Bevon Charles from Granada is getting into sustainable agriculture for #BreakTheBias

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The world of agriculture was once seen as a man’s world, with men being the sole providers…but now women are also taking on the role of nurturing communities and advancing technology in the sector.

One such person is Bevon Chadel Charles, 31, CEO and founder of Akata Farms. She is a self-employed farmer in Grenada.

In 2021, Charles won a Commonwealth Youth Award for the Caribbean region for creating climate-smart farms in the Caribbean with a focus on Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger.

What inspired her to enter the agricultural industry

Charles says from memory that she remembers being involved in farming while growing up with her father who is a farmer. By being in this space, she developed a passion and a love for it.

“Looking at the society and environment I grew up in, I knew it could be an industry of change, so I started early to see how agriculture can transform communities and lives.

For me, it was an easy decision.

What is Akata Farms?

Akata Farms is a self-contained farm. What does it mean? Charles says they are very productive, but whatever they produce, the inputs are controlled.

“We want to be autonomous; we want to rely on our own natural resource located on our site that can produce. So there are a lot of principles that we follow to be a self-sufficient farm, whether it’s productivity or profitability, but our concern is to be a social enterprise for change, how farming can mitigate many social problems we face because of hunger, unemployment and the lack of young people in agriculture.

Charles says that while it may seem like a big mandate to swallow, when done correctly, a particular farm can solve many social problems facing a community.

“We produce, reduce domestic imports, build capacity, educate, make profit to grow, and use technology.”

Akata Farms produces a wide variety of short crops on traditional and non-traditional systems using smart practices.

“Livestock, poultry, creating value-added products, making our own fertilizers and our own feeds…it all has to co-exist to be more efficient,” Charles explains.

“The goal is to produce high quality, affordable and fresh food for our customers.”

The Caribbean and recognizing the importance of agriculture

Charles believes the COVID-19 pandemic has intensified the conversation in the Caribbean region about the need to be self-sufficient in agriculture, which she says was not the case before and was an afterthought.

“Now we see with the global changes that we have to do it, the conversation is there. I am happy with what is happening.” Charles, however, continues to keep his eyes peeled for how farmers will play a vital role in this regard.

Is the agricultural sector still a “man’s world”?

They do, but they’re slowly being drowned out when you look at the population, the women are leading the charge, Charles says.

“Since ancient times, men were seen as providers and women as nurturers, but now women are taking a stand because they want change and we need to build strong communities. That’s a woman’s job to do that…take responsibility, feed the community and feed the country.

Charles notes that there is a change and she hopes to see more women in the Caribbean taking up this charge.

Challenges faced as a woman in agriculture

There were a lot of them, at one time it was a male-dominated field, Charles said.

“We still have that on the island here, older men. A lot of times I walk into meetings and they’re hoping to see a man because of my name…they think it’s a man coming and it’s interesting to see how they react to see how a young woman gets on. involves in the industry.

The challenges I faced weren’t just because I’m a woman, I think I’m more of a young person.

Charles says it’s hard to get involved in an industry in Grenada that is very neglected and not taken seriously because it has to do with their culture and isn’t the people’s fault.

The challenges she often faces as an entrepreneur are related to running the business, day-to-day management and all the financial aspect of farming.

“But often I believe in planning ahead, having strategic plans laid out for your own development. It has helped me adapt to the changes that are going on.

Charles notes that COVID -19 has not affected his business, but has actually grown it.

What she hopes to accomplish as a woman in agriculture

I want to play a part in how we end hunger and poverty in the world. I want to use the sustainable farms model and get as many of these farms into the Caribbean region.

What do you like most about what you do?

I love being able to create and innovate, seeing lands that have been sitting there for many years and turning them into something productive and being able to feed my people.

I love it… planting, designing a suitable farm, listening to farmers and trying to make their lives easier. Marketing… branding everything.

Does a farmer have time for his hobbies?

Charles makes sure to note that hobbies are important. She enjoys reading and writing, meeting people and going to the beach.

When it comes to maintaining a good work-life balance, Charles says mental health is important as day-to-day affairs can be daunting, as she says there have been times when she felt like giving up. .

“You can’t bring this to your family. But I surrounded myself with my family who understands what I’m trying to do.

On this International Women’s Day, her advice to other women wishing to enter the agricultural sector

Don’t take anything for granted, we are responsible for feeding our families and our communities. It is a responsibility that is heavy and to assume it.

Don’t think you can’t do it, there are many examples around the world of women leading the charge for change.

Start small and grow, be passionate about what you do and share your story. This is how you create encouragement for others.

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