A team from China-based Yuan Longping High-Tech Agriculture Company (LPHT) began its training programme with local farmers Monday night at the Agriculture Extension Division.
The LPHT team had arrived in Antigua and Barbuda over a year ago to share knowledge of crop production in order to improve the local agricultural sector.
However, a lack of communication about the programme at the time, led to delays in the launch of the training sessions.
At a press conference yesterday, Senior Extension Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Owolabi Elabanjo, spoke about how the opening session went.
“We started the first training session on Monday and it was well attended with over 120 farmers in attendance,” he said, adding that he expects more persons to attend the next session on Tuesday.
He added that the training session will move to the Multipurpose Cultural Centre to accommodate the new participants.
The project was divided into theoretical and practical training sessions, where interested farmers would receive a demonstration of the various crop production methods on their farm.
According to Elabanjo, “The training is going to involve theoretical and practical sessions, but 70 percent will be practical as we will be establishing demonstration plots in every farm that is willing to participate.”
Additionally, he said participants in the project will have a chance to travel to China to receive further training based on their level of involvement in the local training sessions.
“When people start coming to the sessions consistently then you can work with those people to see what kind of training [they] would need. Will it be in China where they can see for themselves, to change their perception?
“Some of the objectives for the project [are] to improve the livelihood and food security of Antigua and Barbuda, to reduce our importations, to augment our restaurant needs, and to support the local agro-industry,” Elabanjo said.
He added that the programme can also address the issue of the surplus of certain crops at the local market, by creating crops that can be grown throughout the year.
The scheme will use a variety of seeds – those imported from China and those provided locally – which will be cultivated under shade-houses provided by the Chinese government.
“The shade-houses will be distributed according to the geographical area; so Dunbars and Christian Valley will have one, Greencastle will have two shade-houses and A.D.C. (Agricultural Development Corporation) will gain two, including the one they have under repair,” Elabanjo said, adding that, based on the utilization of seeds, they will working with the Plant Protection Unit to import foreign plant material.
According to the Senior Extension Officer, shade-houses or protection technology is different from greenhouses, as shade-houses protect crops from elements dangerous to plant growth.
“In a shade-house you are only protecting your crops from certain things like pests and diseases, and heavy rain and sunshine. However, a greenhouse modifies the weather conditions, which is the reason Europe has greenhouses,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Agriculture has received a plant tissue culture laboratory which will operate at Dunbars.
Elabanjo said this sophisticated facility will assist local farmers and the public to improve cultivation of crops.