Positive Response To SIDF’s Investment In Promoting Agriculture

Local Produce at St. Kitts Market

Local Produce at St. Kitts Market
Photo By Erasmus Williams

Basseterre, St. Kitts – Nevis
November 13, 2010 (CUOPM)

There is growing positive reaction to the news that the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture, has committed approximately EC$22 million assist former workers in the sugar industry grow the agricultural sector, value added industries and revitalize rural development.

Bloggers on SKNVIBES say the investment in agriculture is bold and necessary and hope more people will buy local, depend less on foreign imports thereby retaining more money in the country and leading to the overall health of the people and the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis.

“Like this move, really hope that it continues with more local products being made and more persons being able to buy local,” said a blogger on SKNVIBES.com.

The blogger however expressed concern the local farmers will have to be protected from natural predators, like monkeys, pigs and man.

“Seriously some people love to reap what they did not sow Really hope that we can depend less on foreign imports cause it does nothing for the overall health and economy of the country when we eat foods with so much chemicals and our money keep going out,” said the blogger.

Another blogger, while hailing the investment in Agriculture as a bold and necessary one, called for similar steps to control the monkeys that wreck so many farms.

“These investments mean nothing if they are not protected from these animals. They are destroying lots of gains in agriculture. Something needs to be done,” the blogger declared. Another blogger although bigging up St. Kitts and Nevis on the investment in agriculture and hoping that food production will prove successful also warned that every day will be Christmas for the monkeys if the government fails to put measures in place.

The Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) was established for the purpose of supporting the former sugar workers, conducting research into the development of industries to replace the sugar industry, funding the development of these alternative industries and providing further support to secure the sustainability of such industries, as outlined in the original draft of its articles. The initial and main source of funding ongoing was indentified from the government’s citizenship programme.

Four projects ““ the Agricultural Training for Employment Project, the Agricultural Diversification Fund, a 113-acres Cappisterre Farm in the foothills of Belmont Estate and the Agriculture Resource Management Project  – combined support training and  promote sustainable employment in non-sugar agriculture have received approved funding by the SIDF mainly in primary agricultural enterprises with new enterprises emerging with linkages to the tourism sector, and value added products with a focus on fruit juices, dehydrated fruits and vegetables for the local market.

The 113-acre Cappisterre Farm in Belmont has been established and employs 28 persons and is spearheaded by the Ministry of Agriculture with supervision from the Department of Agriculture.

The objective of the farm is to provide employment opportunities for displaced sugar-workers and complement the domestic demand and affordable access of fresh fruits and vegetables in St. Kitts and Nevis.

The farm has been fenced and farmers have planted 2.75 acres of peanuts and 5 acres of sweet potato along with 200 coconut trees along the border and internal roads. The farm currently employs 14 persons. During harvesting season employment figures, in the absence of mechanized harvesting can increase by 50 persons.

In November, the establishment of the orchid production on the farm will commence as well as the planting of 100 West Indian lime trees and 100 breadfruit trees. Additionally 5 acres of peanuts, 2 acres of pumpkin, 5 acres of sweet potato, 2 acres of yam, dasheen and Tania would be planted. This is to ensure foods and vegetables that are considered staples in the local diet are made available in the low production season of most farms.

It is anticipated that the food prices of locally grown produce will stabilize and therefore meet the dietary needs in fruits and vegetables.

It is anticipated that by the end of 2010, an additional 35 percent of local demand for fruit juice and beverages, will be met through local production.

SIDF has allocated EC$4 million in the Agricultural Training for Empowerment Project since January 2008 in which some 189 persons have received training in crop production, livestock production, fish product development, the growing of ornamental flowers, landscaping and golf course maintenance. A life skills component and entrepreneurial skills module were also included in the training.

The three-year training programme in non-sugar agricultural techniques in farming was designed for 100 participants. The project allowed for trainees to graduate from the training at various stages and move into employment. This allowed others to join the programme. An additional 25 persons were added to the programme in March 2009 for training in ornamental flower production, landscaping and golf course maintenance. The funding has been used solely to pay stipends to trainees.

Graduates of the programme are being prepared as farm managers and supervisors, farm-hands and as self-employed farmers. The project has also led to the establishment of cluster farms and farmers’ cooperatives and collectives that yield employment and incomes for graduates. At the close of the programme participants will graduate to cluster farms at Ogees, Sir Gilles, Estridge and Belmont while others will remain as employees on farms to which they were attached for training.

The Agricultural Diversification Fund has been allocated EC$2 million of which EC$1.75 million has been received by the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis. Of that amount EC$1.58 million has been approved and EC$1.49 million has been disbursed.

The Fund is to be invested in encouraging entrepreneurship and fostering growth in the medium-small and micro-agro business sectors of the economy of St. Kitts and Nevis with a view of stimulating expansion of the economy by generating increased national output; to put otherwise unemployed and underemployed resources in the agricultural sector to work; and to help to improve the food production capacity of the Federation.

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