Last week I led a tour of Redland Plantation, St George by a group of supervisors and students participating in the Horticulture Summer Course being hosted by the Department of Biological and Chemical Sciences , UWI, Cave Hill. Given that arable land is one of Barbados’ main resources, the University must be congratulated on its foresight in hosting this annual course. The majority of the participants were science students already attending UWI who chose this as an optional course. The objective of the course is to expose the students to and give them an appreciation of the horticultural area. Although not all participants may eventually enter into the agricultural/horticultural field, we hope that the technical knowledge gained in the Horticultural Course will whet the appetites of some to enter into the farming arena and dispel the myth that agriculture is for academic dropouts.
There has been significant emphasis placed on entrepreneurship in recent times in Barbados , and perhaps, worldwide. But what is an entrepreneur? According to www.entrepreneur.com, an entrepreneur is “Someone who assumes the financial risk of the initiation, operation and management of a business” or “Anyone who has ever looked at a problem and seen it as an opportunity.” Bearing in mind that we all have to eat and that Barbados’ annual food import bill is in the vicinity of $500 million, this could describe a large number of farmers in Barbados. Unfortunately, many do not approach the task in a businesslike way, leaving their fortune to chance most of the time.
The students were able to see vegetable production-both field and hydroponic- as well as fruit production, and pasture production on the adjoining farm. They observed the nutrient film technique being used to grow various types of lettuce and Chinese Cabbage and learned the importance of the proper orientation of greenhouses, as well as methods of reducing the heat build up which is a problem in greenhouses in the tropics.
They were able to see the damaging effect of a relatively new insect pest, Icerya scale on the growth of bean plants and learnt about the ongoing problem of Bunchy Top disease on paw paws. The use of mulches for weed control as well as moisture retention was pointed out, and students were able to observe a variety of herbs growing on plastic mulch.
The important role which the sugar industry plays in the production of other crops was also pointed out, since rotation with sugar cane results in a more weed free situation which is beneficial to vegetable production.
Rainwater harvesting and storage for irrigation was demonstrated as well as the use of a wind powered pump for irrigation purposes.
The farm also produces a variety of fresh juices from the fruit grown in its orchard and operates a farmers’ market which not only markets its own produce, but the produce of other farmers.
There are two other institutions in Barbados which do training in agriculture- the Barbados Community College and the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic although they suffer from inadeqaute facilities to provide adequate practical experience. The 4H club must also be congratulated on its work in encouraging children from an early age to become involved in agriculture.
However, in agriculture, as in any other business, not only the technical aspect is important for success . If a venture is to succeed, there must be the idea, management and money. A farmer or ” agripreneur” , needs technical and business training as well as the timely access to adequate financing in order to be really successful. It is noteworthy that the management and financial aspects of entrepreneurship are being addressed by the recently established Barbados Seed and Venture Capital Fund which not only provides timely and appropriate finance but “shepherding” or mentoring for the entrepreneur while developing the business.
Meanwhile, the BADMC is reportedly collaborating with BAS, BYBT, YES, Fund Access, Ministry of Agriculture and the Youth Development Service to support youth interested in “agripreneurship” in a variety of ways, including provision of land.
With all these initiatives taking place, I look forward to seeing an increase in farming and other agriculturally related businesses which are technically, managerially and financially sound and which can contribute to the economic growth of Barbados.
The Agro-doc has almost 40 years experience in agriculture in Barbados, operating at different levels of the sector.