Tai­wan Schol­ar­ship Re­cip­i­ent Has High Hopes for Lo­cal Agri­cul­ture!

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Kayra Wil­liams KW: What’s it been like? Je­lani: KW: How did all of this come about? Je­lani: KW: Sup­port in Tai­wan? Je­lani: KW: Most valu­able les­son so far learned? Je­lani: KW: How has it been with your stud­ies? Je­lani: KW: Any­thing you want to add to t

It has been four years since Je­lani St Clair left Saint Lu­cian shores for ed­u­ca­tional ad­vance­ment, even though he says it feels like yes­ter­day. A for­mer stu­dent at Saint Mary's Col­lege and Sir Arthur Lewis Com­mu­nity Col­lege agri­cul­tural di­vi­sion, St Clair al­ways had his mind set on a fu­ture in the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try. His dream is about to come to fruition, thanks to the sup­port of his par­ents, and the gov­ern­ment of Tai­wan that made it pos­si­ble for him to study at the Ping­tung Uni­ver­sity of Sci­ence and Tech­nol­ogy (De­part­ment of Trop­i­cal Agri­cul­ture and In­ter­na­tional Co­op­er­a­tion). I took the op­por­tu­nity to learn more about Je­lani while on a week-long visit to the Peo­ple's Repub­lic of China (Tai­wan).

The first year was the hard­est year be­cause you're still ad­just­ing, and you miss your fam­ily so much. The food is, well, very dif­fer­ent from what I've been used to. I love my bread­fruit and my ground pro­vi­sions, but here it's rice, rice, rice.

I was so ex­cited when I ap­plied. Then when I got the schol­ar­ship with ICDF it hit me. The day be­fore I was sched­uled to leave I was like . . . oh my good­ness. I'm ac­tu­ally mov­ing! I cried at the air­port. I'm not a crier but that day I cried like a baby. My mom, my dad, all of my fam­ily came to see me off. And then I ar­rived in Tai­wan and it was like I was in a dream. Ev­ery­thing was so dif­fer­ent.

I mean, here I was so far away from ev­ery­thing and ev­ery­thing I was used to. But I'd never felt so safe. And I re­mem­ber think­ing, 'How sad!' In Tai­wan I walked around and never once felt in dan­ger, re­gard­less of the time. Crime is rel­a­tively nonex­is­tent here. No one is go­ing to rob you. You can ac­tu­ally leave your key in your scooter, and no one will steal it. Just park any­where. Once, I lost my wal­let and some­body brought it back to me. My money was un­touched; so were my doc­u­ments. It used to be like that in Saint Lu­cia.

When I first ar­rived here the Saint Lu­cian Em­bassy hadn't yet been es­tab­lished. The ICDF mem­bers picked me up at the air­port, took me to cam­pus, took good care of me. But it's great hav­ing the Saint Lu­cian Em­bassy; they're very ac­tive. The am­bas­sador is very friendly and down to earth. Some­times we have Saint Lu­cian ac­tiv­i­ties in the north and in the south. For In­de­pen­dence we had a spe­cial fete. A lot of the Saint Lu­cians at­tended. So did some other na­tion­al­i­ties.

To value my time. When you leave your home­land to study in an­other coun­try you miss those spe­cial mo­ments with your fam­ily—and that taught be to be so much more ap­pre­cia­tive of them.

As you know, I'm study­ing agri­cul­ture. But my ma­jor is in aqua­cul­ture. I'm ac­tu­ally us­ing gi­ant African snails to make feed for shrimp in my fi­nal ex­per­i­ment. I'm hop­ing we can use that back home in­stead of just killing them; they have a very high pro­tein con­tent!

Most def­i­nitely. When I left SMC and de­cided I wanted to go to the De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture at SALCC, a lot of peo­ple dis­cour­aged the idea. Most of them ad­vised me to think of be­ing some­thing else: a doc­tor, a lawyer, an en­gi­neer. There's that stigma still at­tached to agri­cul­ture even af­ter all th­ese years. But my par­ents were so en­cour­ag­ing, so sup­port­ive. I would say to my fel­low Saint Lu­cians that there's a lot about mod­ern agri­cul­ture that makes it more than worth pur­su­ing. For a start it would help us feed our­selves.

When I came here I re­ally un­der­stood the full scope of plant breed­ing, plant pathol­ogy, an­i­mal sci­ence. You can be a vet; there's meat pro­duc­tion; there's so much you can do by just study­ing agri­cul­ture. I think we need to step away from the no­tion that agri­cul­ture is for poor peo­ple with noth­ing bet­ter to do. Or that farm­ers are un­e­d­u­cated and farm­ing is dirty work. We re­ally need agri­cul­ture in Saint Lu­cia. It made me sad to dis­cover while re­search­ing for a pre­sen­ta­tion that our food im­port bill is around $400 mil­lion; we ex­port around $40,000. I got that last year from the gov­ern­ment's web­site. I mean, how em­bar­rass­ing! We're such a small coun­try; we should be able to pro­duce for our­selves. In Tai­wan they take agri­cul­ture so se­ri­ously, I wish we could fol­low their ex­am­ple!

Saint Lu­cia na­tional Je­lani St Clair is cur­rently pur­su­ing agri­cul­tural stud­ies in Tai­wan.

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