Tech4agri has long since expanded its topic base to include many aspects of agribusiness. On the nature island of the Caribbean, Dominica, agriculture remains one of the major industries which support its economy. As a result many Agribusinesses and like minded stakeholders are present. In this feature we examine the efforts of “D Smart Farm” an initiative which seeks to contribute to the local agriculture sector from the ground up in a variety of ways. Here is an interview with Ms. Dawn Francis, representative of D Smart Farm.
Keron: What are the activities and purpose of D Smart Farm?
Dawn: D-Smart Farm teaches and educates students and visitors on the importance of organic farming and sustainability utilizing the principles of permaculture. Our partner NGO, Ecobalance has embarked on a biodiversity centre for learning which has been funded from the Global Environmental Small Grants Project at D-Smart Farm which is located at the foothills of one of the world’s heritage sites, the Morne Trois Pitons National Park.This site has been funded from the United Nations Small Grants Programme.
Keron: Any standout strategy for the business/org?
Dawn: We have both onsite visits as well as school site visits. The latter is long term in that we schedule multiple engagement sessions with the children of several schools in order to teach our principles and then depending on the available resources of the school we establish a school garden. Other services include:
- Local /Foreign Farm Tours
- Workshops(organic farming, permaculture, food safety, composting.)
- Our Biodiversity Learning Centre is also quite active.
Keron: How many visitors do you have on average?
Dawn: This varies depending on the time of year. We get the most visitors from our local schools. During start of the new school month we get over one hundred preschoolers. We also have visits from young adults and adults members of the public.
Keron: Would you say you are successful in achieving your goals?
Dawn: We are getting there. The message is being taught and the importance of sustainability in agriculture is of great importance right now due to the economic situation of the world. Our children are like sponges; they are eager to learn and absorb everything we teach them. It is from this young age we can make a difference.
Keron: In your activities do you engage with other businesses, sectors or stakeholders within the local agri sector?
Dawn: There are several stakeholders we work with. Firstly the extension department of the local Ministry of Agriculture provides for their expertise when hosting workshops. We also work with the Waitukubuli National Trail Research and Interpretation Center and other members of a community tourism group that we are part of. It is called the “Heart Of Dominica created to package and promote authentic experiences in the “heart” or interior, of Dominica, the Nature Island of the Caribbean.”
Together with the Dominica State College we assist with the local ‘WOOFING’ (Outdooring) programme, where we provide food and board while the students work and learn.
The National youth council of Dominica has also collaborated with us during 2013 Summer camp, and their HIV /Aids awareness workshop was held on the farm in late 2013. Most recently, we have provided employment for two young persons (part time) within our watershed:The Morne Trois Pitons Water Shed.
Dawn: We definitely would love to set up the farm as a Junior Farmers Field and Life School for youth who have a genuine interest in agriculture. This will bring D Farm to the pinnacle of its objective, a place of great learning. We do have a few potential partners regarding certification of the participants of the field school.