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Kozel Peters-Fraser – working on behalf of farmers

Kozel Peters-Fraser – working on behalf of farmers

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At age 31, Kozel Peters-Fraser is the youngest and only female to have been appointed coordinator for the Windward Islands Farmers Association (WINFA) since it was set up in 1982.{{more}}

Her two predecessors, Renwick Rose, from whom she took over and Robert Fitzpatrick, the Association’s first Coordinator, were both in their late 40s when they took charge of the Association.

Although she has no farming background, Peters-Fraser said she’s passionate about what she does.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Tuesday at her office, Peters-Fraser explained that she gained the knowledge about farming from her past experience working as a Programme Officer with WINFA before she was nominated for the position of Coordinator.

“I got a great sense of appreciation for the type of work that was done. The current challenges that would affect the farming community, how the agricultural sector functions and so forth…”

“But as a young person, as you would recognize that with time, there comes a lot of experience. I think the difference is, is just about being strategic, being tactful, and being smart about your work, because you wouldn’t know everything. You also have to be flexible, open sometimes to other people’s opinions, you have to consult and you have to get feedback from people who’ve been there before you,” she said.

Peters-Fraser is the wife of Information Technology Engineer, Marvin Fraser and has three children.

Originally a Paul’s Avenue resident, Kozel grew up in Gibson Corner but after getting married, returned to Paul’s Avenue because that’s where her roots are, she said.

She is a former student of the C.W Prescott Primary School and the Bishop’s College Kingstown, after which she went onto the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Community College.

After graduating from Community College, Peters-Fraser went off to the University of Cienfuegos, Cuba where she was an Honor student in Economics and Business Sciences.

She was also awarded the University’s Gold Title in 2006, the year she graduated.

After graduating, she explained that her objective was just to use the skills and knowledge she gained during her studies to assist with the development of the country.

“They (WINFA) were advertising for program officer and I applied.

“In 2006, I came on at WINFA as the program officer and then, within a year of working with the organization, I received a merit, like an award of excellence.”

After six months carrying out the duties of progamme officer, Peters-Fraser said she was nominated by Renwick Rose as his successor.

The WINFA Coordinator told SEARCHLIGHT since acquiring the position she has been bombarded with questions such as, “Are you a farmer?” or “Do you have any farming background to be heading such an association?”

“Because I don’t look the part, maybe I don’t look like a farmer and to make it worse, I’m young and I’m a woman. I get it a lot, but I recognize and I always say to people that the face of agriculture is changing and the way that we perceive agriculture, for agriculture to develop, has to change as well .”

According to Peters-Fraser, agriculture is no longer about just the person out in the field, planting.

“It involves people along the entire agricultural value chain, because there are persons for example, who bring in seeds and fertilizer; those persons are involved in agriculture but they are not planting. People who do marketing, who do advocacy work, lobbying, networking, you know, supermarket. Even the consumers themselves are involved in agriculture in some form.

“But what I would say though, that sometimes when people say, you are not a farmer but you’re in agriculture, I often look at other scenarios. I say, for example, our minister of agriculture, he’s not a farmer, but he comes from a farming background.

“I come from a country that has been predominantly farming and agricultural oriented to have a greater appreciation to what agriculture means for the development of my country. So that’s how I normally would answer people. But I recognize though that sometimes as a coordinator, it’s not just about using your skills, you use your skills but you are very strategic in pulling on the strengths of others as well,” she further stated.

As the coordinator of an agricultural association such as WINFA, Peters-Fraser disclosed that it’s not just about sitting behind a desk. It’s also about going out into the fields to experience firsthand some of the challenges farmers face on a day-to-day basis.

“For the times I’ve been out in the field, I like to work with farmers directly, because I really relish the idea of any forum where I can have a direct exchange with the farmers, because you get from them in a real sense what their experiences are, what their challenges are and you want also ensure that you’re in touch with the grass root issues…

“So, having a kind of connection is really critical to the type of work that I do,” she said.

With a young family and a job that consumes 80 per cent of her attention, Peters-Fraser revealed time management is very important.

She says her day starts at 3:30 a.m.

“I have to be ahead of my work, so that when my kids are around, I don’t have work in the way and I’m ahead of it in the office. I already know my task for the particular day so when my staff comes, they meet their work to do.

“So I have to get up ahead. And sometimes, it ends later than the normal person’s day would, but with this kind of position, comes responsibilities and so you have to work a bit harder.”

Her family, on the other hand, is “very supportive” of what she does, Peters-Fraser said.

“I don’t know if it’s patriotism, especially within the whole sense of independence now, but I try to get them (her children) to identify what I do with the bigger picture of the development of the country. And it’s not just about mommy going to work and staying these long hours.

“But at the end of the day, it’s about contributing to a bigger cause, making sure that at the end of the day, farmers know where their markets are, that they’re better taken care of, that their livelihood to sustain, get them to try and understand that so that they can appreciate the work that I do.

“And I love what I do,” Peters-Fraser concluded.(AA)

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