Seeking funds for centre

Sir Hilary Beckles (left) and donor Eddie Edghill signs agreement for transfer of land at Dukes Plantation to UWI this morning. At centre is Vanessa Edghill.

Efforts are underway to secure major funding to construct a Centre for Food Security and Entrepreneurship on some 40 acres of prime land at Dukes Plantation, in St. Thomas.

The land for the centre, which will be another faculty of the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, was formally transfered this morning during a ceremony at the site by the donors, the Edghill family.

Chairman of the National Agricultural Commission, Dr. Chelston Brathwaite told the gathering, which included Minister of Agriculture, Dr. David Estwick, Minister of Education, Ronald Jones and the Edghill family, that the financing requirements of the centre called for more time to prepare and a profound understanding of the dimensions and scope of the project.

“The source of funding for the long-term sustainability must be identified and a strategy for the enterprise to be self-financing in the medium term, through the development of university enterprises and the sale of agricultural products, must be considered,” submitted Brathwaite.

He was of the view that the university, by using the centre, could demonstrate its responsibility and commitment to environmental sustainability, the deployment of clean technologies and the generation of knowledge and agro-business.

“We believe the centre should become a place to provide students and professors and the university community with an awareness to care for the environment and to promote sustainable systems within the context of a green economy. To provide a place where the university staff and students can carry out research in the teaching of the biological sciences and demonstrate the latest technologies in food production, greenhouse technology, organic agriculture, precision agriculture and environmental science,” he noted.

The National Agricultural Commission head also informed those attending the ceremony, that the proposed facility could also contribute to the recent thrust in food production, the reduction in the use of harmful pesticides, conservation of the island’s soil and to produce food that is safe, fresh and wholesome for the local population.

“The new vision for agriculture in Barbados as being developed in the White Paper by the Ministry of Agriculture will not be successful unless we have trained human resources. The sector will need new human resources in production, marketing and consumption, in food production, greenhouse technology and organic agriculture,” he insisted.

Brathwaite disclosed that there would also be a need for skilled persons in the promotion of local foods, transport, storage, grading, packaging and processing and also identified food scientists, entomologists, pathologists and the variety of disciplines that were necessary in a modern agricultural framework.

“And so we see the need, to produce a cadre of professionals, some of them can go onto St. Augustine to do their degrees having obtained a basic diploma in the practical aspects of agriculture here.”

“The centre,” he continued, “should become a place for agricultural research where students and professors from the Department of Science and Technology and Agri-Business can work together to research on new products for the local market.”

He suggested, as well, the forging of linkages with the St. Augustine Campus of the UWI in Trinidad, the Barbados Community College, the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic and other centres of learning in Barbados.

The leading agricultural expert also envisaged the centre becoming an agro-tourism site where visitors could witness the latest in technology in agriculture and Barbados generally. (EJ)

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