The 20-year-old Nature Fun Ranch (NFR) is in line for major technical assistance.
Following a tour of the St Andrew facility on Wednesday, Minister of Agriculture and Food Security Indar Weir disclosed that his ministry, through the Scotland District and Greenland Livestock Research Station, would be providing technical assistance to the ranch almost immediately.
The Minister stated that he was inspired by the work of the facility over the years, that it has been beneficial to Barbados and he wants to see it enhanced. He explained that youth could be sent to the ranch instead of being sent to the Government Industrial Schools.
“We can do exchange programmes and [for] the youth who come out of school [without] qualifications to go on to college or university and have not been able to find a job, here is a wonderful opportunity [to] help develop their skills,” added Weir.
“A lot of work has to be done here. It is patently obvious that this project needs a lot of support – technical support,” he stressed.
As such, Weir said the NFR would be able to tap into the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (ICCA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization in order to get that technical assistance.
Noting that he already had conversations with those organizations, Weir said they were more than willing to provide support.
“There may be some financial support as well. What I do know for sure is that through the Ministry of Agriculture – I have a team here through the Scotland District and through Greenland – I will strongly recommend they start discussions with the director of this project so the ministry can give whatever technical support it can and whatever training it can,” he added.
Weir stressed it was his intention to immediately start working with the ranch to develop it into a “good national project for the people of Barbados”.
“It is no tomorrow or no next week or no next month. Immediately they will be incorporated into what we are doing. In terms of technical support and advice, that is also going to be immediate. Hence, the reason the chief agricultural officer is here,” said Weir.
In relation to funding, Weir said he was aware the ranch needs financial assistance, adding that the funds are “out there” and it is a matter of finding the right type and preparing the necessary proposals to access them.
Chief Agricultural Officer Lennox Chandler said following today’s tour, he had already identified several areas where some technical expertise was needed to improve aspects of the ranch. Chandler said he would also help design training programmes for the students.
“I would suggest that they not focus on traditional crops but try their hands at the non-traditional crops… so that they attract a specific market and a higher price as well,” said Chandler, who also recommended a greater use of technology in the ranch’s operations.
With the area prone to slippage and erosion and the ranch planning to expand to meet the growing demands, officials of the Scotland District said they too would be on hand to provide the necessary guidance for the farm, and that an extension officer has already been assigned.
Meanwhile, Officer in charge of the Greenland Livestock Research Station John Vaughan said he was pleased the ranch was able to add more animals to its stock in recent times including rabbits and sheep but it was clear that some guidance was needed with respect to providing proper housing for the various animals.
“So we are on board. As soon as they are ready, we will be able to assist them,” said Vaughan, adding that the Greenland facility would also provide some level of training.
Just last month Barbados TODAY highlighted that the NFR was now at a crossroads with its Founder and Chief Corey Lane insisting that the charitable organization was desperately in need of funding, including a possible subvention from Government.
Lane was unable to take part in the midmorning tour on Wednesday, but later told Barbados TODAY that while he welcomed any technical assistance, the fun ranch was still desperately in need of funds to implement the needed changes and improvements.
“I am very happy with the gesture to offer the technical assistance and I believe financial assistance should go hand in hand with that,” said Lane, as he explained that some measures have not been implemented because he simply did not have the funds.
“Where we have been reeling over the last six years in particular is actually having the wherewithal to implement the know-how that they have. Our tool room is leaking so we need to have that repaired. That is just as an example. We need some guttering for our new broiler pen to ensure that it doesn’t flood out. So that technical know-how is there, but the actual resources to fix these problems and to put the right sanitary, health and safety mechanisms in place is where we actually are at a loss. We need to match what is needed with what is given – we need to put the resources in place,” Lane explained.
He explained there is a file dating back to as far as 2009 showing various government departments had been contacted for help, which was hardly forthcoming.
“We have been screaming out and gnawing and crying out for assistance for a very long time,” said Lane.
The NFR, which was designed to help develop several skills of at risk youth and keep them out of trouble, caters to as many as 30 people on weekdays and up to 50 on weekends. There are also various crops and a range of animals including ducks, horses, sheep and goats being tended to on the ranch. (MM)