NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS – The following is an address by Hon. Alexis Jeffers, Minister of Agriculture in the Nevis Island Administration on the occasion of World Food Day on October 16.
We are pleased to be among more than 150 countries around the world to observe World Food Day on October 16th annually. This day is significant, as it commemorates the date of the founding, of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in 1945.
World Food Day was established by FAO’s Member Countries at the Organization’s 20th General Conference in November 1979. It has since been observed every year, raising awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger.
For the last four years there has been a major theme which is “Our Actions are our Future”, which translates to the future of food is in our hands. A sustainable agri-food system is one in which a variety of sufficient, nutritious, and safe foods are available at an affordable price to everyone, and nobody is hungry or suffers from any form of malnutrition.
While we produce, we must ensure that less food is wasted, and the food supply chain is more resilient to shocks such as extreme weather, price spikes or a pandemic, all while limiting environmental degradation or climate change.
In fact, sustainable agri-food systems deliver food security and nutrition for all without compromising the economic, social and environmental bases for generations to come. This is the guidance for this year’s sub theme – “Better production, better nutrition, a better environment, a better life for all.”
World Food Day 2021 will be observed for a second time as we deal with the widespread effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic. As we transition our economies one of the emerging terms, as we push for the safety of our people, is ‘immune resilience.’ This is achieved through better nutrition.
The food we consume must contain the necessary vitamins, nutrients, minerals and liquids in the correct proportions. Our food systems on Nevis must have this as our guide, as we not only aim to have healthy persons but also seek to have productive individuals.
A healthy and productive population is the basis for strong economies. When the population is less affected by non-communicable diseases (NCD’s), cancers and other nutrition-related conditions, this can lead to the elimination of excessive cost to our health care system. As such, productive individuals will in turn fuel every other sector of the economy from finance to engineering to agriculture and social endeavours.
On Nevis our effort in agriculture seeks the best use of organic compounds to assist in crop production. Whether it is fertilizer or pesticides, we believe that this ensures safety of our food supply. Where the use of chemicals cannot be avoided, we are being guided to make sure that as little trace elements end up in our food system and our environment.
Based on the demands from our population, we realise that we must increase our local production in an effort to reduce the importation of food from larger countries and producers.
We have in the past demonstrated our capacity in several crops and root tubers when we were able to export to neighbouring islands. The introduction of additional shade houses provided by the Federal Government is expected to further bolster our production in cash crops such as peppers, cucumbers, tomato, lettuce and culinary herbs.
Our growth strategy in combination with farmers, seeks balance among issues such as sustainability, profit, abundance, safety, technology, tradition and quality.
We recognise that farming must be done in the most efficient way possible and that it results in returns for our farmers. Farmers in turn must be responsible for the safety and quality of food supplied to the population.
The Department of Agriculture also understands its role in numerous support services, such as land preparation, sales and storage of produce, agro-processing, veterinary and abattoir services.
We continue to empower our staff and farmers with training to deliver on the services and other deliverables that our population requires.
We are grateful for the support from our allied agencies such as the InterAmerican Institute for the Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), the ROC Taiwan Technical Mission, Food and Agriculture Organisation [FAO], Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the GEF Small Grants Program for their support to the sector.
This year we would have scaled back our activities as we are seeking to minimise the risks that are associated with the current pandemic. We however, will award our staff and farmers for their contribution, [host] a fruit, vegetable and meat sale at the market, a Family Fun Day at the Cades Bay Farm, and a Cook Off featuring our Ministers of Government. We ask you to stay tuned to local and social media platforms to participate where possible.
As I end, let me remind you of the theme for World Food Day 2021 – “Our Actions are Our Future – Better production, better nutrition, a better environment and a better life”. The food we choose and the way we consume it affects our health, and that of our planet.
Happy World Food Day 2021 and may God bless us all.