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The hotel on a crusade to grow 10,000 trees – and give them all away for free

Story and photos by Gemma Handy

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Green-fingered staff at an Antiguan hotel closed to the pandemic for over a year have been busy using their skills in the resort’s garden instead.

The Sugar Ridge team is on a crusade to plant thousands of fruit trees across the island – and they’re giving them all away entirely free of charge.

From reducing carbon to creating habitat for local wildlife, trees are a vital part of the planet’s ecosystem.

Sugar Ridge’s owner Aidan McCauley told Observer the resort was keen to give back to the community, and especially those struggling amid the financial impacts wreaked by Covid.

 “We love trees and we love nature. Fruit is an abundant source of food that everyone can enjoy from their garden. We are still far too reliant on imports,” he said.

Mango, ackee, guava, tamarind and cherry are just some of the trees that have been snapped up by local schools, community groups and residents.

Head gardener Kofi De Silva has been leading the charge from the Valley Road resort’s grounds, assisted by a bevy of enthusiastic volunteers.

“Lots of people have been involved with collecting seedlings and doing germination,” McCauley explained. “All we ask is that people who receive them take care of them. We would also love them to send us photos of them being planted.”

The resort is initially giving away 1,000 trees and hopes to eventually grow as many as 10,000. Working alongside the Ministry of Agriculture, some will be used to beautify roadsides and others for reforestation.

Liberta is one of the villages looking forward to an influx of fresh produce when the trees start to take shape.

Conliffe Phillip collected a variety of saplings yesterday on the village’s behalf.

“We plan to plant them by the community cricket field where we can keep an eye on them and have people to water and look after them,” he told Observer.

“When people come into the community to play cricket or whatever, they can have a little fruit here and there.”

Zoe Nash, Sugar Ridge’s holistic health practitioner, has also been involved in the verdant venture. She told Observer she hopes its impact will be long-lasting.

“We all need to start taking better care of the Earth, our natural resources and the biodiversity of the land,” she said.

“It’s about making sure that people have trees to keep the soil rich, so we can eat off the land, so that the air stays clean, and that the creatures and animals that live on this island still have a habitat.

“We want humans to be able to continue to enjoy the beauty and the shade and all of the goodness that trees provide,” Nash added.

The resort has launched a website to complement its efforts. Visit www.treetribe.com for more details. Sugar Ridge has been closed since March 2020. Bosses hope to reopen later this year for the new tourist season.