left: Five of the facilitators of the HOAM training project
during a HOAM
people of St Lucia get involved in agriculture development
very young in age.
Organic agriculture strongly differs from the chemical
dependant system of modern agriculture. The
Guiding principle of organic agriculture is that it considers
the natural cycles of nature.. It is a production system
that sustains agricultural production by avoiding or largely
excluding synthetic fertilisers and pesticides. It is
a system that respects the earth's natural balance and
attempts to work and grow food within natures cycles.
St Lucian youths are being given the opportunity to change
their community through organic agriculture and Hewanorra
Organic Agriculture Movement (HOAM), St Lucia via training
HOAMs vision, which is to develop an organic industry
in an eco-friendly and holistic manner, will present opportunities
to the people to produce and consume natural and wholesome
food for healthy living. The groups aim is the establishment
of a sustainable organic agricultural sector through the
sensitisation, mobilisation and empowerment of the people,
by fostering strategic alliances with related organisations
in the creation of a viable organic movement on the island.
HOAM was launched in March of last year, as an initiative
of the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture
(IICA), in connection with the St Lucian Ministry of Agriculture.
HOAM secretary Ratoya Pilgrim and co-manager of Catalyst
Organic Gardens gave an account of HOAMS accomplishments
thus far in a recent interview.
few months before the actual launch of HOAM, a meeting
was held and a steering committee which consists of ten
individuals, most of whom are farmers and a few Ministry
of Agriculture employees, was elected.
Pilgrim said the committee decided that schools would
be the best place for organic demonstration plots because
HOAM believes in order to promote new and sustainable
farming systems, in the long term, young people, some
of whom will be future farmers, must be exposed to this
system of farming early in their educational development.
HOAM believes schools are also important places for such
projects because of their accessibility to the public.
Alliances and Projects
the project that we have begun is located at the Anse
la Raye Primary School, co-funded by my partner Damien
Adjodha, who is also the chairman of HOAM, and I at Catalyst
Organic Gardens (Cog), the French Embassy and Digicel.
Cog was awarded an EC$10,000 grant from Digicel in our
Caring Connection programme.
Pilgrim said this particular project was inspired by a
group of youth who worked at Cog and who were interested
in applying for the Digicel grant. The project included
a nine-day training session in the principles and techniques
of organic and sustainable agriculture with morning and
afternoon sessions three days a week which were done by
two teachers, Nkrumah Lucien and Imran Edwards.
morning training consisted of theoretical lessons in what
is organic Agriculture, seed propagation, organic soil
fertility management, plant care, integrated pest management,
bed preparations, agro-eco systems, harvest and market.
Whereas the afternoon sessions were practicals covering
whatever subject matter was covered earlier, said
for example, if soil fertility management was taught the
youth were divided in teams and they were asked to build
On the ninth day of the training the young people were
tested on the knowledge they gained in both written and
oral exams which concluded with a graduation ceremony
where they received certificates.
present eight of the 15 youths who participated in the
course are currently working at the school garden helping
to rehabilitate it and supply food to the 150 primary
students there who benefit from the schools lunch
The funding received from the Digicel grant, she added,
was specifically for the training, the purchasing of tools,
and for paying the youth.
is important to note that the training was a paid training
and the youth received EC$23 a day. The money has also
gone towards keeping them employed thus far but additional
funding is needed.
Currently they are in the process of seeking funding from
various agencies, one of which is the Global Environment.
Facility (GEF), in order to continue its work.
plan on growing a lot of roots crops: cassava, dasheen,
yam and tannia. We also want to include a lot of leafy
greens including amaranth, kale, spinach, Chinese cabbage
and soya. We also want to create a herb garden full of
native and exotic herbs and flowers. Fruit trees are a
must, as they are top on our list for food security for
the school in years to come," Pilgrim said.
Another of HOAMs goals is to set up three organic
demo gardens around the island: one of which has already
week after the training course was completed, in early
October, the young people became involved in creating
and shaping the garden.
Pilgrim added that the youth involved are at the heart
of this particular project which is a shared effort of
HOAM, Catalyst Organic Gardens, Digicel and the French
Part of HOAMs mission this year besides setting
up Organic demo gardens, is to run a nation wide sensitisation
campaign and hold four training workshops around the island
for farmers interested in the organic conversion process.
are working in as much as our capacity permits us and
having the opportunity to work closely with the youth
in the community and actually seeing the difference in
their perception and their growing appreciation of natural
farming in my opinion is progress and a blessing.
She added that because HOAM is largely made up of farmers,
who must tend to their farms, the group face many challenges
but they are pressing on.
are overcoming, and with continued support from the Ministry
of Agriculture, IICA, the French Embassy, the GEF (a sub-division
of the UNDP based in Barbados) and the future participation
of the Ministry of Education, we have faith that the Almighty
will give us continued strength to complete our mission.
T&Ts Agricultural initiatives
The local Ministry of Agriculture has also recognised
the importance of encouraging youths to realise their
potential through agriculture in technical, professional
and business activities and have started the Youth Apprenticeship
Programme in Agriculture (YAPA). The local youths are
being sensitised to the availability of agriculture as
a career. They will hopefully become aware of the importance
of agriculture in nation building and would be encouraged
to participate in agriculture as a productive way of life
whilst benefiting from employment opportunities.
This programme is viewed as timely because of the decline
in interest by the young people in the agricultural sector.
YAPA provides training opportunities to the youths for
entry into the agricultural sector.
Youth Apprenticeship Programme places young people as
interns in a range of successful private and public sector
agriculture enterprises which exposes them to operations,
practical skills and processes in these enterprises. There
they are expected to develop skills in farm management,
production of crops and livestock as well as gain insights
in creating successful agricultural enterprises.
To date, more than 1,500 youths have been exposed to agricultural
activities through YAPA. Presently the Ministry is reviewing
the programme with the intention of expanding it to include
additional progressive elements.