4H Clubs score big overseas
Posing for an after-meeting photo are (left to right) Dr Ronald Blake, executive director of 4H; Collin Virgo, vice-chairman, Global 4H Council and 4H board chairman; Jennifer Sirangelo, CEO, 4H USA; and Franklin Witter, state minister of agriculture and fisheries.

Officials in Washington, DC and Virginia's Loudoun county welcomed a delegation of government officials recently at special meetings and receptions hosted by INMED Partnerships for Children.

These events were part of three-day strategic sessions between INMED and Jamaica 4-H Clubs, the Youth in Agriculture agency of the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, to promote climate-smart agriculture for community development.

Earlier this year, INMED expanded its work in Jamaica by launching the INMED Aquaponics® Social Enterprise through the Jamaica 4-H Clubs to provide youth training in climate-smart agriculture.

The delegation, led by state minister in the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries Franklin Witter, toured the site of INMED USA's future community aquaponics gardens. The gardens will provide fresh, all-natural produce year-round, which can be supplemented by nutrition education, wellness workshops, fitness classes and other resources families need to narrow health equity and food security gaps.

"Kids will also have the opportunity to collaborate with members of the Jamaica 4-H Clubs to learn about and practice sustainable agriculture at the community garden…" said INMED USA's Jennifer Smith. INMED has been working closely with 4H Chairman Collin Virgo, who initiated this national expansion exercise, as well as 4H Executive Director Dr Ronald Blake.

Loudoun County Board Chair Phyllis Randall, who also participated, highlighted Virgo, in his capacities as vice-chairman of the Global 4-H Council, regional 4-H chairman for the Caribbean and Latin America and Dr Blake, in his capacity as technical advisor — 4H Regional Council (Caribbean & Latin America). The Jamaica delegation also received an official proclamation from Leesburg Mayor Kelly Burk at a special ceremony held in their honour. Loudoun county is ranked as the single wealthiest county in the entire United States.

"From the Jamaica Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, we are very excited to explore opportunities to extend our partnership with INMED and meet the local authorities where INMED is headquartered," said Witter. "We are proud of the work we've accomplished together with aquaponics in Jamaica thus far and see tremendous opportunity."

Aquaponics is a combination of hydroponics and aquaculture in a closed symbiotic system that consumes 90 per cent less water, 75 per cent less energy and no chemical fertilisers, pesticides or herbicides while producing up to 10 times more harvests than traditional farming. Resilient to severe climate events, INMED Aquaponics® allows farmers to produce year-round regardless of geographic conditions.

"Our partnership with INMED started out as a local project in Jamaica, and I'm happy to say that from this current engagement, it is morphing into a regional and global project," said Virgo. "This visit to INMED's physical facilities has been an eye opener for our entire team. We had no idea the broad scope of work INMED does and the fantastic things they are achieving in the communities in which they work. We are eager to expand this partnership."

The delegation also had meetings with the 4H USA team led by CEO Jennifer Sirangelo. Virgo was able to secure a commitment for Jamaica's participation in training exercises to be held in Wisconsin later this year, and tentative agreements on exchange programmes to aid knowledge transfer in current and emerging agricultural technology. This, Virgo noted, is key to the mission of exciting and educating the younger population in food security and agricultural enterprise.

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