St. Kitts farmers turn to ICT to streamline marketing

Telojo ‘Telly’ Onu of ICT4ECD (left) talking to the executive of the St. Kitts Farmers’ Cooperative Limited. Appearing on front row are from right, Shiue Mars, Simon Samuel, Arabella Nisbett, Deslyn Richard and Joseph O’Flaherty

St. Kitts (April 27, 2010) — The St. Kitts Farmers Cooperative Society Limited, in a bid to add value to what they are doing and also improve food security in the country, is exploring the possibility of using information communication technology (ICT) to streamline marketing.

Joseph O’Flaherty, General Secretary of the society said that the executive has so far held an exploration meeting with the St. Kitts-based, EU-funded Information Communication Technology for Improving Education, Diversification and Competitiveness (ICT4EDC), which promised to be beneficial to the farmers.

The meeting, which was held recently at the ICT Centre CAP Southwell Industrial Park, was facilitated by Telojo ‘Telly’ Onu a Networking and Communications Expert with ICT4EDC and attended by president of the society Arabella Nisbett, vice president Simon Samuel, treasurer Deslyn Richard, committee members Leonard Herbart and Solomon Morton along with Joseph O’Flaherty.

Also present was Shiue Mars, leader Taiwan ICDF and chief of the Taiwanese Agricultural Mission. Said O’Flaherty: “We work very closely together (with the Taiwanese) as they have a lot of knowledge and we have a lot of local knowledge that they feed off us, and we feed of what they bring, so there is information exchange between the two groups.”

According to O’Flaherty, the initial meeting with Onu was as a result their involvement with the Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN) where she told them of ICT4EDC, which is funded by the EU under their 10th framework. Part of its mandate is to bring ICT to agriculture.

Executive members of the St. Kitts Farmers’ Cooperative Limited pay attention as they learn how they will benefit from the use of ICT to streamline marketing

“We started talking as to ways in which her project and our cooperative could work on projects together and that was the genesis of that meeting,” noted O’Flaherty. “I went to the cooperative and told them we have an opportunity because as a cooperative we have a mandate to do two major things in terms of benefits to our members.”

He said those benefits include the bringing in of farm inputs and make them available to their members at the lowest rates possible, sourcing them from where they can buy things collectively. The other is the marketing the produce of crop and livestock farmers to local regional and global markets.

In a topic themed ‘ICT4EDC towards an information society; ICTs and Agribusiness — Mobile Solutions for Agribusiness’, Telojo Onu informed them that use of ICT in marketing has worked very well in Africa and referred to one, E-soko that has been used in Ghana. She said that with a 110% mobile phone penetration in St. Kitts and Nevis, using ICT would be much easier for the farmers.

“Whatever direction we go with this information system, we are aware that we will be definitely working alongside Ministry of Agriculture perhaps Tourism, Trade and the Hotel Association as stakeholders,” commented O’Flaherty. “We as a farmers’ cooperative have recognised that we cannot work in isolation.”

He said that the first step they intend to take is to establish a national database that will allow them to know what is available in the market and what farmer has what. In that way, should a large client like the St. Kitts Marriott call the cooperative wanting certain amounts of food, which of course no single farmer would have the entire order, the database would then allow them to contact the different farmers with the required stuff.

In a positive move, the Ministry of Agriculture has allowed the society to use the Needsmust Complex as a packing/storage house. Said O’Flaherty: “We made some refurbishments to the building, and through a CIDA grant built a cooling unit where our members can store their produce/goods, as well as when we take goods in to market we have a place where we can store it for resale.”

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