The SLHTA is proud of is current discussions with key partners for the recent launch of its Eat What We Grow campaign.
The campaign builds on agri-tourism linkages initiatives over the past few years which we are quite pleased with.
As a result of a number of years of critical assessment, the Virtual Agricultural Clearing House (VACH) was created by the SLHTA.
VACH, launched in 2016, sought to improve the local procurement of food for hotels and restaurants by sourcing fresh crops locally rather than importing them.
Local farmers along with management staff of hotel and hospitality chains, were introduced to the VACH and the initiative proved to be a major success. Agricultural Liaison Officer at the SLHTA, Miss Donette Ismael, elaborated on the concept and the economic impact which it has had on Saint Lucia.
“We tried to keep it very simple by using a Whatsapp platform,” she explained, “We created a group with the purchasing managers of the various hotels, and a separate group with the 400 or more farmers who decided to participate. It has indeed impacted on the pockets of our farmers, as we have had tourism dollars going right back into the pockets of the local farmers. In the first year we had over a million dollars in sales of agricultural produce.”
One pineapple farmer, Moses Rene, expressed his satisfaction with VACH and noted how beneficial it has been to his business.
“I sell my pineapples to the hotels in Saint Lucia. Because of VACH I have been able to expand, I’ve grown to about 90,000 plants. It has helped me grow my business and also financially I’m more stable now.”
Along with investing in local food production and creating an avenue for food procurement in the country, the SLHTA has delved even further by raising awareness for local food preparation. In accomplishing this, the Good Food Revolution Project was introduced in 2017.
The Good Food Revolution Project was a partnership between RISE, the Ministry of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology (MSDEST) and the Ministry of Agriculture, funded in part by the SLHTA’s Tourism Enhancement Fund (TEF), UNDP Global Environment Facility (GEF) and Small Grants Programme.
Primary objectives of the project included the creation of a national environment that promotes healthy food consumption, and revolutionizing food production by removing toxic chemicals and harmful GMOs from the Saint Lucian Food Chain.
The SLHTA and its partners proposed accomplishing this mandate through a 3-pronged approach, which included consumer awareness raising and education, farmer training and national policy development.
The Good Food Revolution Project has also become an ideal complementary initiative to the SLHTA’s Chefs in Schools Program and their associated Secondary School’s Culinary Competition.
These two initiatives have not only assisted with raising the awareness of students on local cuisine but have also encouraged them to use more local ingredients in the preparation of healthy meals.
Considering all of these programs together, the SLHTA has taken a truly holistic approach to its agritourism agenda.
Thus far, this programming has been successful in promoting healthy food consumption by tackling the issue at the roots, by engaging the youth through its secondary schools’ culinary projects.
Additionally, the Good Food Revolution Project has provided the general populace with a program that promotes healthy food preparation, consumption and ultimately healthier living and finally, through the introduction of the VACH, they have made considerable strides in creating a reliable source of readily available fresh and local food for the hospitality sector.
Reflective of these accomplishments, the SLHTA recognizes that there is still work to be done. We are continuing to work assiduously in improving the networking capacity of the local producers and members of hotel management and in maintaining a register of information on what produce is readily available for sale.
Chief Executive Officer at the SLHTA, Noorani Azeez, concluded that projects such as the VACH and the Good Food Revolution Project have highlighted their support for agriculture and promotion of healthy food consumption. However, the issue of the lack of information continues to be the national Achilles heel.
“We have realized over the past few years that a missing ingredient was information. The hotels were simply unaware of the produce available for trade while farmers remained oblivious as to who needed these items. So therefore, there was a need for creating a proper linkage in that regard. There are natural synergies between agriculture and tourism which makes the two sectors best fit partners to grow their profitability and meet the demands of local and global consumers. The SLHTA and the Tourism Enhancement Fund will relentlessly pursue the opportunities for import substitution, organic crop production and diversification with our farmers.”