IN the past decades the agricultural sector in St. Lucia concentrated on the development of the banana industry. The favourable conditions offered by the European Common Market were the major cause for that development as banana producers capitalized on a guaranteed preferential market in the UK for their produce. Livestock production was therefore not given the same level of attention and as such was practiced on a subsistence level.
With the establishment of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1995, an international commitment to the lowering of tariffs and the removal of all restrictions on trade marked the end of all preferential arrangements or their phased dissolution. As banana farmers became discouraged, many withdrew from agriculture entirely.
This development coupled with the rapid structural changes in the global and regional economies, the advances in information and communication technology, the integration of value chains, from farm to table and the new and emerging development challenges to the country’s rural and agricultural economy, signalled the need for a radical rethinking and approach to agriculture and rural development.
The diversification of the agricultural sector into livestock production is an area identified by the government as one of the viable alternatives to drive the St. Lucian economy away from the banana monoculture. As a result of this thinking a diagnostic study was conducted on the Livestock industry and the output of this study was the Livestock Industry Development Plan.
This plan identified the limiting factors to the development of the industry as being mainly structural, economical and technological in nature.
1. High costs of production
2. Competition with cheaper imported livestock products
3. Absence of quality standards of production, processing and marketing
4. Absence of appropriate slaughtering, processing and marketing facilities
5. The absence of effective livestock producer organizations
6. Poor adaptation of improved production systems and technologies
7. Unavailability of good quality stock
8. Declining available land for pasture development which results in inadequate nutritional intake
These are just a few of the main constraints identified in the study as inhibiting factors to manifesting the true potential of the livestock industry.
The birth of poverty reduction in St. Lucia through livestock development project is in keeping with the national policy and it seeks to address the above mentioned constraints through the implementation of certain key interventions such as:
1. The establishment of the Beausejour Agriculture Station as a National Centre of Excellence through the improvement of GAPs, infrastructure and bloodlines to enhance the breeding programmes of livestock producers on Island.
It will also focusa.
a. On capacity building of livestock producers and other stakeholders in the transfer of technology and innovation to enable improved sustainable production and productivity of livestock enterprises.
b. Creating an environment to increase the production of and market access to safe quality livestock products.
2. The establishment of strategically located communal production facilities and the rehabilitation and establishment of pastures and fodder banks for livestock nutrition and feeding. To ensure sustainability the livestock farmers’ organizations will be strengthened and the technical and managerial capacity, competencies and skills of extension officers, veterinarians and livestock farmers will be improved.
The overall outcome of this project is to:
1. Enhance food and nutrition security
2. Provide social protection and poverty reduction with a focus on vulnerable groups
3. Enhance institutional capacities, policy formulation and investment
With the expected output being;
1. Farmers trained in best practices for livestock production through the Beausejour Agricultural Station, Centre of Excellence.
2. Strengthened small ruminant farmers organization through the establishment of two community-based production systems.
This project cannot be viewed in isolation as it will also serve as the supply chain for the recently completed Meat Processing Facility (MPF).