Saint Vincent the Dasheen Country

Farmers vatsibagete

by Jean-Baptiste CALO

Delegates from the Pacific region who were part of a Learning Trip organised by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) through the Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme from 7 to 14 November were impressed by the abundance of dasheen (taro) on every valleys, hills and mountains in rural areas all over the island of Saint Vincent.

It is truly a unique experience to venture into the island and discover how much dasheen farming is omnipresent in rural parts of Saint Vincent. It  has become the number one cash crop, the agricultural identity so to speak of the Saint Vincent people.

Participants particularly from the Pacific region were impressed by the abundance of taro or dasheen in Saint Vincent.

“It is my first visit to the Caribbean and to the island of Saint Vincent. I must say that I have never seen so much taro in my life. As soon as we drive out of the urban area and start to reach the villages in the interior, although we could find one or two banana plantations here and there, Dasheen plantations monopolise the landscape in Saint Vincent, from the side of the road up to the mountains. Now I understand why they called Saint Vincent, the Dasheen Country,” a young farmer and social reporter from Vanuatu, Adam Lopez said.

Thompson with taro background

Vanuatu  journalist, Thomson Marango standing on the top of a mountain on Greiggs, where farmers plant taro up the sloppy hills.

“Those farmers are courageous to plant taro from the valley up to all the sloppy mountains  of Greiggs. In Vanuatu, Pentecost island located in the northern part of the archipelago, is the main supplier of water taro in our capital city Port-Vila. But as far as I know, they don’t go to the extend of planting taros or dasheen up the slops on every mountains as we saw farmers doing here in Saint Vincent. You can tell that they have access to good markets that is why they are planting so much taro,”  Thompson Marango from Vanuatu Daily Post said during the visit to Greiggs in Saint Vincent.

Mr Rawlings, an extension officer in Saint Vincent explains briefly the dasheen planting  process.

“Marking out the field with fishing lines with straight rows, farmers would line up with their spade or digging sticks,since the soil here is very soft in this mountains and there’s frequent rainfalls on these mountains.  Farmers dig holes and plant a single taro slip into each hole. They cover it and tap it with some soil and  proceed to the next row.  From there, the dasheen will develop and the farmers will go in the garden every two weeks. While they’ll be doing the weeding, they will put some mould in the holes where taro slips are being planted. Until 3 to 5 months, they’ll do a complete moulding wherein the dasheen will develop,” Mr Rawling explained.

He also emphasised that within the taro farming process in Greiggs, they use organic mulch to fertilise the soil and particularly the holes where the dasheen are being planted.

“Two weeks after the slips have been planted, when you see that they start to germinate, that is when farmers apply the first fertilising mulch in the holes where the germinating dasheen slips are growing.  They will repeat the same exercise a second time after three months. So in fact, they do the fertilising 2 times. When you see the dasheen coming up after 8 or 9 months, when it will be maturing, the leafs will start to show a yellowish color. Then you’ll know that it is ready for harvesting”, Rawling said.

He explains that there is no mechanical equipment to do the harvesting and that everything is done manually.

“In harvesting, the farmers come and manually and pull out the dasheen from the soil, cut off the dasheen roots, they save the cullowloos and bring both the calloloos and the dasheen to the pack-house, Rawlings said.

Mr Rawlings demonstration

Mr Rawling is explaining staning in a half an acre dasheen plantation and explaining how they grow this root grop in Greiggs.

According to Rawlings, in terms of yield,  a half acre of land would produce up to 25 000 pounds of dasheen or taro.

“We are buying dasheen from the farmers in Greiggs. If the size is about 3 to 5 pounds per head, we will sell them to the England Market. But otherwise, they will be sold to the Trinidad market and the regional market by other traffickers“, He added.

The term “Traffickers” is used locally when they refer to itinerant traders who are buying agricultural produce from farmers and are selling them to other regional markets in the Caribbean.

The Saint Vincent dasheen varieties are dominating the regional market, particularly the white dasheen variety that is planted in Greiggs.

The representative of Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO), Alisi Tuqa said she was impressed by some of the farming practices in Saint Vincent.

“It was quiet interesting to see the way they were planting taro up the slops. I know in Fiji the topography is similar in some part of the country likewise in the rest of of the Pacific islands countries, not all are flat like Barbados for example. So there is potential to look into that type of techniques to plant upwards on stiff mountains. And it was also interesting, how they were digging the holes to plant taro. I know, traditionally, in the Pacific we’ve done it similar to what is done here but not doing it, like digging the holes and putting mulch and the type of things they’re doing here. It’s not that I’m saying that it is going to work any differently, but there’s potential to try that out in the Pacific region,” Ms Tuqa said.

“It’s interesting to see how they adapt their farming activity to their montainous environment, especially on the sloppy hills in Greiggs were dasheen is cultivated from the bottom to the mountain tops”, the young farmer and social reporter from Vanuatu, Lopez Adam told Vanuatu Info Online.

David Hickes, a Fiji national who works in an agriculture programme funded by the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) in the agricultural region of Sigatoka – Fiji said that he was impressed with the road infrastructure in Saint Vincent.

“We went to the interior up to the Mountains of Greiggs, tar sealed roads reach the very top of the mountains were the dasheen gardens are located. Back in the Pacific, you would never see that. In Fiji, as soon as you venture a bit into the interior, the roads are not tar sealed. And they are in very bad conditions especially during rainy season. And in Fiji it rains most of the time.  Very often we’d have to push the vehicles that are stuck on the muddy roads when it’s raining. This is very common scenario back in the Pacific,”Hickes said.

All the public road are tar sealed in Saint Vincent, even the roads that lead up to the heights of the mountains of Greiggs in the interior, considered as being the biggest dasheen producing area on the island.

The tar sealed roads are essential to facilitate the transportation of the agricultural produce to the market.

Farmers in Saint Vincent are industrious, they manage to adapt themselves to their mountainous geological environment and manage to cultivate  dasheen up the sloppy hills of the island.

They’re not using mechanical equipment to plow the soil or to do the  harvesting. They just use manpower instead. They’re using simple rudimentary but effective farming practices. For instance, farmers are using mulch as a natural fertiliser in their taro farms.

But what makes the difference is their organisation in the value chain.

What transpires from the learning trip on the island of Saint Vincent is that despite the fact that the farmers dont’t have access to mechanical tools to plow or to harvest their produce; through a good organisation within all the actors involved in the value chain (farmers, buyers, exporters and others…), they manage to secure and supply the market of Trinidad and the Caribbean.

They know they have an authentic agricultural product, their white dasheen variety, a highly demanded commodity in the whole Caribbean market.

The good organisation and collaborative efforts of all the stakeholders involved in the value chain is the key to their success.

Everyone in the value chain play their role.  Farmers do their part with the production as wells as the other actors involved in the value chain such as the buyers, exporters…

The government also plays its role in making sure that the infrastructure facilities are in place to facilitate the transportation of the agricultural produce from the interior to the main port at the capital Kingstown where produces are then shipped in ferries to the Trinadadian, Caribbean or to the British market.

The produce are well packaged at the pack-houses to make sure that the quality requirements are met in order for the goods to be delivered in excellent conditions at the Trinidadian or other Caribbean markets.

Saint Vincent and the Grenadine is a tiny island country with a population of 100,000 inhabitants.

But its model of value chain organisation from production to the markets has proven so far to be effective and has achieved great results.

Although it is understood that any model of value chain to be established in any country has to be tailored to the specific socio-economic environment of each country, Vanuatu and other Pacific Islands have definitely a lot to learn from the Vincentian model in terms of organisation of the value chain and eventually small some farming practices.

For participants from the Pacific region, the learning trip was very inspiring.

“We’ve been able to see different model of value chains, how they’re organised. It has enabled us to see how they are doing things here in the Caribbean, their differents practices from which we can learn from. So that when we go back home, we could influence farmers, stakeholders to improve our practices or our organisation. In Vanuatu, if we want things to move, we need to organise clusters for farmers, they cannot continue to work in isolation. We need to organise effective value chain model like what they’re doing here in the Caribbean,” Vanuatu farmer and social reporter, Adam Lopez told Vanuatu Info Online.

The learning trip of in which 20 delegates from the Pacific and the Caribbean states were embarked on from 7 to 14 November 2015, to Saint Vincent and then to Jamaica was organised by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), through its component, the Intra-ACP Agriculture Policy Programme.

The trip was organised immediately after the Caribbean-Pacific Agrifood Forum held in Bridgetown – Barbados, from 2 to 6 November 2025.

After being sitted for one week in a conference room and listening to talks about the importance of  value chains, climate smart agriculture and on the importance of linking – learning and transforming, organisers have selected 2o participants from the Caribbean and the Pacific region to be part of  a learning trip in various farms and locations in the Caribbean.

As the CTA Value Chain Consultant, Juan Cheaz said, the aim of this exercise it to give to farmers, representatives from the private sector and journalists from the two regions, the opportunity to go on the ground and discover for themselves, different practices and value chain models in place in the Caribbean.

The one-week forum that was held under the theme “Link – Learn – Transform” was also was organised by the CTA,  together with the Barbados Agriculture Society (BAS) through the Intra-ACP Agricultural Policy.

The 2nd Caribbean Agribusiness Forum-Strengthening the Agri-Food Sector and Expanding Markets was organised by CTA, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Caribbean Agribusiness Association (CABA).

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