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Chief promises more co-ordination in the Ministry of Agriculture

Chief promises more co-ordination in the  Ministry of Agriculture
Chief Agricultural Officer (CAO), Renato Gumbs

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Chief Agricultural Officer (CAO), Renato Gumbs said that St Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) has been receiving assistance from a number of sources, “but receiving the assistance and using the assistance are two different things”.

Chief promises more co-ordination in the  Ministry of Agriculture
A north leeward farmer speaking at the handover of the seeds

He was speaking last week Friday at a brief ceremony at the conference room of the fisheries division, where a quantity of seeds was handed over to the Ministry of Agriculture for use by farmers.

The seeds of various varieties, are a gift from the Canadian charity ‘Still Kicking’ handed over by the Charity’s community outreach worker, Dwight Anderson.

Gumbs said the ministry wants to ensure that it maximises the benefits from what is received and “in that regard we are going to put a lot of emphasis on the technical support that we provide to the farming community.”

He pointed out that SVG which came through a drought, followed by the volcanic eruptions is now “in the middle of our recovery effort,” with the slogan “Build back Better”.

Gumbs told the farmers at the ceremony that the ministry is aware that “we need a lot of co-ordination in the way we do things.”

To address this, a committee is to be put into place to look at all aspects of vegetable production. The committee would not comprise primarily of personnel from the ministry of agriculture; but would be a broad-based team of farmers, representatives of the hotel association and tourism personnel among others, for “we want everybody to have a say and make their contribution in what we have to do going forward.”

Gumbs said marketing of agricultural produce is key, but due to its small population the country cannot absorb all that is produced, so “We need to go beyond our shores and sell externally.

…”and we have put together a small team to look at the terms of reference, and the terms of reference would determine who would be in on that committee.”

Gumbs’s comments followed an appeal from a North Leeward farmer at the ceremony who was grateful for the seeds, but complained about insufficient support from the agriculture ministry as well as the Roads, Buildings and General Services Authority (BRAGSA), for farmers in that community which fell within the volcano red hazard zone.

Chief promises more co-ordination in the  Ministry of Agriculture
Farm lands in Richmond

North Leeward, he said, “has been totally dealt a severe blow by the volcano.”

The farmer,who hails from Richmond said that “In order for us to produce at the maximum we need assistance in some of these areas, especially in the Red Zone. When I say assistance, I mean in clearing the ash. We just cannot produce under these conditions, presently.”

He said further : “We more or less have to beg for the assistance, but if we can get some directives coming from the ministry, coming from BRAGSA through the ministry, it would be well appreciated so that we can produce to the max”.

The farmer said that he had contacted and received some help from BRAGSA to clear ash , however a huge amount remains on the ground and they need additional help using a front-end loader “to assist the farmers in clearing their lands so they could plant and produce vegetables.”

Minister of Agriculture Saboto Caesar also responding said: “we are going to deal with things like fertiliser, tilling the soil, the ash, roads, and related concerns including water tanks.”

He pointed out that the equipment at the disposal of the government agencies can only plough the flat lands, and are unable to plough the slopes. As a result the government will be obtaining 40 hand tillers to be used by farmers to plough farms located on the slopes.

Another farmer then called on the ministry to have extension officers visit the farms to assist the farmers in their efforts to maximise production.

Minister Caesar said the ministry’s implementation timeline has been delayed by the current COVID-19 situation.

“I would have loved to have these seeds donated after all the ash was ploughed in, but I cannot refuse the seeds. I have to take the seeds when they are provided, and they are provided now and we will be meeting different farmers at different stages of their recovery,” Caesar said. “This is a work in progress. I do not have the solutions. I want to be a part of the solution, and it is going to be important that we continue to engage ourselves on this platform not only for the general conversation, but to address all of the issues.”

The Ministry of Agriculture, over the past few weeks since the cessation of the explosive eruptions, paid out around EC$5 million to almost 4,000 farmers, which required the involvement of the staff of the ministry. It was not one hundred percent successful, Caesar pointed out “but we got it done.”

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