Address to mark Agriculture Awareness Month open

NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (May 04, 2018) —The following is an address by Hon. Alexis Jeffers, Minister of Agriculture in the Nevis Island Administration in observance of Agriculture Awareness 2018.

Fellow citizens and residents, it is my pleasure to address you at the start of the 6th Celebration of Agriculture Awareness Month which runs from May 1st to May 31st each year. Upon assuming office in 2013 this administration saw the need to recognise and celebrate the contributions of our stakeholders and partners to the sector which includes crop, livestock, fisheries, cooperatives, agro-processing and bee keeping.  We believe persons who are our primary producers, are amongst the most important in our Island, and this is our way to ensure they get their due recognition.

The theme for this year’s celebrations is ‘Building Resilience to Climate Change for Food Security.’ This is the same theme we used at our Open Day earlier this year, and it is a theme on which we will place significant emphasis because of its relevance in the time in which we now operate.

We have experienced in recent times extreme weather conditions such as droughts, floods and hurricanes which have made it much more difficult for our farmers and fishers folks to provide a consistent supply of food to our local households.  And as such, the Ministry of Agriculture, with the assistance of our allied agencies are constantly assessing the environmental and economic conditions and advising farmers on the most efficient ways of producing.

As we speak about Food Security in our theme we have to also think about Nutrition Security.  It is one thing to produce food and make it available; however, as we continue to partner with the Ministry of Health we have to make sure that the items produced are of a high quality that does not make our population ill.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Agriculture has to ensure that there is Food Safety – our Quarantine Division will work with farmers as they treat pests and diseases so as to ensure  there are no harmful residual effects on harvested crops.  There is also a thrust by our Extension Service towards organic farming which uses natural methods both to enhance and protect crops.

Food Security also has to be tied to Economic security of our householders – this means that the food produced on Nevis must not be out of the reach of our most vulnerable residents.  We have seen in some cases where the cost of fresh and healthy food at the Public Market and Supermarkets sometime double what it cost from farmers. This will have to be addressed.

Our Month long celebrations feature Sales of Meat and Vegetables every Friday in the Month of May, the First two being at the Public Market.  On the Third Friday we are happy to support the Farmers in the New River Area who are having the New River Farmers Day on Friday 18th May.  On the 4th Friday which is the 25th of May we move back to Charlestown this time for the Pork Festival showcasing the varied pork products from our abattoir.

Another of the highlights for our month of activities is an open week at the Prospect Experimental Station – the idea behind this event is to showcase to the general public and especially school children some of the activities that are undertaken there.  We intend to expose persons to the various careers in the Sector and the earning potential.  From a combined effort of a few units we will serve samples of foods that are 100 percent local – Be it Main Courses, Snacks, Drinks or Deserts.

As usual we are happy to support the Indian Castle Fisher Folk Association with their fishing tournament which takes place on Labour Day Monday 7th May at Indian Castle Beach.

During the month as well we will have a Church Service,  and Staff Fun Day which we are inviting farmers and other Primary producers to come and interact with the staff at the Ministry and Department of Agriculture in a relaxed and fun environment.  These opportunities we feel would strengthen the bonds among the Ministry, Stakeholders and our clients.

Fellow Nevisians, it is time that we understand that we cannot function the same way and using very similar methods that worked 50 or 20 years ago.  As a society we have grown in Knowledge, Technology and Techniques – we have to be able to use all of the information we have to make our lives better. Mechanisation, Best Practices and even Computer Applications have proven themselves in other areas of the world, therefore there is no reason why we cannot do it on Nevis.  We have seen on a limited scale on Nevis the success of Protected Agriculture and Hydroponics – these two methods use less space and fewer resources over the life of the plants, yet can produce 4-5 times as much.

Based on research we know about the selection of certain varieties and species that perform best in our climatic conditions whether it be goats, pigs, cabbages or even peppers; we can indeed feed our people and the Ministry pledges to hold its end as we move forward.

As the Ministry of Agriculture along with allied agencies position ourselves to being resilient in the face of rapidly changing and unpredictable climatic conditions, we need our farmers to be on the same page to ensure there is Food Security. This as mentioned earlier, means Nutrition Security, Food Safety and Affordable Food to as many members of our community.

With those few words it is my pleasure to declare Agriculture Awareness Month 2018 open and I invite one and all to join us in our endeavour to move the Sector Forward.

May God continue to guide, protect and bless us all.

Thank you

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