The Gilbert Agricultural & Rural Development Center (GARD Center) is a leading training facility, targeting youth and women providing positive entrepreneurial and employment alternatives.
The Center is celebrating twenty-seven years of existence serving the people of Antigua and Barbuda, in November 2016, under the theme: 27 years: Positively Changing the Face of Youth-At-Risk.
Winner of several prestigious awards, including the Female Social Entrepreneur Award 2016, from the Global Innovation Partnership (GIP) and the Caribbean Center of Excellence for Sustainable Livelihoods (CoESL). This was presented to Mrs. Williams along with 19 other Caribbean women in the Region, who were awarded as a result of their creativity and expertise in mobilizing financial and other resources to help people build sustainable livelihoods through entrepreneurship and / or entrepreneurial acumen and support to develop people for progress in alignment with the Sustainable Development Goals.
In 2014, the Center received a Lifetime Service Award from the Department of Youth Affairs for its training and development of the youth of Antigua and Barbuda since November 1989.
On Friday, 1 November 2013, during the 32nd Independence Ceremony of the Nation of Antigua and Barbuda, the Executive Director of the GARD Center, Mrs. Roberta Williams received the Grand Officer of the Most Illustrious Order of Merit (GOM). This national award was for her work over the last twenty-four (24) years with youth and community development through the GARD Center.
Roberta, informed staff of her award and wrote, “This award is for all of us, for all those who over the years have contributed to the growth of our Center and to all of you who are incredible. I cannot say thank you enough… Thank you all again for your passion and support. May God bless you all and to Him all honor and glory.”
The Center has also been the recipient of the Inter-American award for the participation of women in Rural Development 1998-99, in international public recognition of the important contributions to the development of agriculture and to improving the quality of rural life.
The GARD Center is an ecumenical program of The Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA).
The Gilbert Agricultural & Rural Development Center (GARD Center) is located on the historic Gilbert’s Estate in Antigua and Barbuda in the Eastern Caribbean. The property is owned and managed by the Trust of the Methodist Church in the Caribbean and the Americas (MCCA).
The GARD Center evolved as an entity from a two year pilot project which was implemented in 1989 as a collaborative effort amongst the MCCA, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)/Canada Training Awards Project (CTAP), and the Government of Antigua-Barbuda.
The mission of this pilot project was to train young people in practical agriculture and to demonstrate and promote farming as a worthy and viable occupation. This mission evolved from CIDA/CTAP’s recognition that the average age of the Caribbean farmer was 50 years, and it was apparent that the younger generation was not selecting agriculture or its related industries as an occupational choice.
Farming unfortunately was viewed by many young people as drudgery, high risk and not a viable means to increase one’s standard of living. With this reality in mind, a collaborative partnership was formed involving:
- The MCCA who provided the land for a demonstration farm, classroom and office facilities.
- The CIDA/CTAP who contributed financial support for a Consultant, Project Manager, Tutors, trainee stipends and training materials.
- The Government of Antigua-Barbuda who contributed utilities, technical staff from the Ministry of Agriculture and provision of lands for the graduates of the programs.
Because of the success of the two-year pilot project, the MCCA and the project management saw the need to broaden the objectives of the project and establish a full time training and rural development center. As a rural development and training center, the GARD Center has responded to changing trends as it tries to prevent a threatened drop in the standard of living. Since 1993 the Center had offered agricultural and enterprise training to youth between the ages of sixteen and thirty since 1993. In 1996 the Center began targeting the training of unemployed and low-income women. This training focused on life skills and entrepreneurial skills with specific emphasis in the use of natural resources in agriculture and other forms of rural enterprises. It is with this background that the GARD Center has developed it pace setting-programs as an effective response in targeting youth and women in an effort to improve their welfare and standard of living and to address and ensure their continued development and sustainability. It is in this context, through the mechanism of the MCCA, that Center was created as a social investment in people.