Oxfam consultant visits St.Vincent
September 3, 2004
Oxfam consultant visits St.Vincent

By Ashford Peters

Banana farmers in this country may soon get further assistance in meeting EurepGap standards.
Oxfam’s Water Resource Management consultant, Tim Forster ended a ten day visit to this country last weekend after meeting with officials from the Ministry of Health, CWSA, Winfa, the Banana Growers Association, the national executive of Fair Trade Farmers and individual farmers.{{more}}
Forster’s visit was to look at water, sanitation and hygiene education with a view to drafting a project proposal which is to be presented to a donor organisation for funding.
In an exclusive interview with Searchlight last Friday, Forster stated: “If you look closely at EurepGap standards, there are quite a number of requirements which are related to potable, pipe-borne water, excretory disposal and also solid waste disposal. And these, broadly, fit an area which we call water, sanitation and hygiene education. So, this really is what I am here to look at”.
Forster said he visited a number of farms in nine areas and looked at a number of issues affecting conventional farmers.
“There are ten Fair Trade farmers’ organisations within St. Vincent, and I have already visited nine areas where those organisations operate. Now, I haven’t just focused on Fair Trade farmers, but also had a look at some of the issues affecting conventional farmers”, he said.
Asked his general impression of the conditions observed on the farms, Forster replied, “The majority of banana farmers I have seen are extremely hard-working. I feel they are doing a very good job, because here the terrain is very difficult so it doesn’t make people’s work easy. But, the majority of people I’ve seen are very keen to learn and to change, potentially, the way they work. I’ve visited a number of places where access to potable water is very, very difficult. Basically, it’s a long distance from where people live to the place where they need to use it; which is, on the whole, in or around the packing sheds. So, in some cases people do have to walk a very long distance so this does increase the burden to our farmers”.
Forster also told Searchlight that his visit, the first ever, was a rewarding experience. He said he has certainly learnt a lot about small-scale farming in the Caribbean and the knowledge and experience would be very useful. He expressed hope that “something good will come out of” his visit.
Oxfam GB is a development, relief and campaigning organisation that works with others to find lasting solutions to poverty and suffering around the world.
Forster was originally trained as a mechanical engineer. He later studied Water Resource Management and for the past ten years he has worked in various countries on programmes relating to water supply, displaced population and sanitation. He has also been involved in general education on water resource management.
Forster was expected to travel to Dominica to look at similar concerns there.