By Theresa Goodwin
Two major agricultural organisations are partnering with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Barbuda Council on a series of projects geared towards revitalising the sector which was devastated by Hurricane Irma in 2017.
A team of professionals from the ministry, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development (CARDI) have spent the past week working along with officers on the sister island on the creation of a seedling nursery and a rapid multiplication humidity bin to grow roots and tubers, the installation of drip irrigations systems and the distribution of five different types of seedlings to backyard gardeners and small scale farmers.
The projects form part of a year-long crowdfunding initiative that is being spearheaded by IICA and CARDI in association with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Barbuda Council.
National Specialist for IICA, Craig Thomas, explained that the construction of the 20 x 12 seedling nursery was started on Monday along with the humidity bin which will be placed at the Sir McChesney George Secondary School (SMGSS) to propagate roots and tubers.
“We were also able to install three drip irrigation systems and collect some local Barbuda peanuts where we’ll be doing some experiments with the seeds in Antigua under the auspices of CARDI. With the peanuts it will be under a programme for seed multiplication to ramp up the quantity of local Barbuda peanuts in both islands,” Thomas said.
“By Friday, we are hoping to complete the seedling nursery for the Barbuda Council and also to assist other backyard gardeners by giving them technical support in an effort to increase production.”
Thomas said the team will be travelling to Barbuda periodically to monitor the progress of the projects.
He expressed profound gratitude to the council and the agriculture committee on Barbuda which have provided technical assistance and equipment to support the different projects.
According to agriculture technician and CARDI rep Bradbury Browne, the seedling nursery will be fully automated with its own automated irrigation system, while the humidity bin will be a transformation of a technique which already exists on Antigua.
The micro-financing campaign, #IamJoiningIICAChallenge, seeks to promote projects aimed at strengthening food security in rural communities in Haiti, and Antigua and Barbuda, that are suffering from extreme vulnerability in the face of the coronavirus.
The Chairman of the Agriculture Committee on Barbuda, Devon Warner, said this is the first major project being undertaken on the island since Irma. He also disclosed that his team has been encouraging small- and large-scale farmers on Barbuda to band together to reap the benefits of this and other upcoming projects.
“The possibilities with these projects are endless, having these facilities in place, getting the knowledge that is going to be imparted speaks volumes and I am so happy because the project is very timely,” Warner said.