A producing corn field.

CHARLESTOWN, Nevis — With agriculture playing a major role in the Nevis economy, farmers need to modernise from traditional approaches to more efficient and productive farming methods, Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis and Minister of Finance told the Nevis Island Assembly, while presenting his 2019 Draft Budget to Assembly President Hon Farrel Smithen on Dec. 5 at Hamilton House.

“At the start of this political term, my government took the bold decision to pair the Office of Disaster Management with the Ministry of Agriculture,” Brantley explained. “This was a strategic move to harmonise the synergies between both units of government.
“We are all aware that this sector to a large extent predominantly engages in traditional outdoor farming techniques. The recent experiences of our neighbours in Dominica,

Anguilla, St. Maarten and the Virgin Islands give a clear indication of the disastrous effect that natural disasters can have on our agricultural industry whether it be backyard farming or large acreage farming.

“We firmly believe that the implementation of sound disaster mitigation practices by our farmers will ultimately have a positive impact on output and enhance our ability to provide a sustained supply of food items for our population.”

Youth role important
Hon Brantley said the role of youth is important to emphasize as part of business development across the sector.

“The Ministry will continue to work closely with the Small Enterprise Development Unit (SEDU) to gain the necessary business training and support for persons involved in the Agricultural sector,” Brantley explained. “It has always been the policy of this Administration to recognise our farmers as business persons operating a viable and important niche market rather than persons merely engaging in causal practices.

“I am happy to report that during this fiscal year a number of persons engaged in the Agricultural sector benefitted from training and exposure through various workshops organised by SEDU in the area of canning and fermenting of agricultural products.
“These persons were also exposed to various techniques to use by-products of their farms to make health related products such as body oils, body sprays, insect repellents and therapeutic rubs for muscle and joint pains.

Social intervention vehicle
“Encouraging our people to engage themselves in agricultural production can be a vehicle for social intervention,” the minister said. “We are fully aware that a number of our youths have unfortunately found themselves trapped within their communities and are unable to venture outside to seek gainful employment. Our single mothers as well sometimes find it really difficult to gain suitable employment to provide for the needs of their children.

“While these situations are unfortunate, it is the reality that we face and hence it is imperative that we seek to develop programs at the community level to creatively alleviate these issues. To this end my government feels that working through the departments of Agriculture and Community Development, we can use agriculture as a tool for social intervention and poverty alleviation.

Medium-term goals
“Over the medium term we intend to seek donations from friendly governments to establish green houses in these various communities across the island,” Brantley said. “The Department of Community Affairs will be charged with engaging with our at-risk youths and single mothers with a view to have them bind themselves together to operate these greenhouses as a means of earning a daily income for themselves. The Department of Agriculture through its extension program will provide the necessary support and guidance for good farming techniques for these persons.”

Win-win situation
“This program will no doubt be a win-win situation for all as our agricultural production will increase and our at risk youth and vulnerable groups would be gainfully engaged,” Brantley concluded. “This policy will be further developing and enhanced over the longer term to include the development of small scale poultry farms in areas where these vulnerable groups unfortunately find themselves trapped within their communities and devoid of opportunities.”