Sustainable agriculture: More women and youth to be involved to reduce high food imports

Extension Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Ms Jeanelle Kelly (right), with fellow panellist, Mr Lionel ‘Ras Trustme’ Stevens, and panel discussion moderator, Mrs Telca Wallace.

BASSETERRE, ST. KITTS, December 1, 2022 (MMS-SKN) — The Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Marine Resources and Cooperatives is committed to joining other countries in the CARICOM region as they undertake to reduce the region’s extremely large food imports by 25% in 2025. This will be achieved by ensuring sustainable agriculture where among others, more women and youth will be involved.

A cross-section of members of the audience who attended ‘The way forward for Sustainable Agriculture’ panel discussion at the Gideon Force Organic Farm in Old Road on Wednesday November 30.

“In the agriculture and fisheries sector, it is important to support women in business particularly rural women folk and we have seen over the years how some women groups have been formed and thrived e.g. the Fahies Agricultural Women’s Cooperative,” said an Extension Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Ms. Jeanelle Kelly.

The agricultural official made the remarks on Wednesday evening, November 30, at the Gideon Force Organic Farm in Old Road where she was one of the panelists at ‘The way forward for Sustainable Agriculture’ panel discussion.

“Gender issues have been mainstreamed into almost all projects as a balance must be maintained inequitable access to resources that will support sustainability production, greater food security and greater development opportunities in rural areas,” said Ms. Kelly who was accompanied by Crops Programme Leader in the Department of Agriculture, Mr. Ian Chapman.

She further noted: “We see youth involvement in agriculture as an avenue to help sustain the sector as we need to feed into the system as person exit. So far for example we want to build an even stronger relationship with the Clarence Fitzroy Bryant College (CFBC) to show young people the avenues through which they can engage because agriculture is a science.”

The panel discussion was moderated by one of the Federation’s leading women farmers who is also the President of the Liamuiga Agricultural Cooperative Society, Mrs. Telca Wallace.

Other panelists were the President of Gideon Force Organic Farm, Ras Sankofa Maccabee; Extension Officer/Farm Manager of Indian Castle Fruit Tree Orchard, Ministry of Agriculture in the Nevis Island Administration, Mr. Ronald ‘Ras Bankie’ King; President of the Sandy Point Agricultural Co-operative Limited (SPARKS) Mr. Lionel ‘Ras Trustme’ Stevens; and a member of the Gideon Organic Farm, Elder Marcello Agard.

“To put my presentation into context, I want to start off with the concept of sustainable agriculture,” Ms Jeanelle Kelly told members of the audience. “Simply put, ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ is farming – that is growing crops and rearing animals at a steady rate or level over a period of time that is not likely to damage the environment. So, it has to be maintainable, supportable, and workable to be considered sustainable.”

St. Kitts and Nevis Food and Nutrition Security Policy, Ms. Kelly informed the audience, focuses on food availability, food access, food utilisation and food stability, adding that it also provides the framework to achieve food and nutrition security so that the population can function effectively.

She further advised that one area in particular that she wanted to shine a light on was the need to market locally grown foods so there is a greater uptake by citizens and residents, adding that there is a need to sustain the local markets and encourage local cuisines for example at restaurants and hotels.

In her closing remarks, the Extension Officer said that if the government were to be successful in its mandate as highlighted by the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Marine Resources and Cooperatives, the Hon Samal Duggins, the government would have to encourage greater public-private partnerships as the government cannot do it alone.

“We are here to provide an enabling environment, but you as farmers, fishers, and agripreneurs have to invest in your business and seek out investors to make your business grow,” advised Ms. Kelly. “I would have touched on various aspects including policy, climate-smart practices, training, sustainable financing mechanisms, de-risking agriculture, and sustainable use of natural resources-land, soil, and water. These are some of the areas that we have to focus on to move agriculture forward in a sustainable (maintainable, supportable, and workable) manner.”

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