BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, May 5, 2020 (S.T.E.P.) — Food security is part of government’s Covid-19 response and during the State of Emergency, the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) is ensuring that all farmers who have STEP interns attached to their operations are getting maximum support.
“During this time of Covid-19, we are expecting all STEP participants who are assigned to various farms, to be out working,” said STEP’s Field Coordinator, Mr William Phillip. “While they are performing their daily tasks we expect them to follow the laid down procedures. They are expected to wash their hands regularly, be wearing their masks, and to observe the social distancing protocols.”
Under guidelines issued by the Department of Agriculture, during partial curfew days farmers may work on their farms from 6:00 am to 6:00 pm, while on total lockdown days they will be allowed to work from 7:00 am to 9:00 am, and 4:00 pm to 6:00 pm.
While all STEP workers attached to the different farms in the country are expected to report to work on all partial curfew days as directed by their employers, on total lockdown days a farmer is only allowed to take two workers with him to the farm.
“We are hoping that on the lockdown days, when only two workers are allowed to go out with the employer, that if the STEP interns are called upon by the operators of the farms they should make themselves available because food security is very important to the country,” observed Mr Phillip.
The STEP official made the remarks after paying a visit to Bountiful Harvest Farm in Cayon, which is operated by Mr Travis Huggins, where eight STEP interns are attached. Foods grown on the farm include tomatoes, sweet potatoes, sweet pepper, pumpkins, onions, water melons, squash, eggplant, cucumber, thyme and other herbs.
“I want, at this particular time, to say thanks to the operator Mr Travis Huggins who is making sure that while they are performing their duties, they are sticking to the procedures that are recommended by the government in the fight against Covid-19,” said Mr Phillip. “I also want to praise the STEP workers for following those procedures knowing very well that they are doing it for their own safety.”
Mr Travis Huggins supplies all the workers on the farm with facemasks, while the farm has an abundant supply of water and thus ensuring that they wash their hands regularly.
He thanked the Skills Training Empowerment Programme (STEP) for giving farmers support by providing STEP workers coming out to the farms in a year which he described as a rough one due to the Covid-19 global pandemic. While the STEP interns gain valuable experience, Mr Huggins noted that the government pays them a salary that allows them to feed their families.
“I would like to thank the government for at this time we are receiving free water and the farmers are very happy – very thankful for that initiative from the government,” said the youthful farmer. “We have a few months that we can use water without making any payment, so we are very thankful for that.”
Stressing that food security is very important for any country, Mr Huggins reasoned that local food production must be stepped up as with the prevailing crises brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic no one knows what would happen, down the line, to containers that bring food to the country. He as a result encouraged people to buy and eat local foods.
The Cayon farmer has marshalled the support of another eight farmers and on Saturday May 9, as he celebrates his 29th birthday, will make food donations to persons in the Cayon area who have been adversely affected financially by the Covid-19 pandemic. He regularly donates food to the JNF General Hospital, the Cardin Home, the St. Christopher Children’s Home, and the School Meals Programme.