by International Consultant and Vegetable  Production Specialist, Jervis Rowe. Participants received technical support in the areas of climate,  soil, water management, production of high-quality seedlings, Integrated Pest, and Disease  Management (IPM), plant nutrition, and cultural practices under protected vegetable production  systems. It is anticipated that technical skills will be enhanced to efficiently share knowledge  among stakeholders and beneficiary farmers.  

The sessions focused on climate management and its influence on yields, covering materials,  production systems, including substrates, fertigation systems, water management, sanitation and  exclusion measures, seedling production, record keeping, and plant nutrition. 

Caribbean SIDS face several challenges which make them vulnerable to food insecurity, including limited  land mass and population; lack of arable land; high vulnerability to climate change and natural disasters  and high dependence on food imports, coupled with limited economic sectors. 

Vegetable Specialist and FAO’s International Consultant, Jervis Rowe, emphasised the need for  strengthening protected vegetable production system in the Caribbean.

“We are living in a very hot environment, and what we have observed are unsuitable structures in  several countries within our region,” said Jervis Rowe, International Consultant, and Vegetable  Production Specialist.  

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Lands, Fisheries and Cooperatives, Aaron  Francois, highlighted the need to boost vegetable production to combat seasonal scarcity. 

“The high cost of locally produced food is due to inadequate production, and it underlines the  importance of this project. I believe we have an opportunity to intervene to help address these deficiencies,” Francois said. 

National Consultant for the Project, Ronald O’Neale, said the focus on vegetable production is to  ensure better quality and increased quantity of produce on the market. 

“If vegetables are grown in a protected environment, farmers can have much better production,”  he said. 

Adapted protected cultivation techniques protect high value and nutritious crops from pests and  diseases, minimising the use of pesticides and increasing food safety in areas with limited  availability of land and water. 

Under the Project, four beneficiaries will receive assistance to enhance their protected cultivation  systems. 

In this regard, the training mission included site visits to selected beneficiaries’ greenhouses for  the improvement/optimisation of their current systems, the provision of technical guidance on  managing production in protected cultivation systems, provision of advice in establishing a  strategy for a better implementation based on the current situation of the vegetable production, as  well as climatic conditions throughout the year, and the offer of recommendations on how to  optimise existing greenhouses to increase productivity. 

Beneficiary Keavon Licorish, Owner of Garden-Fresh Agricultural Produce, said the assistance  that the FAO would offer is very timely. 

He expressed his gratitude to the FAO and the Ministry of Agriculture for support with the upgrade  of his hydroponics system. He stated that following optimisation, he will be able to implement  innovative techniques and cultural measures from the training to cultivate vegetables year-round. 

FAO’s Innovative Protected Cultivation Systems in the Caribbean Project (TCP/SLC/3803) is a  two-year initiative being implemented during 2021-2023, with a budget of US $500,000.00 to be  shared among four (4) beneficiary countries – Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, St. Kitts  and Nevis.