As Virgin Islanders mobilize to increase their food security, the University of the Virgin Islands’ Caribbean Green Technology Center and the Community Foundation of the Virgin Islands teamed up to aid farmers and families by donating more than 850 fruit trees on St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix.
The effort was sponsored by Cruzan Rum’s Island Spirit Fund, established in partnership with GlobalGiving, and is aimed at increasing access to fresh food across the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to a news release from UVI.
Farmers and residents of all islands received a selection of mango, avocado and papaya trees to increase their orchards or home gardens under the program, the school said. The trees will support the rebuilding of farms across the territory, many of which were devastated by the 2017 hurricanes. Once mature in a few years, fruits from those trees will improve access to healthy food and increase agricultural production in the U.S. Virgin Islands, said UVI.
Christina Chanes, CGTC research specialist and program coordinator of this project, said the goal was to provide farmers with trees to increase their crop production and support rural development in a time of uncertainty and stress due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This is a wonderful project that was a win-win for UVI and the community overall,” said Chanes, adding that the project was designed to include fruit trees that produce at various times throughout the year so that farmers would have continuous production.
“This project is vital to our community. Farmers have been hit hard in recent years and teaming with CFVI to provide ways for them to increase their production and to say thanks to them for working to feed the community is just a great way to share good health and nutrition and promote agriculture in the community,” said Chanes.
Farmer and volunteer Royce Creque of Green Ridge Guava Berry Farm in Estate Bordeaux on St. Thomas and Chanes worked together earlier in September to complete distribution of the fruit trees to 100 farmers and 250 families across the U.S. Virgin Islands.
To identify families to receive the trees, the project was paired with a U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture emergency COVID-19 grant program designed to aid families in dealing with mental health issues and isolation during the pandemic so they could get involved in gardening while sheltering in place.
Cindi Rollins, director of the V.I. Department of Human Services Senior Community Service Employment Program, Foster Grandparent Program and Retired Senior Volunteer Program, who partnered with UVI on the project, noted that participants were delighted to learn they would be given trees to place in their gardens. “This is an awesome program that the seniors across the U.S. Virgin Islands in our programs enjoyed,” said Rollins.
The V.I. Department of Education also took part through the Parent University Program coordinated by Jerae Forde. Forde, who worked with Chanes to gift trees to clients that took part in the parenting program said, “The fruit trees hit home for us – it connects the community with food and healthy nutrition which is a great way to promote self-care. Whether a senior, parent, or farmer you have to take care of yourself and this was a great way to build the community through agriculture and connecting them to the earth and nature.”
This effort is one of many that CGTC is leading to promote the sustainable development of the islands. To aid farmers and the community at large, CGTC launched a new newsletter focused on agriculture and drought. The CGTC staff will also be creating a Water Resource Guide called “Go with Flow,” which will focus on strategies from CGTC that are Caribbean-focused.
The mission of the UVI CGTC is to develop, promote and help implement the use of innovative green technologies to improve the social development of the U.S. Virgin Islands and the well-being of all the territory’s communities, according to the release. “The CGTC will achieve its goals by promoting the sustainable use of natural resources, understanding and adapting to the impacts of climate change, and creating products, processes and methods that are relevant to Caribbean islands,” it said.
For more information and to stay informed about all of the events being hosted by CGTC, visit their website.