News Date: July 13 2016
IN A QUEST to expand her knowledge and create something new, Tonya Ifill jumped at the idea of applying for a scholarship to attend the Guyana School of Agriculture in 2014.
She pursued the one-year certificate in agro-processing and today she is running her own business, Carlesa’s Enterprise, making use of green bananas in producing flour and pasta.
Ifill said while in Guyana, she did a group project where she made sweet potato and brown rice flour, but she was not content to stop there.
Armed with the knowledge of how to make flours and pastas, Ifill returned to Barbados in June last year and researched the properties of green bananas to make the products.
Casting her mind back to how it all started, Ifill said she was one of four Barbadians to gain the scholarship to study in Guyana. Although she holds a diploma in agriculture from the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic, she was looking for more to add to her repertoire. “I wanted something different to do. It was my intention to create something new that could be added to what we normally eat or how we normally eat a particular food,” she said.
She said people were already doing things with sweet potato, cassava and breadfruit, so she researched green bananas. Speaking of Carlesa’s Enterprise, Ifill said as part of the training in Guyana she learnt how to create and run her own business and the health and safety standards of production to go with it. Working from her St James home, Ifill, who was quick at developing her own product, launched it at Girlfriends Expo earlier this year.
Unfortunately, she did not get to attend BMEX recently due to the birth of her son, now six weeks old, and had been taking it a bit easy. However, in May, some of her products were featured at The Green Festival in Washington, DC.
Ifill said the response to the green banana products had been overwhelming because it was a healthy option. She is in the process of getting additional machinery that has greater capacity. Thanks to help from the Youth Entrepreneurship Scheme, she also is acquiring a large oven to accompany the mill to grind the bananas. She said the products were being embraced by Barbadians, and at times she had found it difficult to meet the demand. “I did not realise that it would have taken off so well, so quickly.”
Ifill, an employee of the Ministry of Agriculture, said green banana flour was a nutrient-rich, easily digestible dehydrated powder enriched with high carbohydrates, starch, vitamins, proteins, minerals, crude fibre, zero fat and sugar. While not ruling out the options of creating new products using green banana flour, Ifill said she would focus on developing other recipes and had been working with chef Sophia Husbands. “It is a new product and I just want people to get familiar with it, rather than putting too many things out there too soon,” she said.