Agriculture Minister and Seventh District Representative, Dr Natalio Wheatley has said the new garden initiative in his constituency underscores the government’s vision for food-security in the territory.
“We have a vision for food security in the Virgin Islands because recognise that fishing and farming is what helped us survive … We had to help ourselves by going to grounds, by fishing, by having our animals. This is what sustained our ancestors, our previous generations,” Dr Wheatley said of the launch of his programme.
According to Dr Wheatley, the programme — which solidifies a renewed focus on entrepreneurship and community in the constituency and wider Virgin Islands — is also meant to foster skills development.
“We [are teaching the apprentices] from seed to table — the whole process of growing food. With this training ground, we would be able to identify those persons who have discovered a love for planting,” he noted.
Land lots to be assigned to apprentice farmers
Minister Wheatley also shared that some apprentices who are interested in establishing a farming career will be assigned land lots in Paraquita Bay to further their entrepreneurial endeavours.
The Agriculture Minister said while the garden programme is specifically targeting residents of his district, he has already given the mandate to his ministry to engage the community to expand the initiative to other districts throughout the BVI.
Meanwhile, Director of Agriculture and Fisheries, Theodore James said the garden programme’s launch marks the start of healthy eating and community service.
James also called the programme a “second opportunity” for the territory’s elders to pass on farming skills, “which will benefit our children, and our children’s children”.
Programme Coordinator Roxane Toussaint — who stood as a representative for the family of the late Vanceto George — said the family is pleased to partner with the government by offering the use of the property. She described it as an in-kind donation to train the programme’s apprentices.
Community service opportunities
Toussaint said the site, which was once a pigeon pea patch that fed the entire Long Look community, will also host weekend agricultural community demonstrations such as grafting and air layering. Community service opportunities will also be extended to students. The programme also involves the curation of a seed bank.
“We intend to work hand-in-hand to ensure the success of this programme and its sustainability. We encourage all the persons in the district, and the wider community once the programme is extended, to take this opportunity to grow, develop and retool with the necessary skills to position yourselves for the other future opportunities in the agriculture industry,” Toussaint stated.
Garden Programme facilitator Arona Fahie-Forbes said she is “seeking the cooperation of everyone for a fruitful and successful initiative”.
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