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Abstract

The use of excessive amounts of chemical pesticides and other inputs in the production of short-term, high-value crops in the Caribbean is well-documented. This excess has serious negative implications on human and environmental health, cost of production and trade in agricultural commodities. Over the past decade, a number of regional initiatives have successfully used the Farmer Field School (FFS) approach towards rationalizing the use of chemical inputs in agricultural production. One such initiative was implemented during 2009-10 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Land, Forestry and Fisheries (MALFF), St. Lucia, under the Project European Community (EC)-Funded Assistance to Agricultural Diversification in the Windward Islands (GCP/RLA/167/EC - SFA2006). Using the FFS methodology, the intervention facilitated an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) programme in vegetables. Under Phase 1 (May-August 2009), eighteen Extension Officers, drawn from the eight agricultural regions of St. Lucia, successfully graduated as FFS Facilitators in a Training of Trainers (TOT) programme. The TOT comprised intensive classroom and field training sessions and incorporated a pilot FFS, from which thirteen farmers graduated. Phase II was implemented (February-June 2010) in five agricultural regions, with ninety-eight farmers graduating. It is noteworthy that the cost-benefit ratio using IPM was higher compared to traditional farmer practices in all five regions. Indeed, plans were already in train for Phase III as a collaborative effort between farmers and the MALFF. This joint ownership by the two main stakeholders—farmers and the MALFF—augurs well for the sustainability of the FFS movement in St Lucia. This paper underscores the benefits of the TOT/FFS model, which leads to improved technical capacity of the Extension and Plant Protection services and in turn to the delivery of enhanced services to farmers, resulting in safer and more effective pest and crop management.

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