NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS – Deputy Premier Hon. Alexis Jeffers, Minister of Agriculture, Cooperatives and Fisheries in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) is calling on stakeholders in the agriculture sector to keep the momentum sparked by the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the Ministry of Agriculture’s Agro Agenda 2021 forum on January 19, 2021, at the St. Paul’s Anglican Church Hall, the Minister said the theme of the annual event “Revitalizing the passion and thrust as we ensure food and nutrition security”, is extremely timely as farmers and government alike seek to build on the gains made in the sector in response to the pandemic.
“This activity is a means of looking forward. Never before in our history, have we seen such a situation where we have had to change our whole attitude toward agriculture. In the past we had a lot of glowing talks about agriculture. It was on the lips of our people, but the action didn’t match our speech and our talk, our discourse but of course we have seen since 2020 that there is an urgency of now.
“Now is the time to plant more; now is the time to engage more; now is the time to ensure that we are providing the nutritious food that our people need, so as to ensure we are cultivating healthy communities. Now is also the time for us to ensure that we are putting ourselves in a position to eliminate any difficulties and stress that may be caused if we were to have a similar situation or a more acute situation that could develop in the future,” he said.
Hon. Jeffers pointed out that as a result of the NIA putting certain plans in place for the agriculture sector in January 2020, coupled with the COVID-19 stimulus provided to farmers and fishers in March, there had been a marked increase in food production on Nevis over the past several months, and the time had come for the island to be in a position to feed itself.
“We want to ensure that if we are able to feed ourselves for a year or more, it therefore means that we are moving to what we consider import substitution. We cannot go about our business depending on other countries to feed us anymore. We have to find our way to feed ourselves, and that is why these activities are important, to engage our stakeholders, to engage the general public, and to ensure that all of us are onboard in our effort to ensure that we are providing a strong and vibrant agricultural economy here in Nevis, and by extension the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis,” he said.
The Minister encouraged stakeholders to continue the collaborative efforts exhibited during the crisis in order to strengthen the local agricultural economy going forward, so that the island’s food import bill could continue to trend downward.
“So all of the various sectors of the agricultural economy must be working cohesively; we must be working as partners to ensure that collectively we are building an agriculture infrastructure that would provide us with the security and sustainability that we seek to achieve now and in the future…
“We have the resources, we have the tools, let us put them to good use… I want us to continue to build on those principles that we have been talking about. Let us grow what we eat and eat what we grow, and let our food be our medicine and let our medicine be our food, he advised.
Agro Agenda 2021 provided stakeholders in the sector with data on the performance of the various areas in the sector from the previous year and outlined projections and plans for 2021.
The event saw in attendance Hon. Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis, other Cabinet Ministers from the NIA, officials from the Nevis Department of Agriculture and the federal Ministry of Agriculture, farmers, and representatives from allied agencies.