SINT MAARTEN (ST. PETERS) - In September 2016 the project ‘Community Back Yard Gardening program St. Maarten’ embarked at Spaceless Garden in St. Peters as one of the pilot projects to combine several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) together, aiming “Eradication of poverty and hunger” on St. Maarten.
This project was geared to the increase of awareness on agriculture and its possibilities on Sint Maarten. Its main focus is to identify people of interest and help enhancing their agricultural skills via a training program and assist them with setting up a garden in their back yard.
Overall aim of this project is to accelerate progress in the former Millennium Development Goal 1 on eradicating poverty. Yet the project serves to tackle more SDGs: No poverty (1), Zero hunger (2), Good Health and Well-being (3), Quality Education (4), Decent work (8), Sustainable communities (11) and Responsible consumption and production (12) as seven of the 17 SDGs to be fulfilled with this community-oriented project.
All by all the project would stimulate the Agricultural\Cultural awareness, encourage skill enhancement and job employment as well as the increase of social\human interaction, stimulate health and increase the buying and spending power of the surrounding communities through education and practice.
The total budgeted cost of the first phase of this project, $18,050.00, was funded by UNESCO and involved the purchase of agricultural training materials and basic computer training.
The second phase cost was $44, 576.00 and covered by the Government of Sint Maarten via the National Development Plan (NDP) project. The project is a co-joint partnership between the government of Sint Maarten and the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme).
The Department of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BAK) was the overall coordinator and facilitator, but more stakeholders were involved in this pilot project. BAK worked together with the UNDP.
Furthermore, in collaboration with the Ministry of VSA (Public Health, Social Development and Labour) they supported the project owner and project manager and executor Denisio Wyatt in this endeavor.
The Ministry of VROMI (Public Housing, Spacial Development, Environment and Infrastructure) gave assistance with granting of permits for community events and advised on the best way to approach and opened doors for agricultural possibilities via specific departments of Government.
Another stakeholder was the St. Peters Community Council which helped with amongst others, identifying skillful members in the community, organizing tents for community events and making space available for training at Rupert Maynard Community Center and to inform the public on the ‘Community Market Day’.
The second phase involved the purchase of material structures for community events (market day), publicity and training in agricultural skills, as well as training in general agricultural and recycling, Landscaping, waste management, computer basics skills and vegan food preparation and presentation.
Five participants to the training were certificated.
The aim is to accomplish that Spaceless Garden would provide locally-grown fruits and vegetables to community members to offset the high cost of imported food on Sint Maarten.
The training to those selected community members would give them additional skills and knowledge to be able to find employment and make an income.
Part of the project was also to provide a venue for other members of the community to generate a small additional income from sales of their goods and services at a “Community Market Day” (once per month) and to provide the St. Peters Community Council with additional revenue, so they may be able to assist needy members of their community.
The Community Market Day helps also to empower the community members to utilize their skills in community gardening and cultural activities in establish sustainable network and encouraging entrepreneurship through the selling of the produced from their garden. We hope that the Community Market Day will sustain itself and encourage other districts to duplicate the idea.
Spaceless garden provided public awareness via Website promotion www.721news.com
www.stmaartenagriculture.com and www.madeinstmaarten.com
In conclusion, the Ministry of VSA has done an evaluation of the project and it can be ascertained that the project was successful in reaching its objectives.
As it pertains to improving the skills and knowledge of targeted less fortunate members of the community through a diverse hands-on training program that focuses on home gardening: during the selection phase the project encountered a number of persons from different ages and backgrounds.
The project managed to select five participants and provided them training in general agricultural, recycling, carpentry, masonry, basic computer skills, publication, publicity awareness and resume development.
As it pertains to creating community events and activities that will increase human and social interaction: the project managed to organize two market day events selling local produce, having kids activities, local performances, local dishes and traditional garden displays.
During the project there were obstacles in attaining permits for the events, that had an impact in the number of market days held. There was also an issue with government for the property where the community garden is located. These issues obstructed the installation of an electrical meter, which was needed to run the pumps to water the plants. Fortunately, the building of a reservoir was funded by SZV (Social Health Insurances), which helped in storing water for the garden, watering still needed to be done manually.
As it pertains to enhancing the sustainability of community organizations like the St. Peters Community Council and Spaceless Gardens: the project showed, that there could be a revenue source gained by organizing such events. There was 150 kilos fruits and vegetables harvested from the community garden of which was sold to the community, supermarkets and hotels.
As it pertains to encourage other communities and their members to start community gardens and community markets: although no other communities tried to execute such a project, the project did show that it could be successful in other communities.
As it pertains to establish a sustainable food network amongst members involved in Community Gardening on small and large scales that will eventually help towards eradicating poverty and extreme hunger: this project managed to create awareness in the community about the benefits of having a home garden and also managed to have a number of households to start their own home garden, of whom also participated in the market day events selling the produce that they grew. The community garden also managed to harvest over 150 kilos of fruits and vegetables of which was sold at a lower price compared to the supermarket prices.
In order for this project to take hold in other communities, it is recommended to have a buy in from community councils. There is also a need for an organization to lead to development of this initiative within the other communities. Government should also support this type of initiatives and play a role in the aspect of community development and also commit land in the community, which can be used for such activities.