MAURITIUS – Mauritius has kick start the ‘Smart Agriculture Project’ funded by the European Union with Rs 16 million (US$400,000) earmarked for it, to enable the country’s transition to agro-ecological systems that are sustainable and resilient in the face of climate change.

The project still in the pilot phase saw the issuance of various agro-ecological faming equipment to farmers in the La Laura region and is poised to be replicated at the national level.

The project proposes to accompany a network of producers in a step-wise process of redesigning their cultivations systems.

According to the press-release, the participating farmers will be called upon to act as ambassadors to share their experience and knowledge.

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.

Minister of Agro-Industry and Food Security, Mr Maneesh Gobin 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 the 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 to 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.

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.

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.

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.

Initiatives that are geared towards these objectives are the Smart Agriculture project and the collaboration with Food and Agricultural Research and Extension Institute and University of Mauritius, for which some Rs120 million (US$3m) was invested for research, innovation and training to promote sustainable and modern agriculture.

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