ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Two representatives from the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA) are on island, conducting an assessment as part of an agreement to assist the Ministry of Agriculture in improving the genetics of small ruminants.
Dr Manuel David Sanchez Hermosillo, representative for Dominican Republic and Una May Gordon, representative for Eastern Caribbean, are currently conducting an assessment to derive ways in which Antigua & Barbuda could develop specific proposals to increase the production of sheep and goats.
This assessment stemmed from an agreement reached earlier this year between the Director General of IICA Dr Victor Villalobos and Minister of Agriculture, Lands, Housing & the Environment Hilson Baptiste, who pledged his commitment to support the development of the sector in five critical areas.
Among the areas listed were building technical capacity at the Master & PhD levels through scholarships; access to germplasm for roots & tubers, sweet potato and cassava and white potato; genetic improvement of small ruminants; enhancement of communication between IICA and the ministry; and development proposals for improvement of technology to enhance communication exchanges.
The IICA officials met with Chief Veterinary and Livestock Officer Dr Oona Edwards, Deputy Director Astley Joseph and other technical officers to hammer out areas of focus under the programme for genetic improvements of small ruminants.
At the meeting at the Ministry of Agriculture Conference Room on Thursday, participants agreed that emphasis should be placed on production of forage, housing and management of flocks.
As part of the assessment process, several farms were examined. A visit was also made to the Titan Group of Companies where IICA is currently conducting a Biodigester Pilot Project.
Gordon explained that when the system would have been fully installed it would be used as a training tool for other farmers.
Gordon explained that “Biodigesters can play a pivotal role in integrated farming systems by reducing health risks, facilitating control of pollution and at the same time adding value to livestock excreta through production of biogas and improved nutrient status of the effluent as fertilizer for ponds and crop land.”
The team is expected to present a report on the findings and the way forward at the end of the assessment.