Covid-19 sees tour operators turn to farming

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By Elesha George

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A group of excursion workers are finding their balance between sea and land in anticipation of tougher days ahead.

Businessman Eli Fuller and about 13 other people who worked at Adventure Antigua have exchanged their regular jobs to become farmers and fisherfolks during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We have a huge amount of experience in commercial fishing. There’s two of us who have done quite a few different types of commercial fishing and two of our boats are registered for fishing…but in addition to that because there’s a quarter acre of land next to where we keep our boats that’s undeveloped, we got permission from the owner to start a small farm there,” Fuller told Observer.

The Jolly Harbour site, according to Fuller, will be enough to hold keyhole gardens that can accommodate fast-growing crops.

“I have a qualified captain who spent his day yesterday shovelling horse crap”, he joked, as he spoke to the group’s commitment to what can be considered a lifestyle change.

The goal he said is to provide some employment for his workers which include captains, tour guides and snorkelling instructors. He is hoping that if the situation worsens, these workers can live off the land, eating what they grow.

“I decided to shut down my company before we were forced to do so… we decided that it was not ethical to keep going so we closed down,” he told Observer.

Fuller is preparing for a time where the island’s people may need to feed themselves without any income and is forecasting a “dramatic decline” in commercial goods over the next few weeks and months.

“I don’t have tourists on my boats, there’s no income for my captain, there’s no income for me, there’s no income for the office staff. If there is no income, they can’t go Epicurean and go buy food, so we’re looking at three, four, five months down the line, hopefully not much longer than that but you never know,” he said.

Already, the group has had discussions with agricultural specialists in North America and Europe who Fuller said have experience in the tropics. 

He is encouraging everyone to plant as much as they can and he wants the government to make it easier for people to license fishing vessels.

Meanwhile, starting Monday, the Ministry of Agriculture will open its doors to anyone wanting seedlings to assist with growing their own food. The distribution will begin from 9am at the Ministry of Agriculture headquarters.

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