By Orville Williams
The Ministry of Agriculture is hoping that confirmation will come from China soon, regarding the extension of a rather successful exchange programme that should continue to improve the local agriculture sector.
The ‘first phase’ of the programme started with a three-year agreement back in 2018 and saw technicians from Yuan Longping High-Tech Agricultural Company working on the ground with the ministry, teaching farmers innovative techniques to improve crop production.
Prior to that phase which ended last month, agriculture officials had been talking up an extension of sorts, with much more left to be learnt. An official request has since been made and now the Minister Agriculture, Samantha Marshall, said they are awaiting positive feedback.
“We have not had word on that as yet, but what I do know is that we still have a core team here. They’ve allowed a core team to remain, just to help us continue some of the training we had started.”
A big part of the new programme – if confirmed – will focus on improving local farmers’ capacity for water storage – an area that desperately needs assistance, given the country’s persistent drought issues.
“We’re hoping that the Chinese will be able to work along with us in developing more ways of being able to maximise storage of water, to ensure that farmers are better able to produce.
“The reality is, this is our environment and we do suffer extended periods of drought. But, how do we maximise [our capacity]? Should we be looking at other crops that would require less use of water, and how do we increase our production in this regard?” Marshall explained.
She added that another area of focus will be improved agro-processing, to maximise the potential of the crops grown here on the island.
“The situation is, too, we’re looking at adding value to our crops. Yes, we do agro-processing at a certain level, but we’re looking at how we can open up our minds to more. [To] expand on the canning, the bottling, producing into powders [and] material that you can actually freeze and use at a later date.”
Along with improved water storage and agro-processing, backyard farmers could also benefit from the new partnership with the Chinese.
Late last year, Senior Extension Officer in the Ministry, Owolabi Elabanjo, explained that those small-scale farmers – who he commended for their efforts toward food security during the height of the pandemic – would be given assistance to improve hydroponics and other elements of their production.