Nova Scotia

Groups working to get more Black Nova Scotians, immigrants in agri-food industry

The agri-food industry is facing challenges due to an aging demographic and a lack of newcomers, says one organization.

Organizations hope removing barriers to participation will help ensure food security

Divine Gbeve is projects co-ordinator for the East Preston Empowerment Academy, one of the organizations participating in the effort. (Divine Gbeve Onyenike)

With Nova Scotia's agri-food industry facing challenges, several organizations are coming together to get more Black Nova Scotians and newcomers involved in agriculture and food-related businesses.

As part of that effort, organizations held a networking event and jollof rice cook-off to raise funds Thursday afternoon in Dartmouth.

The agri-food industry in Nova Scotia is facing serious challenges. Several organizations are coming together to help get more African Nova Scotians and recent immigrants involved in agriculture and local food related businesses. Hear why that's important for the future of agri-food.

Kate Zsiros of CBDC Blue Water, the group that spearheaded the event, told CBC Radio's Information Morning Halifax that food security is an important issue.

"We have an aging demographic in our agri-food industry and a lack of new entrants as well," Zsiros told guest host Preston Mulligan on Thursday.

"What we're wanting to do here is essentially help those newcomers, African Nova Scotians and really anyone ... who's looking to start an agri-food business, remove those barriers that are affecting them."

Kate Zsiros is project development co-ordinator at CBDC Blue Water, a non-profit organization that provides financial and technical services to entrepreneurs, and helps in the creation of small businesses. (Kate Zsiros )

Zsiros said partner organizations offer a variety of training and programs, but a research report found there was a disconnect between the groups.

After meetings with stakeholders, it was decided that a more systemic approach was needed, and that led to Thursday's networking event, said Zsiros.

Transportation lacking

A lack of transportation options available to Black Nova Scotians and recent immigrants is also a problem barring entry into the sector, she said.

To make Thursday's event more accessible, Zsiros said they partnered with the community organization, MusGo Rider Cooperative, to provide free transportation to anyone who requested it.

Divine Gbeve of the East Preston Empowerment Academy said her organization works to empower members of the Black Nova Scotian community and immigrants with whatever tools they need to be successful in their chosen trade. 

The academy offers adult learning classes and trade preparation exams, among other programs, Gbeve said.

In addition to transportation barriers, Gbeve said a lack of available information was another challenge and community members were not always told about available opportunities.

Providing resources

She said the networking event was an opportunity for community members to speak to various people about the agricultural industry and how they can get involved.

"It's not about owning a big company," she said.

"Even if you just want to learn how to grow something in your backyard ... this would be a good way to come and meet some people that might be able to provide you with some much-needed resources or some much-needed information to get started."

Half of the proceeds from the jollof rice cook-off will go to the East Preston Empowerment Academy, with the other half going to participants, said Zsiros.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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With files from Information Morning Halifax

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