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UVI St. Croix Promotes World Food Day

Oct. 17, 2004 – When we think of current world troubles, hunger might not readily spring to mind. But, as visitors to the University of the Virgin Islands World Food Day were told, over 25,000 people worldwide die every day from hunger.
Sunday on UVI's St. Croix campus, the Cooperative Extension Service, the Agricultural Experiment Station and the V.I. Department of Agriculture demonstrated what they are doing to ensure the continued diversity of our local food supply.
Under brightly colored tents, amid a harvest of bountiful crops, fruit trees, seedlings, exotic fruits, medicinal and flavorful herbs, as well as displays of native dishes, jams, jellies and desserts, loomed the specter of entire countries that cannot produce enough food to feed their populations.
In his remarks, Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Lewis reminded the crowd of recent hurricanes which devastated several Caribbean island nations, and now, because of their already frail infrastructure, many people do not have enough food to eat.
The global decline of cropland is a major cause of starvation, Dr. James Rakocy, agricultural experiment station research director, said. As the population of the world continues to grow, the quantity of food produced is declining. Erosion rates, massive deforestation, the decline of fresh water, energy resources and the accumulation of salt in the soil as a result of improper irrigation and drainage methods all contribute to food shortages, he said.
To help stem the tide of food shortages and land erosion locally, Kofi Boateng, UVI Cooperative Extension Service associate director, said over 4,000 seedlings were propagated to distribute, free of charge, to anyone who wanted them. For those without a "green thumb," demonstrations on preparing the soil, and nurturing and harvesting the free eggplant, basil and pepper plant seedlings would be ongoing during the day.
UVI Chancellor Jennifer Jackson said she was representing UVI President Dr. Laverne Ragster. "The hunger statistics are worrisome," Jackson said. "We need to maintain a balance in the ecosystem." Jackson explained the purpose of the worldwide summit is to renew our commitment to the eradication of hunger and malnutrition. Jackson called for increased community involvement in providing aid to hurricane ravaged Caribbean islands.
World Food Day at UVI was a mixture of food, fun and learning, as curious fair goers questioned the vendors on their wares.
Aberra Bulbulla, originally from Ethiopia and a St. Croix resident for over 11 years, fielded questions from a group gathered around his produce tent. The dark purple "java plum" and the oddly shaped "egg fruit" piqued everyone's curiosity. The java plum, which is the size and shape of a grape could be eaten as is, or made into jam, juice or wine, Bulbulla explained. When ripe and split open, the inside of the egg fruit has the consistency of a hard-boiled egg yolk, he said.
"I have over 40 different varieties of fruit on my farm," Bulbulla, who is also a UVI research analyst, said. "Eventually I can make a good living just from farming." His display also included golden apple, gooseberry, carambola and wild cherries.
Carla Lewis was doing a brisk business with her homemade ginger, almond and passion fruit ice cream, aptly called Crucian Crème. "This is the first time I am selling to the public," Lewis said. "For over a year I tried my recipe on friends and family."
One vendor had a peculiar display of sticks and bark on her table. "That’s kakanga root," she said pointing to one bundle. "It cleans the blood, and it's good for cramps. "And that's white root, its good for high blood pressure and to preserve maubie."
Veronica Gordon calls herself, "the bush woman." She was selling a variety of items all made from native calabash gourds. Jewelry, baby rattles, musical instruments, candle snuffers, Christmas tree ornaments and even salt and pepper shakers were piled high on her table. Gordon said she is writing a book on her craft. "It's called '100 Things to Make from Calabash Gourds,'" she said. "I make 70 different things; I need 30 more."
Over in one of the buildings a cooking class was going on. Extension Service employees Miriam Greene, Rosalind Browne, Blanche Mills and Evannie Jeremiah demonstrated the art of making baked meatballs, pepper steak and eggplant balls to a packed classroom.
UVI World Food Day didn't neglect the younger crowd, either. Included in the fun-filled day were the must-have accessories of any successful outdoor fair. A petting zoo with baby lambs, calves and ducks; donkeys to ride; and face painting delighted the children. The Central High School band and Stanley and the Ten Sleepless Knights provided musical entertainment.

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