The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently partnered with Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security to implement a regional project that include four Caribbean countries to promote innovative, adapted and sustainable protected cultivation systems to grow high value and nutritious vegetable crops.
This project has been designed to help the Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) face 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.
As part of the project activities, FAO led a training workshop in Barbados on protected cultivation systems for 50 participants including farmers, extension officers, and agriculture students.
The workshop was facilitated by FAO’s Agricultural Officer, Melvin Medina Navarro and raised awareness on the importance of integrated crop management as an approach to obtain high yields.
Important aspects to increase the efficiency in managing factors such as climate, soil, water, nutrients, seedlings, pest & diseases and cultural practices will be covered.
Navarro explained, “Different levels of adaptation have been found among recipient countries from imported greenhouses to locally adapted production system for tropical climate conditions. Observed outcomes indicate that adaptation brings sustainability while importation without adaptation results in abandoned structures”.
The project aims, through a value chain approach, to address and optimize existing production systems, post-harvest practices and marketing of high value vegetable crops with a strong component on capacity building to strengthen local knowledge.
While noting that it is important to raise awareness of farmers and extensionists about different production factors and how their interactions affect yield, Navarro added, “In the case of plant nutrition the training will include the different practices and technologies that are adapted, considering local context to increase efficiency in the use of nutrients. This is particularly important in the face of the current fertilizer crisis”.
In the Caribbean, decreased crop yields and incomes due to extreme climate events, water scarcity, land degradation, pests and diseases, limited access to technical assistance, appropriate inputs, financial resources and markets can be overcome by increasing the efficiency and resilience of horticultural systems for small-scale farmers.
This can be achieved by adopting context-specific and cost-effective technologies.
The project is setting minimum standards of technical specifications for designs of structures and covering materials to be used for adjusting existing systems and as guidelines for new greenhouses in the region.
Keeley Holder, Chief Agricultural Officer with The Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security, stated, “This support from FAO is essential because it moves the needle on protected technologies beyond the excitement of using innovative technologies, to their suitability for our hot and humid climate, suitability for recovery after a hurricane, suitability for farmers pockets and suitability for profitability. A technology is a tool and it is only as good as it user and therefore this training is necessary to assist farmers in developing their technical skills, because growing in a protected environment comes with a different set of challenges from the open field”.
In closing, Navarro made an important observation, “I have seen high-tech greenhouses with high level of investment obtaining low productivity when adaptation to local conditions is not incorporated and/or there is a lack integrated crop management. Low cost systems when well adapted and managed can offer functionality to grow crop year round and provide more opportunities for savings recover investments faster.”
The training is important to know the different factors and how their interactions affect yield. In the case of plant nutrition the training will be timely delivered and include the different practices and technologies that are adapted, considering local context to increase efficiency in the use of nutrients and to minimize the effects of the current fertilizer crisis.
Over the last three weeks, similar workshops were held in Grenada and St. Kitts and Nevis, with the final one held in Antigua and Barbuda.
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