Finding an Agricultural Development Model for St. Thomas, USVI - Adapting an Extension Approach to a Small, Densely Populated, Caribbean Island

St. Thomas, the busiest island of the US Virgin Islands, is small (81km2) but has a population of 53,000 people (population density: 654.3 people/km2) that does not include the 1.5 million annual tourists. While steep slopes make for attractive seascape views, it means that there is little suitable land for agriculture. Land zoned for agriculture is under constant threat of re-classification to make room for more lucrative residential/tourist/commercial developments. Agricultural inputs are scarce and costly. Water resources are limited and unreliable. Agricultural productivity is low and even though markets are strong and prices high, very few people can commit to full-time farming. Establishing a productive agricultural base that can economically support producers and justify continued government support may require the institutional support of non-traditional producers. These producers include small-scale, home gardeners. The fact that they outnumber full-time farmers reflects the urban characteristics of the island and helps understand the particular farming system found on St Thomas. Extension efforts that rely on full-time farmers as vehicles of change do not acknowledge the limitations of the St. Thomas farming system. Adapting to a different client type may be the best way of spending extension dollars. Broad, educational initiatives, community programs and an appropriate scaling of technological packages will feed into the general interest on the island for food security, lowered grocery bills and better food quality. Fundamental to these extension efforts is to make non-traditional producers believe that they can be active participants in the island's food economy.

Issue Date:
Jul 13 2008
Publication Type:
Conference Paper/ Presentation
Record Identifier:
Total Pages:

 Record created 2017-04-26, last modified 2018-01-23

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