A collective of experienced and newly-trained farmers are reaping the rewards of their efforts to help increase the availability of sustainably grown organic vegetables in Barbuda. Through an initiative sponsored by The Be Foundation, working in tandem with local, national and regional agencies, the farmers are now harvesting a diverse crop of medicinal, nutritional and calorie-rich vegetables.
The Be Foundation launched the “Living Off Our Land” initiative in July 2019, providing those with an interest in learning about sustainable organic farming practices, and reducing the need to import basic food staples, with training, farming equipment, and seedlings to collectively develop a farm where the farmers could learn and grow vegetables together as a community.
Through the initiative, Barbudan farmers initiated their own food sustainability programme, reigniting a practice that has been a part of the Barbudan heritage and tradition for hundreds of years, but briefly suspended due to the effects of Hurricane Irma.
Training under the initiative included: building healthy soils, composting, nutrition, disease prevention and recovery, natural medicines, water harvesting, intensive planting, kitchen, keyhole and vertical gardens, seed germination, seed saving and mulching. Participating farmers are now working collaboratively to apply their learning at the community farm, while creating kitchen gardens and backyard micro-farming at home.
Today, 10 farmers work within the grounds of the Holy Trinity Primary School, growing a variety of spinach, swiss chard, peppers, carrots, tomatoes, ground provisions, herbs, corn and other crops. After harvesting, the farmers then use the fruits of their labour as “cooperative currency” to feed and sustain their households and the community, with plans to expand to sales across the island.
To sustain the initiative for the long term, two young Barbudans – Iesha Punter and Lincoln Burton, Jr – were designated by the group as ‘champions’, responsible for sharing information with the community and receiving further training regionally and internationally.
Speaking on his experience with “Living Off Our Land,” Burton commended his fellow farmers for their commitment to work collaboratively, while expressing his desire to see the initiative expand across the island.
“We are really seeing and experiencing the benefits of working together to increase the availability of fresh vegetables on the island,” he said. “As a group, we realised the importance of reducing our dependency on importation for the essential items we consume each day, while growing the foods that will optimise our health in a way that is easy for any person to do in their own backyard.”
The Be Foundation’s initiative further aims to engage a new generation in food security through organic farming, while heightening awareness on practices throughout the Caribbean.
Earlier this month, 14 students from Holy Trinity Primary School travelled to Montserrat to participate in an agricultural science exchange, learning different farming techniques from their student counterparts on the neighbouring island.
With the support of the Ministry of Education, the students will incorporate the experience into their Agricultural Science SBA assignments this school year. The excursion, organised by the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) for The Be Foundation, was led by Punter, Charlene Harris, Principal of the Holy Trinity School, teachers, and parents of the students.
Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, must have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life. With this in mind, the Barbudan farmers are well on their way to creating their own food safety net.
All components of The Be Foundation’s “Living Off Our Land” initiative have been supported by local and international partners, including the Barbuda Council, the Community Development Division of Antigua and Barbuda, CARDI, and Thrive For Good, a Canadian-based organisation providing training throughout Africa on sustainable organic farming practices. Led on the ground by Jenita Cuffy and Anessa Hopkins, both TBF trustees, the project was funded by the International Community Foundation (ICF), through its Barbuda Resilience Fund.