Over 900 million people experience the hardship that hunger imposes, a figure which continues to rise even amidst the riches of the 21st century. Engulfed within a vortex of population growth, economic instability and climate change, food security presents a formidable challenge for not only global but national governance.
It is against this backdrop that the Government of Dominica, through the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has embarked on a series of innovative programmes, geared at encouraging Crop Diversification into root crops, passionfruit, hot peppers, ginger, plantain, pineapple, culinary herbs and exotic crops, thereby improving food security.
One such programme is the Support to Horticulture which the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries considers to be very crucial in reestablishing the nation’s food security and agricultural export capacity, on which so many farmers, farm families, agricultural workers, hucksters and exporters depend.
The project which began in 2008, seeks to make continued timely interventions in five (5) critical areas. They are:
- improved crop production,
- improved irrigation systems,
- increased exports of agricultural produce,
- increased access to funding for agricultural production and
- support to the floriculture industry.
These five areas have all been identified as bottlenecks to improved agricultural production and productivity in the short to medium term.
Jason Bruno who has been coordinating the project over the past years, stated that these interventions are aimed at encouraging farmers to adopt a more productive mindset, by adopting the appropriate technologies available for crop production, so as to facilitate sustainable growth and development of the sub sector and the agricultural sector in general.
According to Mr. Bruno, the potential benefits of the project are many, including, but not limited to:
- significant savings of foreign exchange;
- generation of foreign exchange earnings;
- improved national food security and
- enhanced national export competitiveness.
In this regard, the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries envisage this project as the first stage of a full-fledged horticultural development programme with potential for increased exports to regional markets.
Apart from the aforementioned benefits, the project which is multi-faceted in nature, also seeks to contribute directly to the achievement of the three key result areas for the sustainable growth of the sector as outlined in the Growth and Social Protection Strategy.
Support to Crop Production
Participating farmers will be assisted with production inputs such as planting material, fertilizers, plastic mulches, trellise materials, shade materials and pesticides. Farmers will provide all the labour required. Inputs will be distributed in tranches according to strict criteria and will be closely monitored to allow for efficiency and transparency of the distribution process.
In respect to pineapple, we expect to adopt the value chain from production to market by assisting the expansion of acreages and crop husbandry training and assisting of farmers with the necessary training needed for Cottage Industry Development.
With regards to the organic production system, support is being provided for the purchase of organic inputs, and more importantly funds are being provided for improving the capacity for the production of local organic inputs.
Support is also being provided to allow the efficient transfer of technology through method demonstrations and other training methods in the areas of sustainable and efficient production practices and Good agricultural practices (GAP) which involve the application of good management principles for the production of safe and wholesome agricultural produce for human consumption without compromising the health of farm workers and the environment.
Similarly, short-term training in production scheduling, commodity forecasting and record keeping is being undertaken for both farmers and field extension staff. Training sessions for farmers are also being conducted at a regional level with technical assistance for the project being mainly provided by the staff of the Division of Agriculture.