It was a beautiful, Sunday in the mountain village of Cochrane on October 16th when the community came together for the launch of the Cochrane United Farmers Group, and to honour those outstanding farmers who have given their whole lives to farming. Government Ministers, dignitaries, Cochrane farmers and even the Scouts were on hand to help celebrate these achievements, and to mark World Food Day in Dominica. The event culminated in a grand feast for the Honourees and invited guests, where over 75 people were served 15 local dishes; including rabbit water, lamb stew, curried goat, Rosemary Pork, Yam Pie, Breadfruit balls and more all locally sourced.

The President of the Cochrane United Farmers Group, William Sabaroche, welcomed the gathering, noting that the future is uncertain. "But the one certainty is that we will always need to eat. The only way that Dominica is going to be able to eat, is if we have strong, sustainable farming communities producing abundant healthy food, that is good for you and good for the environment." He said.

Mr. Sabaroche went on to explain, "Sustainability and "good for the environment" mean moving away from harmful chemicals. Producing our own organic compost, organic fertilizers and pest controls that are natural. This will enable us to grow healthy food long into the future."

The Keynote speaker, Mr. Kent Coipel, technical specialist at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) Delegation in Dominica, also echoed these sentiments. He reflected on the theme of World Food Day 2016: "The climate is changing, food and agriculture must too". In his address Mr. Coipel stated, "Climate change is a major challenge to agriculture development in Dominica due to the country's small land mass, fragile ecosystems, high dependence on food imports and increasing impacts of frequent natural disasters. " He went on to say: "We therefore need to adopt best practices to reduce these vulnerabilities"

Mr. Coipel went on to say: "Consider Cochrane as an eco-Village: we need to develop this brand and adopt farming practices that promote sustainability, that is, produce more with less in the same area of land and use natural resources wisely. Re-introduction of traditional approaches, Organic farming, permaculture, family farming, floriculture, integrated cropping systems are some good options. Also, engaging in agro-tourism initiatives will create new business opportunities. Farm tours, culinary experiences, festivals (like Cochrane's Rabbit Fest), farmers market are all notable options."

The two ministers who attended the Event; the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon Johnson Drigo, as well as the Minister for Planning, Economic Development & Investment, Hon Dr. John Collin Mcintyre congratulated the farmers for the establishment of the Group, and they encouraged farming communities throughout the island to get organized and form groups.

Mr. Sabaroche presented the "Lifetime Contribution to Agriculture Awards" to 23 Cochrane farmers, those 70 years and over who have worked their whole lives in agriculture. He noted, "their toiling has fed us, clothed us, housed us, put us through school and made us who we are today." One of the awardees was 91-year old Ms. May Jerome, farmer and proud mother of 10 children.

The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Mr. Johnson Drigo presented the "World Food Day Awards", which went to 5 outstanding farmers across Dominica.

"Lifetime Contribution to Agriculture" Awardees:

Mrs. St. Era Bonnie

Miss Maggie Alleyne

Miss Mona Nicholas

Ms. Evelyne Theresa Wade

Mr. Heskeith Cockrane

Mr. Felix William and Christina William

Mr. and Mrs. Oscar Francis

Mrs. Monica Toussaint

Ms. May Jerome

Mr. David Valerie

Mr. and Mrs. Gulliver Bonnie

Mr. Randolph Paul

Mr. Clement Defoe

Mrs. Josephine Warrington

Mr. Saville Hector

Mr. Ducreay Bonnie

Mr. Edward Minette

Mrs. Francisca Francis

Mr. Joseph Francis

Mrs. Josephine Wright

"World Food Day" Awardees:

Mr. Hudson Toussaint

Mr. Luke Prevost

Mr. Eric Frampton

Mrs. Dawn Francis – D-Smart Farms

Mr. Roy Ormond

The Cochrane United Farmers Group is grateful for the partnership of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, who helped make this event possible. Other sponsors of the Event included Home Industries and Mr. Esprit, The Sign Man, D's Patisserie, The Aid Bank, Rosalie Bay Resort, The N.D.F.D., LINK International Productions, Carlton Phillip, Ziamisolomos Visual Arts, N.E.P., Natural Farming & Water Solutions, Kairi FM, Pamela Guiste, many volunteers and the farmers of Cochrane.

About The Cochrane United Farmers Group:

The Farmers group formed in February 2015. The mission of the group is to serve member farmers through educational programs and training workshops that focus on increasing productivity and learning better, healthier and more sustainable ways of farming. The group also advocate for economic development, and improved quality of life for Cochrane's farming community. The Group's vision is for a prosperous, healthy and sustainable farming community that ensures food and nutritional security and contributes to the human and environmental health, economic growth and development for Cochrane. Partners include CARDI, IICA, FAO, the Division of Agriculture.

For more information, contact the President of the Group: Mr. William Sabaroche

By Jessica Canham