Union Park is a small village situated in the district of Grand Port with a population of 3788 inhabitants of which 1869 are male and 1919 female. The main economic source of employment of the village is agriculture (Sugarcane and Vegetable production). The average income of a household in Union Park is about Rs 4,500. The Rose Belle SE was employing most of the labour in the village but with the recent fall in sugar price and the deep reforms carried out in the sugar estates most of the workers have opted for the Voluntary Retirement Scheme.
The Union Park Women Association is a registered association with sixty members, mainly unemployed women households. The members of the association have taken upon themselves to review the traditional way of vegetable and fruit cultivation, which uses quite a great amount of chemicals (fertilisers, pesticides, herbicides, etc) and to go for a much more environment friendly technique which is organic farming and thus embark into sustainable agriculture for Mauritius. Hundred persons are expected to benefit directly from the project.
The land identified will exhaustively be used, sometimes the whole surface and sometimes as intercrop to grow medicinal plants which will be used by the Petites Entreprises Multi Purpose Co-operative Society, a current beneficiary of GEF SGP, for the extraction of essential oils
It is to be noted that Mauritius imports food in large quantity from foreign countries which is consumed by our local inhabitants. With the increasing concern for fresh and good quality food among consumers and also with the growing number of tourists visiting Mauritius every year, this means that a potential market for the production of organic cultivation exists in our country. Thus the production of fresh organic cultivation can be envisaged by unemployed women as an agribusiness opportunity. At the same time, organic farming will drastically reduce the load of chemicals used in the current cultivation techniques, not to mention the resulting contamination of our fresh water resources as well as the lagoon.
Competency development of unemployed women is a major objective of this project with a view to alleviate poverty, encourage economic integration and inculcate organic farming techniques through sustainable agriculture. Training will emphasise on work skills and work habits in activities such as soil preparation, planting, crop treatment, use and preparation of compost, handling and storing crops, packaging for marketing and other related activities. Crops produced such as aromatic herbs and vegetables will respect the biodiversity of the island and help the struggle against food crisis. AREU has already proposed a list of local breeds of crops and fruit trees.
This project has two major objectives :
1 – To implement organic farming for medicinal plants as well as other vegetables and fruits
2 – To build capacity of a group of women in sustainable agriculture techniques