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Over 25 farmers from the Babonneau area are set to benefit from a Farm Labour Support Programme (FLSP) which is being spearheaded by the National Initiative to Create Employment (NICE) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture.
The programme was launched on Monday morning at the Babonneau Multipurpose Centre.
Under this initiative, 26 participants will be schooled on the technical aspects of creating productive farms. They will also be taught other skills which are important to become successful in business and life in general.
“Most times farmers are not skilled or knowledgeable in their own field. So we want to produce a pool of skilled and trained persons that could further the agricultural industry in St. Lucia. So these people, after they have trained and practised what they learned, they themselves can own farms and put in better practice,” said Dennis James, project officer with NICE.
Two major aims of the FLSP are to increase employment and improve food security. In that regard, participants will be trained in crop and livestock production and will be deployed to dormant and under-developed farms to “revitalise” them.
“We are importing too much that we can produce [here in St. Lucia] and as a result we want to train persons to produce what we can,” James added.
The training will come in three spheres.
The first will be a Productivity Enhancement Training (PET) which will touch on topics such as conflict resolution, money management and workers’ rights. This will be facilitated by counsellors at the National Skills Development Centre (NSDC) . That segment will be completed in the first two weeks and will be followed by technical training in agriculture, crop production and livestock production. Personnel from the Ministry of Agriculture will facilitate that part of the programme.
Meanwhile, Perry Thomas, project coordinator for NICE, in addressing the participants, implored them to put their best foot forward during the training in order to assist “in bringing our food production back on stream”. He pointed to the need for an increase in agricultural production which will reduce the food import bill and ultimately the trade deficit currently facing the government.
Parliamentary Representative for the area and Health Minister Alvina Reynolds asked the gathering to use this opportunity to produce and advocate for healthy eating.
The Ministry of Agriculture is providing the technical assistance and information on the farms which will be utilised during the 12-week course.
NICE is responsible for the financing and conceptualisation of the initiative.
The Farm Labour Support Programme will be done in six other districts on the island.