The following is an address by Hon. Alexis Jeffers, Deputy Premier of Nevis and Minister of Agriculture for World Food Day 2020 observed on October 16.
The agriculture sector on the island of Nevis has always had a special place in the heart of the people of Nevis. It is common knowledge that grandparents of thecurrent generation were predominantly working in this important sector from which they were able to nurture our generation.
The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations (UN) has endorsed the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals and has been using the sub theme "Our Actions Our Future." This essentially means that the decisions we make now, especially in terms of agriculture, determines what happens tomorrow. We can decide to plant a tree that would provide fruits in four to five years or we can decide to clear a plot of agricultural land and establish a car wash. We must decide now which action will be most beneficial for our future.
As we observe and celebrate World Food Day 2020, we will celebrate under the theme "Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together." As we are in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has highlighted the issues surrounding food and nutrition security of the various countries across the world and Nevis is no different. With our borders closed it is necessary that our farmers are supported to ensure that they can grow the necessary food items that can support our population.
The food that is cultivated, whether it be plant-based or livestock, should be nutritious that it nourishes the body with the necessary proteins, starches, vitamins and minerals for the maintenance of our health and productivity. As a people, we are in need of healthy food on a daily basis. As such our farmers need to be in a position to be able to provide these foods on a continuous basis, and have a coordinated approach where farmers share the responsibility.
On Nevis, we would have piloted a system in the 1990s that was termed the Nevis Model. This received regional attention. That system targeted the Four Seasons Resort Nevis to ensure a sustained supply of local fruits and vegetables. Our goal going forward is to reintroduce this system but it will be expanded to include all hotels, restaurants and supermarkets on the island.
As a Ministry, we also recognise that to do this we have to support the sector by embracing technology and efficient business practices. According to the FAO website, Smallholder farmers need greater access to finance, training, innovation and technology to improve their livelihoods. As they improve their livelihoods, they also improve productivity.
Further we know that there is wastage of food that happens because of inefficient or poor post-harvest practices. To combat this, the Ministry and Department, a few years ago, with the assistance of Inter-Caribbean Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) established the Agro Processing Plant at Prospect to ensure there are value added products available for the items that cannot be consumed within the fresh stages.
Additionally, we have under construction a six-room walk in refrigerator that we envision will extend the lifespan of fresh produce on the island. This is slated to be commissioned in November.
We have also repaired, in the last two months, a walk-in refrigerator in New River for farmers in the area. This was in a state of disrepair and our quest for food security necessitated this investment.
We have a unique opportunity in Nevis and the Caribbean to educate our populations about the edible varieties of plants and plant products. We must also reacquaint ourselves and our youths about traditional fruits and vegetables that have now made way for less nutritious items on the supermarket shelves. Fruits such as guava, pomegranates, guineps, English plums and manciport have all been shown to be better tasting and more beneficial than the apples, grapes and strawberries that are imported.
Our week of activities to celebrate World Food Day embrace the theme of "Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together." Our activities this year will focus on the consumption of the foods that we produce and demonstrate the different and attractive ways of preparing these dishes. The aim, of course, is to ensure the dishes are tasty and attractive.
We have organised a series of activities to recognise World Food Day. On Tuesday 13, we have a Farmers Market at Beach Road for persons in the upper St. Johns and Gingerland areas from 3:00 to 5:30 p.m. We will also, on Tuesday, visit our senior farmers and retired Department staff.
Wednesday, we will host another Farmers Market. This time at the top of Government Road and later in the evening we will make a radio appearance on the popular “On the Mark" show.
From Thursday to Saturday, we will be at the Nevis Cultural Village for three days of celebrations. Thursday would be dubbed multicultural Thursday, where in addition to our farmers and agro-processors, we will highlight foods from around the Caribbean that use items cultivated on Nevis and Chef Master Classes.
On Friday we have Grill Friday, where we will allow the grill masters of Nevis to serve delicious cuts of pork, beef, chicken and fish.
Our week climaxes on Saturday with a throwback event, where our culinary specialists will feature the traditional foods of Nevis such as konkie, goat water, black pudding and more. We also have down for your interest drink mixology demonstrations and the highlight of the day and week is a Ministers’ Cook-Off.
In closing, as we celebrate World Food Day 2020, I trust these activities will inspire us to "Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together.”
Our future food systems need to provide affordable and healthy diets for all, and decent livelihoods for food system workers, while preserving our natural resources and biodiversity.
Happy World Food Day 2020, and may God continue to bless us all. I thank you.
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