NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (May 03, 2022) — The following is an address by Deputy Premier Hon. Alexis Jeffers, Minister of Agriculture, Cooperatives and Fisheries in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) in observance of Agriculture Awareness Month 2022.
The Ministry of Agriculture in the Nevis Island Administration will celebrate the 10th anniversary of Agriculture Awareness Month. Ten (10) years ago, upon assuming responsibility for the Ministry of Agriculture, we initiated this month of activities to highlight the importance of Agriculture to the economic and social fabric of Nevis.
Indeed, over the past 10 years during this month of activities:
· We have highlighted the impact of the crop and livestock sectors through workshops
· We have conducted outreach activities such as farm assistance
· We have recognised our outstanding farmers and staff
· We have distributed farm inputs such as seeds, seedlings and fertilizers
· We have showcased various locally produced products
This year we continue this journey of highlighting and reminding our community about the importance of this agriculture sector. Our 2022 celebration is being done under the theme ‘Fostering Economic Growth through Innovation’. We continue to say that without the foundation of agriculture our economy remains vulnerable, and so we pledge to work further with our farmers, agro-processors and allied agencies to ensure food and nutrition security.
The Department of Agriculture has engaged in several initiatives such as a land audit where we are assessing the allocations of lands made in the past to farmers. This audit is meant to identify the lands that are being fully utilized as they are supposed to be, as against those that are underutilized which should not be the case. Upon the conclusion of this land audit process the Department will undertake a land re-distribution exercise with the view of further enhancing crop and livestock production on Nevis. Another initiative being employed is a crop scheduling program; this it is believed, will eliminate the gluts and scarcities experienced in the past where there is both over production and under production at different times in the year. The Department is also actively engaged in an animal census and this we hope would lead to better coordination of the meat supply on the island.
This year as we observe Agriculture Awareness Month and its theme, we want to continue supporting our farmers, which in turn supports the economy of Nevis. We also recognise the current global trends of rising transportation costs, food production and distribution complications, and the hoarding of agricultural inputs by larger countries, as a clear and present danger to our way of life. Our economic development model made us dependent on an efficient global trading system and less reliant on local suppliers, however, in times of great stress our vulnerabilities are exposed. Examples of these are the rising food costs at our local supermarkets and empty shelves.
The Ministry and Department of Agriculture continue to invest heavily in the Support Framework for our sector. These areas include the quarantine for pest and disease control, our engineering unit which undertakes land preparation and maintenance, our plant propagation unit that provides seedlings and fruit trees, the Larinson Parry Depot which includes all of its accompanying, services and of course our veterinary and livestock extension services. All these areas play a pivotal role in strengthening and sustaining such a framework.
Overall AGRI-FOOD systems support healthy diets for healthy communities. Therefore, our aim is to reduce or eliminate nutrient deficiencies which either lead to obesity or malnutrition. As we innovate, it calls for even greater use of technology, where we are able to have precision agriculture that not only supports consumption but also preserves the environment in an era of climate change. Furthermore, we continue in our efforts to reduce our food import bill on items we can produce locally through new technologies and innovations. We have already identified the necessary resources needed to ensure that production and productivity stays continuous.
As we observe the 10th anniversary of Agriculture Awareness Month, we have put together a month of activities in 2022 that we hope will continue to bolster the agriculture sector. Along with our allied agencies, we have organised a few workshops with the dates and times to be publicized; these include:
§ Roots, Banana & Plantain Production (organized by IICA / CADRDI)
§ Organic Farming Workshop – mainly for backyard farmers which emphasizes production without chemicals
§ Pesticide Usage & Application – this aims to educate on the proper use so as not to harm farmers and consumers
§ Post-Harvest Workshop – to ensure that the appropriate handling is done to reduce contamination and ensure adequate storage
§ Farmers Outreach – our Vet and Livestock staff will be meeting with farmers to hear concerns and address pertinent issues
Towards the end of the month, the Department will again be supporting our farmers by distributing seedlings and fertilizers, as the time draws closer information will be made available.
We also will engage in activities to further market our products by offering samples and sale opportunities throughout the month.
There are also plans to honour and recognise members of staff as well as farmers who have performed very well over the recent past at an awards ceremony and cocktail.
As we embark on this observance of Agriculture Awareness Month we thank you for your support in the past and we continue to crave your support for the future. When we do not work together we all become victims, however, when we work together we all become beneficiaries.
I now take great pleasure in officially launch the 10th observance of Agriculture Awareness Month of May 2022. We once again solicit the involvement of all of our stakeholders. We continue to seek the support of all Ministries and Departments within the Nevis Island Administration, and we continue to seek God’s protection and blessings upon the island and people of Nevis.
I thank you.