FAO hosts workshops to help boost agricultural production
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Ministries of Agriculture in Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Lucia and the University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus (UWI), recently hosted three national workshops on ‘Cost-effective risk management options for Agriculture and Livelihoods. The workshops provided practical recommendations for sustainable soil and livestock management in the countries as a response to the cascading effects of the ongoing global crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russia/Ukraine war, climate change and feed and fertilizer availability and affordability, states a release from the FAO dated April 19.
Against this daunting background, the topics and focus of the workshops were timely and relevant to the estimated 100 participants comprising of crop and livestock farmers, extension officers and other representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture, and agriculture students.
Around the world, many leaders have placed repeated emphasis and attention on protecting the earth’s natural resources, including soil management for future generations, and it is anticipated that renewed efforts will be made, as attention is focused on International Mother Earth Day, observed on April 22.
In the Caribbean, representatives from the UWI St Augustine Campus, facilitated and led the presentations with experienced and knowledgeable professionals who also focused on soil management. The team comprised Gaius Eudoxie, soil Scientist; Janelle Joseph, extension expert; Nicholas Boodram, research assistant; and Martin Hughes, livestock expert.
While Joseph and Boodram presented on the project scope, outcomes, and main findings, as well as economic and social options, Eudoxie and Hughes led the technical discussions on soil resources, soil health and fertility, nutrient stewardship, soil amendments, and sustainable feeds and feeding strategies for livestock.
Eudoxie demonstrated compost tea making and fertilizer placement with emphasis on the 4Rs: using fertilizer from the right source, at the right rate, with the right frequency and the right placement.
Though considered relatively small actions, when adopted by farmers they can make major differences.
He highlighted that International Mother Earth Day draws global attention to the way in which humans interact with our planet and indicated that addressing the impacts of current global challenges including food security, conflict and climate change requires innovative and resilient use and management of earth resources. This is particularly important for Small Island Developing States with limited resources and small and emerging economies. Inputs into our productive land uses can either improve or lessen resilience, with the outcome strongly dependent on our ability to efficiently manage these systems.
Hughes provided guidance on ensuring the nutrient requirement of animals were met by using the right formulation of alternative feeds. He demonstrated the use of feed formulation software to create recipes using the by-products of existing crops, including cassava skin, rice by product, pineapple peels and the process of pelleting the feed.
Raisa Spencer, project coordinator at FAO noted that, “The objective of the project was to provide cost effective options to farmers to counter the price increases in imported agricultural inputs (feed and fertilizers). We are very happy to have collaborated with the UWI to meet our project objective. The team was able to identify and showcase appropriate techniques such as the repurposing of crop waste as animal feed without compromising the nutrient content…”.
The participants actively engaged in discussions on the merits and labour requirements of different methods and shared their findings and perspectives on communal forage banks and the use of alternative feeds. These workshops have been a crucial platform for building the capacity of agricultural stakeholders in cost-effective risk management techniques amidst the challenges posed by global crises.
FAO remains committed to supporting the region in addressing the impacts of these crises on agriculture and livelihoods…”.