By Kevon Browne
St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): This week the Federation is keeping the spotlight on food production, farming, and buying local, with a number of activities earmarked to observe World Food Day, under this year’s theme “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together”.
Issues of food security are now front and center as countries grapple with the disruption in trade caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and move to focus heavily on sustainable farming for food security rather than continued dependence on food imports.
During the Tuesday (October 13) broadcast of “Island Tea”, representatives from the Department of Agriculture discussed the issues of the day including the connection between the Department of Agriculture and individual farmers and Agro processors.
Lionel Stevens, President of the Sandy Point Agricultural Cooperatives Society said while a connection existed there was room for improvement.
“Yes, it is a connection, but it could always be better. But still I as a farmer, and a cooperative member, I like to stress the fact that We are the farmers We are one of the biggest stakeholders in the sector and we do not meet to discuss problems, issues, ways forward. So many times whenever activities things are happening as it pertains to agriculture we are left out because we do not have that representative that would be here to speak on all of our behalfs… it would be like an individual farmer who represented him… If we, as far as what really forge to farm and Association, a Union where we collectively can champion the cause of our problems or challenges, then we’re in a better position to collaborate or initiate… [a] relationship with the ministry and the department … But I’m saying, Yeah, from the farmer side, we need to come together and try to address some of our problems … So if it’s like forever was 100 of us know saying well this is a problem you can ignore 100 voices saying the same thing…”
He argued that farmers can do more to reduce their dependence on the government.
“As farmers, sometimes we make money, sometimes we struggle. I’m saying when we making it, if all of us would put something in a basket at some point in time, we have something to address a problem. For example, we know hurricane [comes] every year. And there is a possibility that we could get damage and we could get set back. So what if, as farmers, we want to contribute let’s say $20 a month to a Hurricane Relief Fund for us… The money is there, if a hurricane [comes], we could check who contributing and see what you have and you could say, well … [I have a] 1000, give me 800 [out of my] 1000 [leave back something], and you could kick start your program.
“Whenever the government decides to help now that’s a plus … We have to take the initiative to start to do things for we not just me but for we because ain you one got the problem. So why you must take a half a million loan to bring in a tractor and then you still go work for all kinds of people …when we could put the money together bring in the tractor and the tractor service all of us. So these are the things I as a young farmer trying to encourage so that 20 years down the line things ain’t so hard. Because I know man farming for years and up to this day they don’t have water to farm with. Land preparation is still a problem, so these are things basic things that we as farmers need to try and address. The Department could help in many ways; but we must be the forerunners to address our problems.”
Questions remain: With the increased emphasis on sustainable agriculture why hasn’t there been an emergence of a Farmers of Agro processors association? With a unionized voice, wouldn’t the actual experts in the agricultural fields have a greater influence on the decisions made in the agriculture sector?