While here Ambassador Schuller, accompanied by Austria’s Honorary Consul in St. Kitts and Nevis Mr. Reginald Amory will visit the Saddlers Herbal Project, which is financed by the Austrian Embassy.
The pilot project in organic farming initiative is experimental and unique on the island and has three objectives. Firstly to plant medicinal and aromatic plants as alternative crops in monkey infested agricultural areas of Saddlers. This will help to create income for farmers.
It also seeks to work with the youth to transmit traditional plant knowledge and offer hands-on agricultural training, together with international volunteers and advisors. They will also link international university advisors and establish international university cooperation for joint research on the farm.
The project which started in May, involves the Foreign Ministry of Austria, The Archdiocese of Vienna, Austria, Austrian Cooperation Agency, “Horizont3000”; Vienna University, Austria; Soyar (Save our Youth at Risk-Association); U.S. Peace Corps; University of the West Indies and the Ministry of Education, St. Kitts and Nevis.
It is currently in its first phase and different medicinal and aromatic plants have been planted on a quarter acre of the farm.
“We are observing monkey behaviour towards these new crops before planting at a larger scale in order to service international markets. Drought in June has slowed process of planting,” said Dr. Elisabeth Karamat, who published her autobiographic novel “Honigmann” (Honey Man), in German.
Volunteers from Austria and Germany are participating in the pilot project by bringing their skills, such as donkey training for farm and speech therapy for special needs children.
The University of Vienna, Austria has confirmed its scientific cooperation with “Saddlers Herbal Project” and will send students from Austria to St. Kitts to write their master’s thesis on the project. A publication in English and German is planned.
Students and at-risk youth are to participate in summer camps in the project to gain traditional knowledge and new techniques with local and tropical medicinal plants.
The farm is a drug and alcohol free zone and international volunteers will bring in their skills to work with youth in improving their personal skills in a playful way.
The project also tackles the growing risk for plant diversity in the Caribbean that is considered by Conservation International as a “hot spot”.
Until 2005 St. Kitts was a sugar producing island fairly untouched by tourism. With rainforest on the volcano and unspoiled land, the biodiversity on the island has been better maintained than on other neighbouring islands.
Stennett Harvey better known as “Kwando” is a beekeeper, farmer and spiritual Healer and offered the farmland to the project that has been farmed by him and previously by his father for many years.
Apart from the land, Stennett Harvey has local plant and farm knowledge that he is contributing to the project. He is supervising the planting and care taking of the plants.
Elisabeth Karamat is an Austrian former career diplomat with a PhD in law. She took a leave from her foreign ministry in 2009 to come to St. Kitts and work in agriculture with the youth and has established contacts abroad and monitors procedures, project progress and budget.
Andrew Davis is a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Saddlers, St. Kitts. He is helping in the work with youth in the project. Before joining the Peace Corps, he had prior experience as a youth counselor in the United States. As a Peace Corps volunteer he is currently attached to both the Department of Sport under the Ministry of Youth and to Saddlers Secondary School.