The famous turquoise water of the Caribbean Sea laps the shores of dozens of countries, like the tiny island nation of Nevis. Together with nearby “big sister” St. Kitts, the islands are home to more than 50,000 people—including new EARTH students Devene Smithen (’18, Nevis) and Prince Arrindell (’18, Nevis.) As the very first Nevisian students at EARTH, their arrival represents an important achievement in expanding EARTH’s mission in the Caribbean.
EARTH has grown from a university dedicated to communities of the humid tropics to a global institution representing more than 35 countries in Latin America, Africa, Europe and the Caribbean. In the past, recruiting students from isolated regions has been challenging—principally due to EARTH’s unique admissions process, which sends faculty to personally interview pre-selected candidates in their country of origin. The University also initially faced complications in admitting non-Spanish speakers, but the Spanish Immersion Program has had great success in preparing students with the language skills they need to succeed.
The future of agriculture in Nevis:
Small island nations like Nevis share common challenges such as dependence on international trade and imports, vulnerability to natural disasters and fragile eco-systems with limited resources. Nevis is no exception: once known for it’s massive sugarcane sector, a string of destructive hurricanes in the late 1990s devastated the sugar industry, which was officially closed in 2005. Today, the majority of the island’s income comes from tourism.
New student Devene, who worked as a Rural Extension Officer before coming to Costa Rica, sees a niche in the market that she thinks could be filled by the sustainable agriculture training she receives at EARTH. She explains, “When tourists come to the island, they want to eat Nevisian food, but almost everything they are eating is imported. I think I could change that. I could make it so we grow a wider variety of produce and then sell it to the hotels and restaurants and that consumers would appreciate having local produce.”
Nineteen-year old Prince is looking forward to the entrepreneurial training at EARTH, and dreams of one day owning his own agribusiness and helping young Nevisians to do the same. “A long time ago, Nevis was known as the Queen of the Caribbean because we produced so much sugarcane. Our soil is blessed, and we could be growing so much more.”
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