Standing: Marie Boasman and Clifton Wilson. Seated: Denicio Wyatt and Dr. Antonio Carmona Báez.
POND ISLAND–University of St. Martin (USM) and Eco-Sint Maarten Agriculture and Research Centre signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on Wednesday, April 24, to advance the study and practice of agroecology and community development on the island.
USM said in a press release that parties are looking forward to collaboration in the design of Bachelor of Arts courses and scientific research in community farming to support food sovereignty and sustainability.
Agroecology – which is considered a practice, study and worldwide health movement coinciding with climate change and debates on sustainable development – applies ecological principles in regard to the production of food and natural medicines. Students will have the opportunity to learn the theory and have hands-on practice in organic farming, aquaponics, and community development.
Cooperation between Eco-Sint Maarten and USM is the direct result of a seminar on Agroecology and Sustainable Development held at USM in September 2018, where the director of the Agricultural and Research Centre Denicio Wyatt gave a lecture on the importance of producing food locally and naturally.
“Local food production can foster sustainable and equitable development. At Eco-Sint Maarten, we have hosted visitors from North America, Europe and other Caribbean islands, so even tourism can be transformed to serve the community. In consonance with United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), we can eliminate poverty by producing healthy food and natural remedies organically,” said Wyatt, whose farm in St. Peters has attracted the attention of community leaders and international bodies such as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and UNESCO.
“Our purpose is not to create careers in agriculture, although that might be an option for some individuals. Rather, we seek to incorporate local and global knowledge about agroecology into our curriculum and research plans,” said USM President Dr. Antonio Carmona. “Agriculture and sustainable development have been given scant attention by government and the business community. That is unfortunate, as agroecology has the potential to contribute to economic development, public health and social cohesion.”
According to the release, Carmona and Wyatt would like to use this cooperation to make links with research centres and universities abroad, to strengthen the global network of local producers and raise awareness about the potential of a small island like St. Maarten.
“The possibilities are endless. We can get researchers to look at soil, air and water quality, hurricane preparedness and set up farm cooperatives. Our students can learn and eventually contribute to the transformation of St. Maarten,” Carmona said.
Also signing the MOU were Head of the St. Peters Emergency Operations Group (SPEOG) and Eco-SXM board member Marie Boasman, in the presence of Simadom Trading and Services representative Clifton Wilson and USM Board President Valerie Giterson-Pantophlet.
Source: The Daily Herald https://www.thedailyherald.sx/islands/87140-mou-signed-to-advance-study-and-practice-of-agroecology