A good agricultural sector has been praised by economists all over the world as the key to the development and sustainability of any nation’s economy.
As one of the leading retailers in St. Lucia, this basic economic principle embodies the vision that Consolidated Foods Ltd (operators of Super J, Mega J and gl foodmarket) has laid out for Saint Lucians and the local economy on a whole. In recent years, the company has been partnering with the St Lucia Agriculture Forum for Youth (SLAFY) in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Ministry of Agriculture, to augment the existing agricultural programmes offered at primary and secondary schools with a strong emphasis on making it a more exciting subject of study and career option for young people.
HOOPSS, the acronym for “Helping Out Our Primary and Secondary Schools” was the direct result of this collaboration, and the initiative continues to dig deep into the backyard gardens and greenhouses of schools across the island. The recent addition of the La Guerre Primary, Micoud Secondary and the Centre for Adolescent Renewal and Education (CARE), brings the number of schools to the programme to a seventeen.
“This is one of the many benefits of being a part of HOOPSS,” says Taluah Girard, Marketing & Corporate Communications Officer at CFL. “Seeing young people eager to get involved in Agriculture, developing a love for the subject in school and even applying what they’ve learnt back home to their own backyard and the rest of their families.”
The three schools were also the latest recipients of agricultural supplies as part of the fourth phase of the programme. So far, CFL has donated over $175,000 towards the project, resulting in the purchase of greenhouses, agricultural tools, resource training for Agricultural Science teachers and the creation of a market by agreeing to purchase surplus produce from schools within the program.
One of the more practical components of HOOPSS, according to Ms. Girard, is to strengthen the current feeding programmes at schools across the island. Strong impetus for this development was also provided by CFL earlier this month through the funding of a fifty unit poultry pen at CARE, capable of producing at least 3 batches of meat a year. For now, only students from the CARE outlets at Anse La Raye and Soufriere will be benefiting from the initiative.
According to Perishables Manager of CFL, Dunstan Demille, the future of agriculture rests with the youth and it is important that students understand the range of options available. He says poultry is an area where there is a lot of opportunity for growth.
Newly appointed IICA representative for the Eastern Caribbean States, Mr. John King was also part of the visiting delegation and has been very vocal about his praise for CFL’s commitment to HOOPSS and the project’s overall importance to the island. “This type of programme” he says, “is the answer to our aging farming population on island and the major key to increasing food production in the country and sustaining our very vital economic sector.”