October 9th, 2019 -- Mr. Augustine Merchant has retired from the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture Delegation in St Kitts and Nevis after serving the Institution for nineteen years. Prior to this, he served as Director of Agriculture on Nevis and gave a total of over forty years of sterling public service to the Federation of St Kitts and Nevis.
After the completion of his high School education, he pursued teachers’ education and training at the St. Kitts–Nevis Teachers’ Training College and subsequently the Guyana School of Agriculture. Upon graduation in 1977, he was assigned to the Gingerland Secondary School where he introduced Agricultural Science at the Cambridge General Certificate in Education (GCE) O’ Level. The examination results were outstanding. Two students, Mr Sydney Newton and Mr Antonio ‘Abonaty’ Liburd received distinctions. In 1981, the Gingerland High School became the first school in the Federation to attempt the Caribbean Agricultural Council (CXC) Examination. In that first year, his class received a pass rate of 98% with Mr. Eric Evelyn receiving a Distinction. Mr. Merchant’s phenomenal success did not go unnoticed. The late Professor Thomas Henderson of the University of the West Indies and Director of the Regional Caribbean Extension Project (CAEP) in recommending Mr. Merchant to the United States, Hubert Humphrey Fellowship Committee wrote the following “My investigation that there was in Nevis a young, highly motivated, enthusiastic teacher, Mr. Merchant, who utilized to the fullest the meagre resources of the Ministry of Education and through sheer personal persuasion and amiable interpersonal relationships obtained access to the farm and field resources of the island’s small Department of Agriculture. From these he developed a teaching programme, which challenged and aroused the interest of his students who were in turn inspired by his obvious zeal in this subject. Hence the reason why Nevis, one of the smallest and least endowed islands in CARICOM, (least endowed in both laboratory and field facilities) produced some of the best results in the regional Agricultural Science Examination.”
Mr. Merchant obtained a Bachelor of Agriculture (Upper Second Class Honours) from the University of the West Indies, and on his return to Nevis was appointed Director of Agriculture. The first order of business was to enhance the delivery capability of his extension staff and to inculcate in his farmers a sense of confidence and pride. In 1991, he pursued a MSc at Reading University in Great Britain,
The following are some of his achievements while serving as Director:
Development of the first irrigation project in the Federation at New River Estate, Nevis and the widespread use of drip irrigation system by farmers on Nevis.
Organized and instituted the “Open Day” which has become the Department of Agriculture flagship activity.
The Development of 7 catchment dams at Cades Bay, which store 6.5 million gallons of water for use by farmers
The development and nurturing of agricultural cooperative societies included the Nevis Growers Association and the Nevis Beekeepers’ Association.
The development of a marketing approach that is known as the “Nevis Model”, which is a closely integrated production and marketing system and regarded as a “Best Practice” in the Caribbean. This marketing system was able to sell over EC$400,000 worth of vegetable and meat annually to the Four Seasons’ Hotel over a ten (10) year period.
In 2008, Mr. Merchant was honored with the Silver Jubilee Award by the Nevis Island Administration for his “exemplified excellence, innovation and leadership with agricultural development of St Kitts and Nevis”.
In 2011, he was again honored in Washington, DC by the Nevisian Association of Washington, DC (NEVDC) for being “an educator to students, booster to farmers, a promoter of sustainable development of our agricultural resources and a tireless champion of all things Nevisian.”
At the commemoration of our thirtieth (30) Independence celebration in 2013, Mr Merchant was one of thirty persons to be recognized by the Federal government for outstanding contribution to the Federation.
From 2000 to the present time, Mr. Merchant has been employed as the Coordinator of St Kitts and Nevis for the Inter American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). He has contributed significantly to the Development of Agriculture in St Kitts and Nevis by addressing issues pertaining to the priority areas of the Institute.
Over the past eight years, through his leadership at IICA, he has assisted local farmer organizations in achieving grant funds of over EC$500,000.00 from CIDA, Australian Government Fund, UNESCO, PAHO and the New Zealand High Commission.
Receiving grant funds for Project Strong (led by the indefatigable Washington Archibald) for project entitled,” Preparing disadvantaged Teenagers for self employment. This project facilitated activities in viable areas such as beekeeping, agriculture, needle work, basketry and agro-processing and was valued at EC$65,000.
Project proposal developed for St Kitts Farmers Cooperative. They received EC$ 49,000 to purchase a walk-in chill room, 1500 crates and 50,000 labels. Also grant fund of EC$43,000 to purchase inputs such as seeds, fertilizers and fencing wire and fund of US$20,000 to purchase hammer mill and labeling machine and printer.
Received grant funds for Green houses for government school farm in St Kitts, Prospect Agricultural Station, Charlestown Primary and Secondary schools and Gingerland High School.and valued at EC$ 200,000
Received grant fund of over EC$125,000 to procure equipment for the Nevis Agro-processing Centre.
Grant of US$10,000 to the Nevis Fishermen Cooperative to procure fishing wire, rope and buoy.
Grant of US$11,000 to the New River Farmers” Cooperative to purchase walking chiller.
Grant fund of US$11,000 to the Nevis agro-processors’ Cooperative to purchase hammer mill, fence the agro-processing Centre and purchase one labeling machine and printer.
Received grant funds of EC$70,000 for the Clarence Fitzroy College to establish hydroponic system.
Mr. Merchant has been the recipient of many awards to pursue various academic studies, These included the following:
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) Award to pursue agricultural science at the undergraduate level.
British Chevening Award to pursue post- graduate study in Agricultural development at Reading University in the United Kingdom
United Nation Environmental Programme (UNEP) Fellowship to study social Forestry at Dresden University in Germany
United States Hubert Humphrey Fellowship for Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean to study agricultural development for one year at Cornell University in the United States.
He was a very keen Cricketer during his playing days and represented Nevis at Cricket in the Leeward Island Tournament and also the Reading University Cricket Team. In addition, he captained the St. Kitts and Nevis Teachers’ Training College, the Guyana School of Agriculture and the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine Cricket Teams.
At the 2019 Independence Celebration, Mr Merchant was a Nominee for a National Award. - Companion of the Star of Merit (CSM).
Mr Merchant is married to Mrs Carmelita Merchant and they have three daughters; Kelva, Kurlyn and Carmesha.
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