Various agro-ecological farming equipment were remitted to four farmers of the region of La Laura under the 'Smart Agriculture Project' during a ceremony held on, Friday 10 July 2020, in presence of the Attorney General, Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security, Mr Maneesh Gobin.
In his address, the Minister underpinned the aim of the project which is to reduce the use of pesticides and insecticides to ensure better quality and safer production of fruits and vegetables, as well as to protect the environment. He dwelt on the adverse impacts of the exposure of pesticides on both the environment and our health, while underlining the alarming spike in cases of cancers potentially related to these.
He said that pesticides and insecticides have been used by farmers to deal with the challenges that tropical countries face in terms of weather conditions, as well as prevalence of pests and diseases. According to the Minister, the shift to agro-ecological production systems will necessitate a gradual transition.
Mr Maneesh Gobin expressed gratitude as regards EU's technical and financial assistance as well as the sharing of knowledge and experience among collaborating countries, which he emphasised is helping to execute Government's agenda to develop a more productive and resilient agricultural sector.
He pointed out that the project which is still at a pilot phase is poised to be replicated at the national level, and the participating farmers will be called upon to act as ambassadors to share their experience and knowledge.
The Minister further stated that the Covid-19 pandemic has underlined the crucial need to boost local food production systems and strengthen food security so as to decrease reliance on imports. The country, he said, is bestowed with fertile soil and favourable climate conditions for agriculture and planters should avail themselves of governmental facilities and consider the cultivation of tropical plants such as avocado and breadfruit.
Also present on the occasion, the Ambassador of the European Union to Mauritius, Mr. Vincent Degert, observed that Mauritius relies heavily on food imports, up to 70%, and is thus vulnerable to global crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic that has impacted food supply and prices of commodities.
According to him, promoting the Farm to Fork Strategy can help to strengthen the resilience of the food production systems to deal with such crises. The Covid-19 pandemic has triggered opportunities for us to strengthen food security and regain food sovereignty to help increase local food production to meet demand, he added.
Ambassador Vincent Degert reiterated EU's commitment to help Mauritius boost its agricultural sector and enhance its climate resilience for improved food and nutrition security. He spoke of initiatives that are geared towards these objectives, namely : the Smart Agriculture project, for which some Rs 16 million has been earmarked, and the collaboration with Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Institute and University of Mauritius, for which some Rs120 million was invested for research, innovation and training to promote sustainable and modern agriculture.
He also stressed on the need for everyone to join their efforts and act collectively to mitigate climate change which can have irreversible impacts.
The EU funded project has been set up in collaboration with the Mauritius Chamber of Agriculture, the Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Institute, Mauritius Research and Innovation Council, Human Resource Development Council, and with the support of CIRAD Réunion, Région Réunion, and France Volontaire.
The project proposes to accompany a network of producers in a step-wise process of redesigning their cultivations systems. It aims at enabling a transition from current agricultural systems to agro-ecological systems, by reducing the use of pesticides whilst increasing resilience of agriculture in the face of climate change. The project also aims at enhancing the economic results for the farmers while ensuring their productivity.