REMARKS BY DEPUTY PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR EDUCATION, CULTURE, YOUTH AFFAIRS, FISHERIES AND AGRICULTURE
DR. THE HONOURABLE NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
AT THE SEVENTH SITTING OF THE THIRD SESSION OF THE FOURTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
THURSDAY, APRIL 15, 2021
FARMERS AND FISHERS WEEK 2021
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to provide a brief statement on the upcoming Farmers and Fishers’ Week planned for the week of 25th April to 1st May, 2021. The Week will be celebrated under the theme “Restore, Increase, Sustain and Educate” or simply abbreviated as “RISE”.
This year we celebrate farmers and fishers collectively as food producers with an emphasis on public awareness and education as we reflect on the accomplishments we have made, whether large or small. It is always good to pause, reflect, and give thanks. The acronym RISE, we hope, succinctly articulates our collective vision for these sectors - ones that are adaptive, diverse, sustainable and ever abundant.
Our intention, Mr. Speaker is not to mirror what has happened before, as we are still very much in a state of recovery, and recovery can take time. Due to COVID-19 restrictions and concerns with security, fishers, for instance, could not fish as they were used to, particularly into the evening and early morning hours. In terms of our farmers, we only need to look around and see that we are experiencing some drier conditions resulting in lower production levels for many farmers. Nonetheless, we must continue to support and encourage our fishers and farmers in their efforts to innovate and be adaptive. We want to keep them at the forefront of our discussions about our future as a Territory, as we work through ways to carry forward these sectors in ways that ensure they remain with us forever.
As I have mentioned before, Mr. Speaker, Farmers and Fishers Week will have a heavy emphasis on public awareness and education. You can expect -
- daily radio quizzes and features on the Almanac on ZBVI;
- a digital publication that highlights the history and diversity of these sectors;
- short informational videos featuring farmers and fishers that can be easily viewed and shared across various platforms;
- dessert competitions at the secondary and tertiary levels and a fish soup competition among our many cooks across the Territory;
- a panel discussion on the topic, "The Future of Food Production – Can the Virgin Islands Rise to the Challenge?" featuring professionals with business, education and science backgrounds who are immersed daily in food production; and
- highlights from work being carried out in school gardens and our commitment to provide support for this.
Farmers and Fishers Week will also include ceremonies for the renaming of the fisherman’s dock in Baughers Bay, the opening of the animal pound and the dedication of the new tractor and animal trailers at Paraquita Bay. The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries will also host an open house to allow the community to tour its grounds and learn more about the Department’s work.
The week will culminate with a market day for fishers and farmers on the grounds in Paraquita Bay on Saturday, 1st May, and I am calling all fishers and farmers, including our backyard gardeners, to come out to showcase and sell your goods. This is a time for solidarity and comraderie among our food producers. This is about you - about celebrating and honouring you, and we hope you will come out in numbers as a show of commitment to these industries and to each other. Mr. Speaker, I wish to thank those farmers and fishers who have registered so far to assist the Department in finalising its plans. With the COVID-19 guidelines, we have to pay keen attention to the number of persons in attendance. The Department will be putting measures in place to control the number of persons who will be allowed on the grounds at a given time. During the course of the coming week, the communication plan for this week of activities will be rolled out.
Mr. Speaker, I also call on the community to come out and support our food producers, recognising their hard work to produce and harvest healthy wholesome fruits, vegetables, meats and fish for our collective benefit.
As we are seeking to RISE in the agriculture and fisheries sector, Mr. Speaker, I would just like to mention that in collaboration with the Ministry of Transportation, Works and Utilities through the team at the Water and Sewerage Department, significant progress is being made on improving the water supply to the Paraquita Bay farms. For years our farmers have been crying out for adequate water supply, and I am very pleased with the progress being made to date. We are definitely now seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Once this water situation at Paraquita Bay has been rectified, Mr. Speaker, our next step will be to develop our production plan for the area and to ensure that leases are signed for all farmers who occupy spaces there. I will be providing further details on this in the coming months, Mr. Speaker.
I thank you for this opportunity, Mr. Speaker.