Alexis Jeffers – Nevis’ Minister of Agriculture
May 01, 2019
The following is an address by Hon. Alexis Jeffers, Deputy Premier and Minister of Agriculture in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA), to mark the start of the 7th annual Agriculture Awareness Month, hosted by the Ministry and Department of Agriculture.
Fellow citizens and residents,
As we celebrate the 7th hosting of Agriculture Awareness Month in this month of May, the Ministry of Agriculture will continue with its goal of highlighting the role of this all important sector to the island and people of Nevis.
The theme selected for the month of activities is “Think climate smart for food and nutrition security and sustainability”. Not surprisingly and as we will do throughout the entire year, our theme continues to focus on the challenges that our farmers have to overcome as they pursue optimum levels of production.
Our climate continues to pose challenges to our farmers whether they are crop or livestock farmers. Increased temperatures, unfamiliar weather patterns, disruption in the rainy and dry seasons, frequency and intensity of storms are all adverse conditions that present a myriad of challenges and difficulties.
Our technicians at the Department of Agriculture must be commended for their efforts in implementing and transferring production techniques to combat climate change. Through their efforts we have seen the introduction of better irrigation techniques, shade house production, intensive livestock farming, and the development of organic products to assist in production to ensure safer food. It must be noted that in addition to having safe food we have to ensure that the food we produce have the nutritional requirements for our consumers.
To achieve food and nutrition security our farmers have been forced to become creative in crop production. Agriculture is a science, and our staff at the department has benefited from years of research and technological development which we continue to transfer to persons interested in the sector. With the introduction of various forms of mechanization, we are encouraging our farmers to work smarter and not harder to produce more with fewer resources.
Our households are also forced to be creative to achieve a level of nutrition security that keeps our children and families healthy. We have long known that imported food though cheaper, and may be presumed to be healthier may not be safe.
Everything ranging from pesticide residue, preservatives, nitrates and increased salt and sugar content put our population at risk for Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) and cancers. It is unacceptable that our families are put in a position where the only reliable source of food is in the canned section on our supermarket shelves.
Fellow citizens, we vow to do our part to ensure that we have a sustainable and steady supply of local food such as sweet potatoes and other root crops, fresh fruits such as mangoes, soursop, citrus products and vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers.
In terms of proteins or meat kind we continue to support our livestock farmers who supply our mutton, beef, pork and eggs. We continue to encourage them to keep the very high quality and standards that we have grown accustomed to. We want to confirm that these foods are safe for consumption, provide the right nutritional needs and with the help of our partners at the Ministry of Health, we are seeking to ensure that the correct combination are on our plates.
Throughout the month, we want to call on members of the general public to support the ministry and department in the various activities.
We invite you to worship with us at the Ebenezer United Pentecostal Church in Gingerland on Sunday May 5th beginning at 10 a.m. On Tuesday May 7th we begin our programme to establish 500 fruit trees across the island. Trees such as mango, avocado, soursop and other fruit trees will be made available to residents while stocks last.
We have as well two training sessions for farmers on May 7th and 8th from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Nevis Cooperative Credit Union conference room conducted by the Taiwanese Mission and Department of Agriculture.
One of the highlights our month of activities is that we will be partnering with some of our local restaurants to do what we call “Eat Local Thursdays,” where for $25 or less you can get a 100 percent local meal for lunch.
We will also during this month open our doors at all of our facilities to welcome everyone to see what we do on a day-to-day basis. For our students in particular, we are having a career immersion component where we will display the numerous career options available for them to pursue.
No Agriculture Awareness Month would be complete without our weekly Friday sales at the public market and we are planning two of them. We will as usual support the New River Farmer’s Cooperative Open Day on Friday May 17th, and we encourage your support as well. Plans are afoot to establish a farmers market where we provide you the members of the general public an opportunity to buy directly from farmers at bargain prices.
During agriculture awareness month the finale is normally the pork festival, this year we are expanding on this concept to host a Meatfest. The aim is to make available local meat and meat processed products. The event will be held at the waterfront on Friday May 31st, and we are working to ensure that not only uncooked meat is available but cooked meat as well for patrons to taste and purchase.
I close with the assurance that our hard working staff as well as our farmers, will continue to work diligently on a daily basis irrespective of the challenging conditions they face, to ensure that our children, office executives, police officers and healthcare workers, road builders, construction workers and bus drivers are able to eat, and be satisfied as they too build our economy.
Once again I urge you, come celebrate with us throughout the month of May as we uplift our farmers, other primary producers as well as agro-processors, and observe our theme “Think climate smart for food and nutrition security and sustainability”.
May God continue to richly bless our farmers and may God continue to bless us all as an island and as a nation.