The Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) has invested in developing agriculture and promoting entrepreneurship among the youth. Funded with a grant of EC$832,163.76, the Skills Training and Entrepreneurial Program (STEP), in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Education, is providing training to young men to become entrepreneurs. They learn hydroponics crop production and life skills, and receive a weekly stipend.
Hydroponics farming is an innovative method which involves growing crops vertically in stacked pots that are filled with coconut mesh. The plants are irrigated and fed nutrients using a timed drip system, and grown in the protective environment of a greenhouse. Two hydroponics farms are already in operation, one located in Mc Knight at the back of the former Department of Education building on Cayon Street, and the other on the compound of the School Meals Program. Another is being set up at Project Strong. The Mc Knight Community Farm, dubbed Kittitian Home Grown, was the first to be started in February 2012, and has proven a success story after only three months. The farm grows a number of crops including tomatoes, lettuce, squash and beets which have been sold to local restaurants and supermarkets. One of the objectives of the hydroponics farms is to assist in reducing food imports by providing local produce grown in a healthy environment.
The youth farmers will develop social and technical skills which will assist them in becoming successful entrepreneurs. They will learn interpersonal communication skills and innovative farming techniques, and be exposed to concepts related to revenue generation and marketing. Brian Griffin, one of the enthusiastic and proud participants in the project, described the experience as “valuable and priceless”, adding that the guys learn teamwork and the business part of farming. The SIDF is pleased with the progress to date, and will continue to invest in projects that have the potential to make a positive social and economic impact on the Nation.