Institutions donate to St. Kitts and Nevis to enhance agricultural sector

From the IICA delegation in St. Kitts and Nevis

ST. KITTS AND NEVIS – Recognizing that small developing countries like St. Kitts and Nevis face enormous challenges following the passage of Category 5 hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) and the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) provided USD$37,000 to rehabilitate the sector and to enhance food security on the islands.

The natural disasters devastated the agricultural sector of the federation. Greenhouses, standing tree crops, vegetables, livestock feed, poultry, small ruminants and irrigation pipes were lost or damaged by the unprecedented high winds and flood waters. For a few weeks, there was a shortage of food on the island as some of the countries from which St. Kitts and Nevis import food were adversely affected by the hurricanes.

Both institutions recognize the challenge to increase productivity in the agricultural sector, enhance food and nutrition security and understand the implications of climate change.

In doing so, both institutions were mindful of the fact that there was need to ensure greater resilience against climate change. They therefore collaborated with Garden Pool, a United States non-governmental organization (NGO), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to construct an aquaponics system.

“Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (the soil-less growing of plants) into one integrated system”, explained IICA’s National Specialist Augustine Merchant.

Regarding this project, the Minister of Agriculture Alexis Jeffers indicated that “IICA is doing the right things at the right time to ensure that they assist us in securing our future.”

The fish waste, explained Merchant, provides an organic food source for the plants, and the plants naturally filter the water for the fish. The microbes nitrify bacteria, and this bacteria converts ammonia from the fish waste firstly into nitrite, and then into nitrates. Nitrate is a form of nitrogen that plants can uptake and use to grow.

“As climate change increases variability in weather patterns, large aquaponics systems have the potential to increase food security by changing the way food is produced,” he said.  In addition, he stated that in areas with climate challenges such as limited water resources, hurricanes and flood, aquaponics can facilitate local food production and enhance food security.

The aquaponics system is located at the Government Experimental Station at Prospect Estate, Nevis, and will be used by IICA for demonstration and training.