The Ministry of Blue and Green Economy, Agriculture and National Food Security in collaboration with the North East Cocoa Producer’s Cooperation held an official ceremony for the Youth in Agriculture- Cocoa Farm School Project on Thursday May 20, 2021.

The twenty-two thousand seven hundred and sixty-four (22,764) US dollar farm school project is being funded by the Australian Aid and will benefit forty-five farmers aged eighteen to thirty-five. The farmers will be trained to grow and produce quality cocoa to fulfill the local market demand and for export.

Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance, Economic Affairs and Planning Honourable Gregory Riviere says Government will make land available to the farmers for cocoa production.

“I say with no fear of contradiction that the Government that I am a part of, will do everything in its power to support this programme during and post training. We recognize that the success of this programme is highly dependent on how much you are able to utilize the knowledge and skills that you have acquired. As such we are prepared to make lands available to you so that you can put your skills into practice. Furthermore, through the Ministry of Agriculture, we will ensure that you have adequate planting material and technical support to propel you to become the best cocoa producer in Dominica. Ladies and gentlemen, forty five new and well trained cocoa farmers in one district in one year will speak volumes for the Ministry of Agriculture, the Ministry of Youth and the Ministry of Trade. The Government of Dominica pledges its full support to this programme,” Hon. Riviere stated.

Parliamentary Representative for the Marigot Constituency Honourable Lennox Linton expressed his thanks to Government for the Cocoa Farm School Project.

“I want to congratulate the Ministries of the Government, specifically the Ministry of Agriculture and the Ministry of Community Development and Cooperatives, who have been collaborating with the North East Cocoa Producers Cooperative to date in moving this very important initiative forward. I want to thank as well the Australian Aid for funding this important exercise which will allow young people to get involved in the production of quality cocoa over the next year,” Hon. Linton noted.

President of the North East Cocoa Producers Cooperation Ms. Jennifer Pascal says the participants will attend twelve weekly sessions to learn the various skills needed for cocoa production.

“The participants will attend twelve weekly sessions on topics to include Site Selection, Land Preparation, Crop Maintenance, Harvesting, Standards and Good Agricultural Practices and Social and Business Skills. The project implementation will span twelve months divided into three 3-months cycles. Each cycle will train a cohort of 15 participants. The first session will begin on the 27th of May,” Ms. Pascal explained.

She says at the end of the training a cocoa nursery and demonstration plot will be established.

“At the completion of the project, we are expected to have established a cocoa nursery and demonstration plot, at least forty five young persons involved and motivated to cultivate and process cocoa, an increase in the number of cocoa farmers, especially women in the North East and possibly a prototype for a Dominica suited farm school, consisting of a nursery and demonstration plot,” Pascal added. 

Master Trainer for the Farmer’s Field School Mr. Keian Stephenson spoke in detail of the training the farmers will receive.

“On the days we meet we will be going through a recap, where you will observe your environment, you will observe your crop, you will take measurements of your crop, observe the podding, when they flower and what not. You will be recording those things, meeting as a small group, discussing those things, making presentations as a small group, presenting to the larger groups making recommendations and then we will be implementing those recommendations on the field, so that from the next session we will be seeing the results.  So we will be learning by actually doing. In every session we will have a special topic, which will be chosen based on the activity we will be doing in the field. So for example at Nursery Management we will bring in a technician specialized in nursery management,” Mr. Stephenson noted.

Mr. Franklyn Joseph is the Cocoa and Coffee Coordinator for the Ministry of Blue and Green Economy, Agriculture and National Food Security. He encouraged the farmers to take the training seriously.

“I am very passionate about the youth, they are our future. most times you go around you see farmers in their 60s and 70s, and today we have young people taking the lead. And if there is one thing I want the youth to remember or to exercise is take this farmers field school seriously. Take this thing seriously because we are building an industry. We want to get part of that multi-million dollar cake and not just the cake but because we have superior product,” Mr. Joseph went to say.

Dominica emerged first place in 2017 in an International Cocoa of Excellence Competition which was held in Paris.