Food production and supply-chain opportunities have been strengthened in the community of Pares following the launch of a dynamic food security project made possible through the continued partnership of the Gilbert Agricultural and Rural Development (GARD) Centre and the Sandals Foundation.
On Wednesday, May 31, Sandals Foundation ambassadors, led by General Manager at Sandals Grande Antigua joined residents, students, and members of the Pares Community Group at the entrance of the Pares community for the launch of the holistic farming and capacity building project.
Aimed at ensuring the sustainable presence of wholesome foods, the project will build the self-reliance of the community organisation in a number of areas.
“Food security within our communities has become even more evident since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said June Jackson, Executive Director at GARD Center.
“A number of communities have become increasingly more interested in producing food in their backyard gardens, with special emphasis on climate friendly agriculture. This project will see targeted training and technical assistance provided to increase farmer production, encourage long-term planning to address food and agricultural problems, and promote local food purchases through roadside stalls, community restaurants and small supermarkets.”
Matthew Cornall, General Manager at Sandals Grande Antigua commended the efforts of the community and GARD to bring the programme to life noting the importance of reliable food production for families.
“Many of our islands’ import-dependent economies are susceptible to international food supply-chain challenges and climate change has had an even further negative impact on traditional farming practices – affecting the livelihoods of many families.”
“This project,” Cornall continued, “Takes a 360-degree look at food production, building capacity in the use of climate smart technology, re-establishing school gardens, promoting entrepreneurship; and building the capacity for value-added products – all to a create resilient food supply system.”
In addition to the technical climate smart farming skills that will enable some 15 farmers within the community, 10 backyard gardeners will be able to upgrade their home gardens with better layout plans, adding compost units, and diversifying their vegetables and herb selections.
The project, which holds the endorsement of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Social Transformation, will also develop the leadership and advocacy skills of the community group to assess challenges that affect their food security and effect change. Finally, to expand the variation of output produced, some 15 persons will be trained in agro processing techniques with special emphasis on blanching and freezing and bottling.
Seventy ( 70)-year-old Pares community resident and local farmer Edmeade Samuel who has been farming for over fifty years shared that he is very proud of the benefits this project will have for the future of agriculture. “Our students at both the primary and secondary school levels will be benefiting from the renewed focus on entrepreneurship in farming. Our community is poised to see creativity and innovation at its best as our young people get engaged, learn and grow.”
President of Pares Community Group Lorenzo Looby said, “I am excited about the project and the impact it is going to have on the community. Our farmers and students alike will be exposed to new and innovative farming techniques and food production and preservation practices among other skills. We are thankful to the Sandals Foundation for believing and investing in this project.”
Food security is a growing concern around the world with an even more pressing reality for vulnerable Caribbean islands. The Sandals Foundation is committed to building the capacity of local communities, farmers, students, and schools to ensure they have the skills and tools needed to grow local and ensure the sustainable presence of fresh foods beyond their lifetime.