As the island’s population grows and there is a greater need to develop resilient and sustainable food production systems, the Sandals Foundation is strengthening the capacity of the students enrolled in the agriculture program at the island’s Community College to meet these demands by donating much needed supplies to revamp their agriculture square and equip it with an irrigation system.
As part of its #40for40 Initiative, the philanthropic arm of Sandals Resorts International is ramping up its investment in agriculture and the institutions training the next generation of producers throughout the Caribbean.
Heidi Clarke, Executive Director at Sandals Foundation expresses the importance of introducing the students to resilient agricultural practices.
“As we continue to advance as a region, we must prioritize food security and lay the foundation for solutions that address each link in the food production system.”
“The donation of key equipment, tools and supplies to support practical training to the Barbados Community College will strengthen the capacity of students and graduates to meet the changing climate and environmental needs, as well as the island’s nutritional requirements.”
“In the long-term, they will be better poised to contribute to the country’s effort to prevent widespread food insecurity,” Clarke added.
The current Associate Degree program offered by the Division of Science is structured to enable students to integrate theoretical knowledge with day-to-day farming activities on a continuous basis.
Program Tutor, Zhara Holder, notes that the project was started in 2020 by past students who wanted to have a more hands-on presence at the college.
“Under the guidance of my past tutor, Ms. Marcia Marville, the students developed the small space within the Natural Science Division—planting and harvesting crops to be sold to persons on campus. However, the program was paused given the developments over the past two years.”
Holder further explained that Sandals Foundation’s involvement has given the project new life and is making a difference for the students as they prepare to join the country’s league of food producers.
“We were excited to hear of Sandals Foundation’s interest in the project.”
“The contribution from the Foundation has been phenomenal.”
“It has enabled us to purchase various pieces of equipment which will help to make production easier. In addition, we were able to equip students with the necessary tools to work in the square – from gloves and boots to forks and an irrigation system which has truly transformed the area as plants will grow better and the Agri Square is more aesthetically appealing.”
She also indicated that with this practical learning space, the staff has seen a more enthusiastic approach from the students to learning.
First year student, Shaka John, says he has been involved in farming from around 10 years old as his grandfather had two plantations. He now hopes to one day take over the family business from his father.
“When I first came to Barbados Community College, I immediately wanted to be a part of the Agri Square and I was happy to learn that the Sandals Foundation was assisting us in getting the Square ‘back up’. It’s a great contribution, especially to us young people.”
“I personally believe that we need to get more students involved in agriculture as everyone needs to eat – from doctors, lawyers, cashiers and we in the agriculture field are providing for the island’s food needs,” John added.
In addition to climate smart food production techniques, students will also learn best practices for mitigating drought with the incorporation of irrigation systems. Over time, the agriculture square is expected to gradually improve the land and soil quality.
Farming and agriculture support forms one of six key areas of intervention being implemented by the Sandals Foundation as it implements 40 sustainable community projects that have the power to transform Caribbean communities and improve lives. Additional projects include the construction of hydroponics units at the Gilbert Agricultural and Rural Development Centre in Antigua, the construction of a chicken coop and greenhouse at LN Coakley High School in The Bahamas, empowering the Grenada Network of Rural Women Producers (GRENROP) through capacity building trainings, and introducing community compost training in the Turks and Caicos Islands.