17 August 2021, St. John’s, Antigua – On September 6, 2017, Hurricane Irma pummelled Antigua and Barbuda, however the impact on Barbuda was far more severe as the eye of the category 5 hurricane passed directly over the island.
The agricultural sector, particularly crops, livestock, bees, the fishing industry, infrastructure, machinery and equipment were significantly damaged.
While the impact of the hurricane was devastating, it presented an opportunity to create sustainable food and agriculture systems that were designed with climate challenges in mind.
Four years later, the agriculture recovery programme has borne fruit in the form of an agro-industrial facility inclusive of production, processing, storage, packaging, and marketing in a public-private sector partnership under one roof.
This project along with the restoration of the livelihoods of Barbudans remain a priority for the country.
In rebuilding the agriculture sector in Barbuda, the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs chose to adopt a Green Island concept.
The concept promotes organic agriculture with priorities in the areas of compliance with food safety requirements, protected agriculture, efficient use of water resources, intensive farming systems for small ruminants, and value-chain development through processing and packaging (jams, juices, honey, pepper sauce, coconut oil and animal
In alignment with the priorities expressed in the national adoption of the Green Island concept, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) in a collaborative effort, will seek to build the capacity of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), towards improving the food security, livelihoods, and resilience of the impacts of climate change, which will improve the production capacity of honey
and black pineapple.
The activities under the project commenced in Barbuda from 9th -11th August 2021 with a capacity building initiative titled “Training for the Honey Value Chain in Antigua and Barbuda”.
The initiative was executed by a team of local consultants from IICA with virtual support from the FAO Sub-regional Office in Barbados, who executed several activities with a focus on the Logwood Honey which is produced by bees from the flowers of the logwood tree.
The activities focused on capacity building among new beekeepers with training exercises undertaken to familiarize producers with business management skills to ensure that they apply good business principles in the management of their specific supply point along the value chain.
The participants were also trained in the various elements of the value chain such as inputs, production and its practices, marketing and distribution, all of which has an impact on the end product.
The project implementation activities also included primary data collection in the form of interviews with local apiculturists, in order to understand the local commodity market in addition to the training sessions for new beekeepers which blended practical and theory sessions to create a foundation for future apiculturists.
In welcoming participants to the first training session, Project Coordinator, Vermaran Extavour with FAO stated, “On behalf of FAO I welcome you all to this important training which will have multiple layers for learning which will add value to your business. I must also emphasize the importance of creating a viable business using a market driven approach where data and evidence drive the decisions on the final products offered to customers”.
Meanwhile, Craig Thomas, National Consultant at the IICA Antigua Delegation, indicated, “We are thrilled to roll out this project as a collaborative effort between FAO and IICA. This project aligns the medium term plans of both organizations in regional member states and provides ample opportunities to meet the priorities of Antigua and Barbuda”.
With only three (3) active local beekeepers in Barbuda who produce a high-quality product, it has been a challenge to meet the local demand for honey.
However, the participants which were selected by the Barbuda Council benefited from the training that captured the business development for beekeeping, beekeeping management and the opportunities and challenges for the honey value chain in Barbuda, are now well poised to meet this demand.
Each participant received a start-up apiary kit which included a brood box, super, 10 frames, wax foundation, bee brush, smoker, bee suit and a hive tool which are the basic inputs a new beekeeper would need to start an apiary.
Mojan Joseph who participated in the training, expressed, “I am grateful to FAO & IICA for the training and for the starter kits which will be put to good use in my beekeeping business”.
The facilitators with the assistance of the Antigua Beekeepers Cooperative (ABC) and the local senior beekeepers in Barbuda will use a mentorship programme to monitor these new business persons to ensure that proper business and management decisions are followed.
Through the mentorship programme, new beekeepers will have access to current information and guidance from experts at the IICA Antigua delegation as well as experienced local beekeepers.
Further training in the Honey Value Chain will commence in Antigua from August 19 – August 31, and will target an 20 beekeepers both established and new as well as technical staff of the Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs.