Monday 1 June, 2020

St Maarten foundation: Agriculture needs more support

Agriculture is often viewed as a career choice that holds little glamour for many young people in the Caribbean today, and this is the case in Sint Maarten.  

But one group, the ECO (Education, Cultivating and Outreaching) St Maarten Agricultural and Research Foundation, is trying to build awareness about the importance of agriculture, one person at a time.  

President and founder, Denicio Wyatte says the road to agriculture first started as a personal journey for him in trying to find a way to treat with his own health issues -- epilepsy.  

[Denicio Wyatte carrying fresh produce / Photo via ECO St Maarten Agricultural Research and Development Foundation )

“It began with a business called spaceless gardens, which did mostly beautification, landscaping and learning agriculture but after discovering the health benefits of engaging in the industry, it stimulated me to read up more about agriculture. Eventually, it just evolved through networking with other organisations wanting more information and highlighting the need for a foundation,” he told Loop News.  

Wyatt laments St Maarten’s Government needs to set the right policies as the country is a huge importer of food. He says the Foundation wants to provide education so a mass network of farmers could become entrepreneurs.  

Younger generation 

It has been a struggle getting the younger generation to accept agriculture, but interest is turning around with each educational session held by the foundation.  

[In pic: ECO learning session]

Wyatte says children in St Maarten are not raised to do this type of work.  

“St Maarten is a place where we all teach our children that going outside and putting your hand in the ground is a dirty job. They have to be lawyers; they have to be doctors so a lot of the young people they not really on that, but that’s only because they never had a chance to be influenced by it,” he told Loop News.  

Wyatte says through educational sessions in schools, there are now more kids willing to participate, noting they just didn’t have the opportunity or were not made aware about the possibilities with agriculture.  

The Foundation will continue to focus on conserving and preserving St Maarten’s agricultural heritage with different training, lectures and seminars on health, climate change, cooking, agricultural and community development and business. 

“One tomato farmer should be able to create 10 different products and create other entrepreneurs, just by creating a creole sauce, a Bloody Mary mix, a ketchup, there just so many things you can get from a tomato,” said Wyatte.  

He says the Foundation’s main goal is to create individual change, so if one person grasps the importance of agriculture, they can influence someone else.  

“We want people to say hey let’s not wait on the government, let’s pick up a shovel, a rake and get it done.” 

 

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