Farmers in a three-year Government programme to learn about non-traditional farming methods have begun their training.
Some of the 140 participants of the first cohort of the Farmers Empowerment and Enfranchisement Drive (FEED) programme said they are ready for the training that will be provided on new technologies including temperature-controlled greenhouses and containers.
The 12-week programme, developed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security and managed by the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Cooperation (BADMC), began on Monday with 16 females and 19 males, at BDMC’s Fairy Valley, Christ Church base. Another group also started at the Ministry’s Graeme Hall headquarters.
Tizoney Norville, 20, said participating in the programme would equip him with the necessary knowledge and skills to become an effective farmer.
“I could gain experience in the field of agriculture. I am looking at growing crops but I am also interested in raising chickens,” Norville told reporters at BADMC’s headquarters.
Suzette Griffith and her son Ryan Smith signed up to do the programme together.
Griffith explained that it has been difficult for her 49-year-old son who is autistic to work in a conventional workplace. But she said despite the disability, he was capable of functioning on his own.
Griffith said: “He did some agriculture at school and I thought that he can get into agriculture because it would be an interesting area for him, he can focus and it would be therapeutic as well to be in the nature.
“We are nature lovers and for him to be working we would see these crops come to fruition and he would know ‘this is my input, I have made a contribution to society, I am valuable, my disability does not exclude me from providing for myself, or for Barbados as a whole’.”
Cherita Olton, 33, who found out about the programme from a friend, said she intended to use agriculture as a therapeutic connection to other women.
She said she was interested in finding a space to create a sacred environment to do healing, especially for women, whom she said were “connected to the lands”.
She told reporters: “I was always an entrepreneur and I have now evolved into the business of renewable energy, specifically solar lighting for commercial and residential purposes. Everything that I do is renewable.
“So the agriculture is just an additional focus on that, in terms of my purpose and what I have to do to give back to society and to empower myself. I am looking to, first of all, create a sacred environment where you can come for a day, you can come for a month, and you can come for however long so you can connect with the land.
“You can grow your own food, learn about indigenous medicines, you can just have a space where you can find your true self, and agriculture is a part of this and we women carry a lot of that information genetically.”
BADMC’s Manager of Agricultural Services, Dr Jamekal Andwele, told the participants that in addition to training, the FEED programme would provide mentorship and other necessary inputs, such as access to land.
Dr Andwele said: “Once they have completed the training programme, they would then be allocated on actual farmlands across the island. These persons will be placed on the lands in these farming districts from St Lucy right down to St Philip.
“They will be leasing the land from the BDMC at a rate of $300 per acre per year, or $25 per acre a month. So it is heavily subsidised by the Government and if they are placed in an area with irrigation water, the rate would be 60 cents per cubic metre of water.”
The manager also explained that the farmers trained through the FEED programme would be asked to sell BADMC 40 per cent of their produce to be cleaned, graded, packaged and distributed to major outlets and hotel chains. He said BADMC would advise the farmers what to plant.
He said: “We are going to target the cruise industry as well, we know that the tourism industry has a season, so coming into October, November, we are going to target the cruise line industry.”