Chiller a Major Boost to Nevis Farmers’ Co-opWritten by Pauline Ngunjiri
PROSPECT, Nevis – It was all smiles at the Department of Agriculture Conference Room when a cheque of over US$11,600 donated by the Australian Commission was handed over to members of the Nevis Farmers’ Co-operative.
“It’s a good day for the farmers at New River!”, the Director of the Inter-American Institute for Agriculture (IICA) for St. Kitts and Nevis, Augustine Merchant told excited farmers shortly before he handed over the cheque on behalf of the Australian High Commission to President of the New River Farmers Cooperative, Marcel Hanley. Merchant is a former Director of Agriculture on the island of Nevis.
The cheque was handed over at a ceremony held at the Ministry of Agriculture Conference Room on Thursday. The Australian Commission has donated the money under the Commissions Direct Aid Programme (DAP). The funds will be used to purchase a walk-in chiller facility at New River Estate. The DAP is a flexible Australian Government Small Grants Scheme for development activities based on the alleviation of basic humanitarian hardship.
“The new facility,” said Merchant “is expected to boost the confidence of farmers and ultimately enhance productivity. It is our hope at IICA that this donation by the Australians would be fully utilized by the farmers and would aid in the development of agriculture here on Nevis.”
According to Mr. Merchant, cooling facilities are a valuable asset to any farm operation and a farmer able to cool and store produce had greater market flexibility because the need to market immediately after harvest is eliminated.
Refrigerated storage, he explained, retarded a number of elements of deterioration in perishable crops. Among those he listed were: aging due to ripening, softening texture and colour change; undesirable metabolic changes and respiratory heat production; moisture loss and wilting; spoilage due to invasion by bacteria, fungi and yeasts and undesirable growth such as sprouting of potatoes.
Merchant said prior to accessing the fund from the Australian Commission, he met with the Cooperative’s President, Marcel Hanley, who informed Merchant that a number of young persons were willing to farm. Hanley also told Merchant that major challenges included loss of post harvest crop due to lack of storage.
Merchant said he was moved and after some thought, he approached the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) but they had exhausted their funds and were unable to assist.
Merchant said he next contacted the Australian High Commission based in Trinidad and spoke with the coordinator of projects and explained the urgency with which the equipment was needed. “The proposals were submitted the following day and the rest was history,” Merchant told Nevis New River co-op members.
He announced to the farmers that a 15 x10x8 chiller had already been ordered from Miami and is expected to be shipped to Nevis shortly.