Snakes hold no fear for Tom Chou

On Wednesday June 15, Ambassador Tom Chou demonstrated yet again the willingness and commitment of his government to do whatever possible to help Saint Lucia recover from the lingering, stubborn aftereffects of Hurricane Tomas.

Last week’s foray into the wilds of Saint Lucia took Ambassador Tom and his colleague to the island’s sole prison on the heights above Dennery. Despite the recent heavy rains, the ceremony was held in the now all-but-demolished chicken coop on the farm that, interest

Taiwanese Ambassador Tom Chou with Prison Director Hilary Herman.

ingly enough, is in the midst of one of the worst snake-infested areas in the district.

That very morning, several Fer de Lance had met their untimely deaths, but undeterred, Ambassador Tom, accompanied by Director Herman, made his way through the thriving cultivated areas of the farm, nimbly leaping across small streams and skirting undergrowth where certainly lurked many a venomous reptile. His many years in the diplomatic service of his country have clearly given the ambassador a wealth of experience in dealing with serpents in the grass.

The thirty or so inmates who work on the farm watched as the Ambassador and his entourage snaked their way up the hill to the pigsties, chicken coop and abattoir.

In his usual ebullient manner, and laughing off the talk of poisonous snakes around his feet, the Ambassador pointed out that snakes served a useful purpose by limiting the spread of vermin such as rats.

During a short ceremony that was attended by Senator Guy Mayers, Minister for Home Affairs and the Member of Government responsible for the Bordelais Facility, Ambassador Tom stressed the desire of his fellow countrymen and women, to assist Saint Lucians in all walks of life in their efforts to overcome the ravages of natural disasters.

The Ambassador also stressed his country’s belief that people who have truly repented their crimes should be given the education and training necessary to make the best of “a second chance”.

Minister Guy Mayers took the opportunity to outline the economic benefits that a thriving farm at Bordelais can bring to the community. The farm provides many different kinds of produce, including fruit and vegetables as well as various meat products. The Minister also stressed his belief that the recently installed high-security perimeter fence and its closed circuit television cameras would lessen the pilferage of produce that has plagued the farm.

Ms Benoit, who is in charge of the Agricultural program at Bordelais explained further that the main objective of the Rehabilitation Program of the Bordelais Correctional Facility is to empower inmates by providing them with a compendium of skills from which they can acquire training with a view to enhance their chances of contributing to their economic and social well-being.

One of the skills training program available is Agriculture where inmates are trained in Crop and Livestock Production.

The BCF, in conjunction with the National Enrichment Learning Program (NELP) of the Ministry of Education and Culture and the Caribbean Examination Council (CXC) offers inmates the opportunity to attain certification in Agriculture.

Apart from the rehabilitation aspect, there is a revenue component attached to the Agricultural program, hence the need to repair the roof of the chicken coop and to replace 3,000 chicks in order to realize revenue projections. and for the CXC inmates to continue their School-Based Assessment.

The scope of the project is to repair the roof of a 3,000 square ft. (100ft x 30ft) chicken coop, replace 3,000 chicks and the replacement of one hundred (100) bags of feed destroyed by Hurricane Tomas on October 30, 2010. This project is part of a larger program – The BCF Farm Improvement Program, so there is a distinct possibility that this will not be the last time Ms Benoit and her colleagues come knocking at Ambassador Tom’s door.

The objectives of the project are clear: To assist in the development of the human capacity for efficient agricultural development through a rehabilitation program; to generate income; to rehabilitate by empowering inmates with skills which can assist them in contributing to economic activity upon their release; to guarantee the security of food supplies through the promotion of effective management of a broiler enterprise; to advocate and promote the optimal utilization of the factors of production i.e. land, labor and capital and, lastly, to ensure an increase in the production of local chicken

In an interesting aside Ms Benoit also pointed out that pen manure will be combined with crop residues to make compost and used as organic fertilizer. The chicken coop will, it is anticipated, produce an annual revenue of almost two hundred thousand dollars, including 6,000 dollars from the sale of manure.

The cheque that was presented to Minister Mayers – and subsequently handed over to Mr Herman the Director of Prisons, will allow the facility to repair the roof of the coop and purchase 3,000 new chicks and 100 bags of feed. Other essential repairs, such as electrical work, will also be made possible by the generous donation from the Taiwanese Government.

It is anticipated that five inmates will be able to benefit from the newly repaired coop and complete their CXC studies this year. Thereafter two new inmates will be trained every eight weeks.

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