Saint Lucian Keithlin Caroo Creates History As IICA Goodwill Ambassador

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On Tuesday, a virtual ceremony bestowed Saint Lucian Keithlin Caroo with the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) Goodwill Ambassador for Sustainable Development Issues.

Ms. Caroo, a national of Saint Lucia from Fond Assau, is the founder and Executive Director of Helen’s Daughters.

It is a Saint Lucian non-profit organisation focussing on rural women’s economic development through improved market access, adaptive agricultural techniques, and capacity building.

The organisation says that Caroo is the youngest and first-ever Afro-Caribbean IICA Goodwill Ambassador for Sustainable Development.

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Prime Minister Philip J. Pierre, who addressed Tuesday’s virtual ceremony, described Caroo as a trailblazer.

“The Government of Saint Lucia wishes Ms. Caroo the best in all her endeavours as she assumes this new role and continues to be an advocate for youth and women in Agriculture in the global community,” Pierre wrote on his official Facebook page.

For her part, the young Saint Lucian, in accepting the honour told the virtual ceremony that she was still ‘pinching herself.’

“A mere nine months ago, I took a decision that would radically change my life – a decision that I think kept my parents up at night for many months and perhaps made my friends and colleagues believe that I had lost my sanity,” she recalled.

According to Caroo, earlier this year, she left what some would describe as a dream job at the United Nations that provided financial stability and social validation to return to agriculture, an industry in which her parents and grandparents toiled for many years.

She disclosed that on January 17 this year, after five years at the UN secretariat, she left her appointment in the office of the President of the General Assembly to focus full-time on the ‘little known’ NGO, Helen’s Daughters.

Caroo revealed that a proposal she pitched to the UN Women’s Empower Women Champions for Change Programme won approval.

She said the proposal highlighted that women in agriculture in Saint Lucia were often undervalued and overlooked due to traditional perceptions that they were not producers but hucksters or middle-women buying and reselling the produce of male farmers.

Caroo explained that this situation often left women at the base of the agriculture value chain, resulting in a lack of training, finance, and capacity development support.

She lamented that successful farmers are not in the spotlight. But she said people expect  that young individuals will enter a sector fraught with instability, negative perception, and an overall lack of support.

The IICA Goodwill Ambassador revealed that in Saint Lucia for the last three years, Helen’s Daughters has trained over 300 rural women in sustainable agriculture and building agri-business. And she said starting this year, the organisation has partnered with the University of the West Indies and the Food for Change Programme.

That partnership rolled out a programme in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Kitts and Nevis that has trained 359 registered participants in sustainable agriculture and agri-business development.

Caroo observed that agriculture is currently at the forefront, particularly amid the current COVID-19 pandemic.

She highlighted the issue of food security in a region fraught with non-communicable diseases and people already sick because of conditions such as hypertension, obesity, and diabetes.

“The reason our numbers are growing because of COVID-19 – it’s not only because of the pandemic, but because our people are already sick,” she noted, adding that the CARICOM food import bill is some eight billion dollars.

“What are we doing to change that with an ageing farming sector?” Caroo asked. “This is why in essence, we started Helen’s Daughters.”

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Editorial Staff
Editorial Staff
Our Editorial Staff at St. Lucia Times is a team publishing news and other articles to over 200,000 regular monthly readers in Saint Lucia and in over 150 other countries worldwide.

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