The Rural Unknown Agriculture & Tourism: Shall The Twain Ever Meet?

In countries such as Saint Lucia, where tourism is the main driving agent of the economy, governments, civil society and NGOs are now turning to ways to promote their countries as destinations of choice, while trying to maintain an environment for sustainable development. However, this is not always the case, particularly in the agricultural context where the challenges of food-sourcing from local farmers are considerable, but not at all impossible.

Recently, we have been hearing terms such as “agro-tourism” and “rural tourism” glibly tossed around. But does the average farmer understand what this could mean for his or her economic livelihood? We see efforts to improve the Castries market and policies being implemented so that small agro-business owners, such as farmers, food vendors, and so on, can also benefit economically from the tourism sector; but the link doesn’t seem to click. On one hand we have the policies, on the other hand we have a thriving tourist industry boasting arrivals of over 1.1 million visitors, but statistics show that locally-sourced fruits and vegetables averages around 42%. The remainder is imported, despite that most of it can be locally grown.

Let’s be honest: the reason we have a $360 million food import bill is not because we cannot grow what we eat. We most certainly can. Our farmers just don’t know what to grow. There is an information gap, not only on the farmer level but also in the private sector. The hotels, restaurants and supermarkets do not know who are the certified farmers, where they live and what they produce.

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