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Ryan Als, General Manager of the National Conservation Commission (NCC).

Barbadians respond well to NCC’s distribution of seedlings

Barbadians have been in constant contact with the National Conservation Commission in an effort to get their hands on various seedlings, so that they can start their own kitchen gardens and grow more crops.

Ryan Als, General Manager of the National Conservation Commission (NCC), recently acknowledged the above, noting that during the COVID-19 lockdown period, Barbadians responded well to the NCC’s call for them to collect free seedlings. Als explained that the Commission entered a partnership with FarmFinder Global Inc. to distribute seedlings for free to Barbadian households, in the interest of food security.

Als said, “We were doing mainly horticulture, but at a time where persons needed seeds to get fresh food, we knew we could not just grow pretty plants and trees. We needed to do something that could help people weather the COVID storm.”

“We partnered with FarmFinder during the COVID lockdown period, when persons were scrambling to the supermarkets looking for fresh produce and we had a nursery with seedlings. Just before the COVID period, FarmFinder had approached us to donate seedlings to vulnerable families. So we had some of these seedlings which were getting a little longer and we said, ‘You know what, it doesn’t make sense throwing them away, we need to give them to people who need them.’ So FarmFinder said great, give all that you can and we will get more for you to give. So we grew some, they donated some and we started giving away seedlings, so much so that we had long lines, probably longer than the supermarkets, of persons coming to get seedlings,” Als explained.

“Things were free so you would get the crowd, but we had a limited time because we only had three hours a day which was allotted to us to come and maintain the nursery, and we said it is going to be a big challenge getting these seedlings out to all of the persons coming to us. We started then to deliver them, along with fruit trees that we had in stock, which is another project, our Million Trees Project. So seedlings were being delivered and seedlings were being collected,” he further said of the initiative.

“We knew people liked to do backyard gardening, but the extent to which persons where coming and asking us about it, I said, ‘My goodness, there seems to be a shortage of seedlings in Barbados. I don’t know how we are going to satisfy this need.’ Then we reached out to sponsors who provided us with seedlings often and we also expanded our production capacity to accommodate persons who wanted to grow seedlings here. So different groups came and they said, ‘We would like to grow, but we don’t have the space.’ So we expanded our grow area and we provided them with the space. We said, ‘We are not going to charge you. You come, bring your seeds, put them in and our automated sprinkler system will keep them wet, so they can grow. You can then come back and get your seedlings,’” Als revealed.

Noting that such an initiative started with FarmFinder, he then noted that Victory Gardens loved the programme and then decided to come up with their own Grow Barbados eight-week challenge starting this month, which the NCC has also endorsed. (RSM)

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