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Unsung heroes’ recognised for producing quality food for Caribbean’s populace

October 17, 2021

Citerina Atkins could not have had a more fitting birthday present, given her passion for agriculture.

She became the first youth to be named Young Farmer of the Year, a CARICOM-Caribbean Development Bank award that was inaugurated during Caribbean Week of Agriculture (CWA) 2021. As fate would have it, the award was presented on her birthday, 8 October, during the Closing Ceremony of the CWA.

Co-founder and Managing Director of Gerty’s Agro-Produce, Atkins left the corporate sector to farm as she recognised the potential of the agriculture sector and the need for more young persons to become involved in it, and by extension, the development of the economy. She grows a variety of crops including Irish and sweet potatoes, and scotch bonnet peppers, employs persons in her community, and sells her produce locally and internationally. Her aim is to move into agro-processing

“I ventured into agriculture for the business aspect of it, but when I’m in the farm and see my produce go from seed to fruit, I know I’m moving closer to self-actualisation,”

the Jamaican youth said.

In her acceptance speech, she said she was pleased to accept “this prestigious” award and humbled to be recognised by her peers in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean.

She’s an advocate for youth involvement in the sector, pointing out that it was

“her duty to ensure that young people see themselves as successful businessmen and women when they look at farmers, and I see myself as leading by example”.

Atkins was one of two farmers who were recognised for their outstanding contributions to agriculture in the Caribbean. Deles Warrington of Dominica received the CARICOM Farmer of the Year Award.

Warrington is a commercial banana farmer in Calibishe, Dominica, who also plants other crops including avocadoes, root crops such as yams and sweet potatoes, pineapples and onions. He also rears goats. Described as a stalwart, resilient banana farmer, Warrington has been involved in several agri-based organisations and is credited with providing technical advice and support to other farmers.

In his acceptance speech, the Farmer of the Year said he felt most honoured and appreciative of the award. He said that in spite of the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, it was clear that agriculture “is alive and well”.

“Though we have gone through some serious challenges in our Region … especially in Dominica where we have had (Hurricanes) Erika and Maria, and before that David … which did a lot of damage to our agriculture sector, agriculture has been coming back on stream, and it is because of our farmers who are resilient. They are people who are strong and always want to move forward, working in the soil,”

Warrington said.

While the week was devoted to all things agriculture, with transforming the region’s food systems as the focus, CWA participants took the opportunity during the closing ceremony to publicly thank farmers for their work in producing and providing quality food for the Region’s populace.

Mr. Audley Shaw, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister of Jamaica, announced the awards and pointed out that they were indicative of “our gratitude for the outstanding role that our regional farmers play in contributing to our goal of food security and sustainability”.

He said the CDB, a CARICOM Associate Institution, was actively exploring facilitating the increased participation of youth in agriculture, through a

“marriage between our agricultural sector policy and strategy, and our youth policy and operational strategy”.

He conceded that there was much work to be done but assured the region that the CDB would lend support through financing, technical assistance and training.

Staff Writer, CARICOM

October 16, 2021

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