This Saint Lucian Lady Is Combining Agriculture, Era & Gender Equality

Young Saint Lucian Entrepreneur KeithlinKeithlin Caroo

</div> </div> <p> </p> <p><strong>James Ellsmoor</strong>: What an important project! Can you start by telling us why you believe it is so important to focus on women farmers?</p> <p><strong>Keithlin Caroo</strong>: Thank you so much, James! For me, the importance of this project started when I was a child. My grandmother worked alongside my grandfather as a farmer but when I found my mother’s birth certificate I noticed that my grandmother had listed herself as a house-wife. I was shocked.</p>

<p>I had witnessed her waking up alongside my grandfather at 3am to work on their farm and then at 10a.m. head to the market to sell their produce. I never forgot that- and when I met other female farmers who would lament that they were boxed out of commercial markets because everything was under their husband’s name, it reminded me of my grandmother. I had seen situations where a spouse passed away and though the wife, in reality, was his business partner and co-owner of the farm, she would have to start from scratch and get re-certified as a farmer. Furthermore, there is an overall problem with gender parity in the work-force: the rate of unemployment in St. Lucia is higher in women than men, but two-thirds of women are small-business owners and, even then, more men are given access to financial markets in the form of loans and grants vs. women.</p> <p>I see this disparity reflected in the agricultural sector. Most people do not regard women as farmers and ultimately leave them out of commercial markets. I believe that with our project we can push rural women to the forefront of modern agricultural techniques and give them greater value in the sector.</p>

Women farmers in Saint Lucia are collaborating through the NGO Helen’s DaughtersKeithlin Caroo

</div> </div> <p><strong>James Ellsmoor</strong>: Saint Lucia is heavily dependent on tourism, but much of that benefit goes to the foreign companies that own the hotel infrastructure. How can projects like yours ensure more direct benefit to local people?</p> <p><strong>Keithlin Caroo</strong>: Our agri-tourism project has been long overdue.&nbsp;Before tourism, agriculture was the bed-rock of St. Lucia’s economy – until the 1990’s&nbsp;when preferential treatment ended and Caribbean bananas had to compete with Latin American bananas (backed by multinational corporations). At one-point, bananas were injecting $15 M a week in St. Lucia’s economy, and St. Lucia was known as the banana capital of the Caribbean. Although we specialized in one crop, it shows that with the right market, proper linkages and capacity development, we can supply the tourism sector with fresh, local produce.</p> <p>Right now, we have one hotel that is importing $10-15 M in nine different crops that can be grown on island; the reason for this is that our farmers are disorganized and lack awareness of market demands, price and certifications. With our project facilitating the process, hotels can get access to the farmers without the hassle of sourcing individually. It would be similar to the banana model where Geest Ltd.’s Caribbean Shipping Line was the distributor, transporter and external marketing agency for Saint Lucia’s agricultural exports. I truly believe that we can marry the tourism and agricultural sector to support each other.</p> <p><strong>James Ellsmoor</strong>: What is your favorite thing about Saint Lucia? What would you like readers to know about your country</p> <p><strong>Keithlin Caroo</strong>: There are too many things to count. The multiculturalism, the warmth, the natural beauty-but it’s the people that you fall in love with. It’s sometimes sad that most look at St. Lucia only as a tourist destination but it’s so much more than that. The innovation and perseverance of my people never ceases to amaze me. Many of my friends have gone on to promising careers, whether traditional or not but St. Lucians believe in making a mark. After all, we do have two Nobel Laureates, Sir Arthur Lewis and Sir Derek Walcott. I think everything we do, we do it with passion, from music to the arts, to business.</p> <p><strong>James Ellsmoor</strong>: How are you incorporating technology into a traditional industry like agriculture? What are the challenges?</p> <p><strong>Keithlin Caroo</strong>: We are incorporating technology into agriculture using three tiers:</p> <ol> <li>An information program that could update farmers regularly on market demands, farming needs and weather;</li> <li>An integrated voice response&nbsp;system that could send&nbsp;agricultural updates via mobile phone&nbsp;to farmers island-wide;</li> <li>A&nbsp;website that allows&nbsp;hoteliers to easily purchase goods from&nbsp;the farmers registered in the program</li> </ol> <p>We engaged with the company <span><a href="https://mesur.io/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://mesur.io/">Mesur.io</a>,</span> developers of a soil sensor (<span><a href="https://mesur.io/benefits" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://mesur.io/benefits">Earthstream</a></span>) that provides data technology to farmers.&nbsp;Each&nbsp;farmer would receive a sensor, the data collected from these sensors would be sent to a central hub where we would use the information to formulate best practices that would be translated into our local language and then subsequently transmitted to the farmers via their cellphones.</p> <p>The biggest challenges would be&nbsp;to bargain for reduced cell phone usage rates so that farmers could afford to call for agricultural information. Another challenge is the translation of the messages into Creole and ensuring that they are relevant and timely. I think the final challenge is proving to hotels that we are reliable suppliers. Many hotels may not be open to the idea, especially if they have previously had negative experiences sourcing from local farmers. Finally, Helen’s Daughters will be taking charge of quality assessment before the produce gets to the hotels and it will be difficult at first for farmers to understand the expectations of the hotels.</p>

A woman farmer in Saint Lucia benefitting from the work of Helen’s DaughtersKeithlin Caroo

</div> </div> <p><strong>James Ellsmoor</strong>: As we mentioned already, there is a strong dependency on tourism for the Saint Lucian economy. What other sectors do you think provide the biggest opportunities for the country?</p> <p><strong>Keithlin Caroo</strong>: I think currently the push for the Caribbean to be a ‘<a href="https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/08/09/caribbean-aims-become-world-first-climate-smart-zone" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/08/09/caribbean-aims-become-world-first-climate-smart-zone">climate-smart zone</a>’ has opened a myriad of opportunities in the tech and energy sectors. I’m already seeing it with the creation of <span><a href="https://www.algasorganics.com/" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.algasorganics.com/">Algas Organics</a></span>, the first biotech company in the country that converts sargassum seaweed into organic fertilizer. I honestly believe that in the next ten years the Caribbean will be at the forefront of agro-tech and renewable energy innovation and I’m excited to be a part of it!</p> <p><strong>James Ellsmoor</strong>: What’s next for you? What are your biggest ambitions for Helen’s Daughters?</p> <p><strong>Keithlin Caroo</strong>: Right now my main focus is this agri-tourism project, I honestly won’t stop until I see a way to make these two sectors work together, even if it impacts ten farmers or tens of thousands, it would make a drastic change in the lives of rural folk and I’m fully committed to that. Also, I hope to make my own farm one of the first smart-farms in the Caribbean region, I hope that by doing this we can also open up other avenues in tourism such as education and research. That way rural districts such as Babonneau, where I’m from, are also able to directly benefit from the tourism dollar.&nbsp;I hope that St. Lucia can transform itself into an island at the forefront of smart-agriculture.</p> <p><strong>James Ellsmoor</strong>: What would you recommend for readers wanting to learn more about Saint Lucia? Can you suggest any books or films?</p> <p><strong>Keithlin Caroo</strong>: I would recommend watching a documentary called “<a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2NbPZIsCog" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D2NbPZIsCog">Who Are You</a>” directed by Darnel John which gives an overview of our cultural and natural heritage. Also, I would recommend picking up “<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omeros" target="_blank" rel="nofollow noopener noreferrer" data-ga-track="ExternalLink:https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omeros">Omeros</a>” – it’s a true gem written by Derek Walcott. Of course, I think the best experience is the experience itself. I would encourage others to visit St. Lucia not only for its natural beauty but for its human capital. There is a lot of untapped potential in the country and if you’re looking to invest in our human and social development, we would welcome you with open arms!</p> <p><strong>James Ellsmoor</strong>: Congratulations on all you have achieved. I cannot wait to see where this project takes you!</p> <p>&nbsp;</p>”>

As a part of the Island Innovation collection, as of late I interview Keithlin Caroo, the founding father of Saint Lucian non-profit Helen’s Daughters. This NGO has a particular focal point on rural girls’s financial advancement via stepped forward marketplace get entry to, adaptive agricultural ways, and capacity-building. Helen’s Daughters was once shaped in 2016 in a successful proposal for UN Ladies’s Empower Ladies Champions for Exchange Program.

The non-profit has thinking about capacity-development within the type of abilities and enterprise advancement workshops for rural girls in addition to partnering with a group of Engineering scholars from the College of British Columbia to Saint Lucian girls farmers in an leading edge challenge on Humanitarian Engineering that fits technical experience with on-the-ground agricultural problems.

Now, Keithlin and her group are organising a social undertaking way to leverage era and fill gaps within the agricultural-food-tourism device – led by means of rural girls.

Younger Saint Lucian Entrepreneur KeithlinKeithlin Caroo

James Ellsmoor: What crucial challenge! Are you able to get started by means of telling us why you imagine it’s so vital to concentrate on girls farmers?

Keithlin Caroo: Thanks such a lot, James! For me, the significance of this challenge began when I used to be a kid. My grandmother labored along my grandfather as a farmer but if I discovered my mom’s start certificates I spotted that my grandmother had indexed herself as a house-wife. I used to be surprised.

I had witnessed her waking up along my grandfather at 3am to paintings on their farm after which at 10a.m. head to the marketplace to promote their produce. I by no means forgot that- and once I met different feminine farmers who would lament that they have been boxed out of industrial markets as a result of the entirety was once below their husband’s identify, it jogged my memory of my grandmother. I had observed scenarios the place a partner kicked the bucket and although the spouse, in fact, was once his enterprise spouse and co-owner of the farm, she must get started from scratch and get re-certified as a farmer. Moreover, there may be an total downside with gender parity within the work-force: the velocity of unemployment in St. Lucia is upper in girls than males, yet two-thirds of girls are small-business house owners and, even then, extra males are given get entry to to monetary markets within the type of loans and grants vs. girls.

I see this disparity mirrored within the agricultural sector. The general public don’t regard girls as farmers and in the long run go away them out of industrial markets. I imagine that with our challenge we will be able to push rural girls to the vanguard of recent agricultural ways and provides them larger worth within the sector.

Ladies farmers in Saint Lucia are participating throughout the NGO Helen’s DaughtersKeithlin Caroo

James Ellsmoor: Saint Lucia is closely depending on tourism, yet a lot of that get advantages is going to the overseas firms that personal the lodge infrastructure. How can initiatives like yours make sure that extra direct get advantages to native other folks?

Keithlin Caroo: Our agri-tourism challenge has been lengthy late. Ahead of tourism, agriculture was once the bed-rock of St. Lucia’s financial system – till the 1990’s when preferential remedy ended and Caribbean bananas needed to compete with Latin American bananas (sponsored by means of multinational firms). At one-point, bananas have been injecting $15 M per week in St. Lucia’s financial system, and St. Lucia was once referred to as the banana capital of the Caribbean. Despite the fact that we specialised in a single crop, it displays that with the best marketplace, correct linkages and capability advancement, we will be able to provide the tourism sector with recent, native produce.

At this time, we now have one lodge this is uploading $10-15 M in 9 other vegetation that may be grown on island; the cause of that is that our farmers are disorganized and shortage consciousness of marketplace calls for, value and certifications. With our challenge facilitating the method, lodges can get get entry to to the farmers with out the trouble of sourcing personally. It could be very similar to the banana style the place Geest Ltd.’s Caribbean Transport Line was once the distributor, transporter and exterior advertising and marketing company for Saint Lucia’s agricultural exports. I in reality imagine that we will be able to marry the tourism and agricultural sector to make stronger every different.

James Ellsmoor: What’s your favourite factor about Saint Lucia? What do you want readers to find out about your nation

Keithlin Caroo: There are too many stuff to depend. The multiculturalism, the heat, the herbal beauty-but it’s the folk that you just fall in love with. It’s occasionally unhappy that almost all take a look at St. Lucia handiest as a vacationer vacation spot nevertheless it’s so a lot more than that. The innovation and perseverance of my other folks by no means ceases to amaze me. Lots of my pals have long gone directly to promising careers, whether or not conventional or now not yet St. Lucians imagine in creating a mark. In any case, we do have two Nobel Laureates, Sir Arthur Lewis and Sir Derek Walcott. I feel the entirety we do, we do it with pastime, from track to the humanities, to enterprise.

James Ellsmoor: How are you incorporating era into a conventional trade like agriculture? What are the demanding situations?

Keithlin Caroo: We’re incorporating era into agriculture the usage of 3 tiers:

  1. A data program that might replace farmers frequently on marketplace calls for, farming wishes and climate;
  2. An built-in voice reaction device that might ship agricultural updates by way of cell phone to farmers island-wide;
  3. A site that permits hoteliers to simply acquire items from the farmers registered in this system

We engaged with the corporate Mesur.io, builders of a soil sensor (Earthstream) that gives knowledge era to farmers. Each and every farmer would obtain a sensor, the knowledge gathered from those sensors could be despatched to a central hub the place we’d use the tips to formulate very best practices that will be translated into our native language after which therefore transmitted to the farmers by way of their mobile phones.

The most important demanding situations could be to discount for lowered mobile phone utilization charges in order that farmers may manage to pay for to name for agricultural data. Any other problem is the interpretation of the messages into Creole and making sure that they’re related and well timed. I feel the overall problem is proving to lodges that we’re dependable providers. Many lodges will not be open to the theory, particularly if they have got prior to now had destructive studies sourcing from native farmers. After all, Helen’s Daughters shall be taking price of high quality review earlier than the produce will get to the lodges and it’s going to be tough to start with for farmers to know the expectancies of the lodges.

A lady farmer in Saint Lucia benefitting from the paintings of Helen’s DaughtersKeithlin Caroo

James Ellsmoor: As we discussed already, there’s a sturdy dependency on tourism for the Saint Lucian financial system. What different sectors do you assume give you the greatest alternatives for the rustic?

Keithlin Caroo: I feel these days the rush for the Caribbean to be a ‘climate-smart zone’ has opened a myriad of alternatives within the tech and effort sectors. I’m already seeing it with the advent of Algas Organics, the primary biotech corporate within the nation that converts sargassum seaweed into natural fertilizer. I in truth imagine that within the subsequent ten years the Caribbean shall be at the vanguard of agro-tech and renewable power innovation and I’m excited to be part of it!

James Ellsmoor: What’s subsequent for you? What are your greatest ambitions for Helen’s Daughters?

Keithlin Caroo: At this time my major focal point is that this agri-tourism challenge, I in truth gained’t forestall till I see a technique to make those two sectors paintings in combination, despite the fact that it affects ten farmers or tens of hundreds, it will make a drastic trade within the lives of rural folks and I’m totally dedicated to that. Additionally, I’m hoping to make my very own farm one of the most first smart-farms within the Caribbean area, I’m hoping that by means of doing this we will be able to additionally open up different avenues in tourism reminiscent of training and analysis. That means rural districts reminiscent of Babonneau, the place I’m from, also are in a position to immediately get pleasure from the tourism buck. I’m hoping that St. Lucia can become itself into an island at the vanguard of smart-agriculture.

James Ellsmoor: What would you suggest for readers short of to be informed extra about Saint Lucia? Are you able to recommend any books or movies?

Keithlin Caroo: I might suggest staring at a documentary referred to as “Who Are You” directed by means of Darnel John which supplies an outline of our cultural and herbal heritage. Additionally, I might suggest selecting up “Omeros” – it’s a real gem written by means of Derek Walcott. In fact, I feel the most productive enjoy is the enjoy itself. I might inspire others to discuss with St. Lucia now not just for its herbal cosmetic yet for its human capital. There may be a large number of untapped attainable within the nation and for those who’re taking a look to put money into our human and social advancement, we’d welcome you with open fingers!

James Ellsmoor: Congratulations on all you might have completed. I can’t wait to peer the place this challenge takes you!

 

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