354 James Walter Francis Drive
RJT Edifice Building, 5th Floor
Road Town, TORTOLA VG1110
Tel: 284 468 2730
Fax: 284 468 2750
HONOURABLE DR. NATALIO D. WHEATLEY
PREMIER AND MINISTER FOR
ENVIRONMENT, NATURAL RESOURCES AND CLIMATE CHANGE
AT THE FIFTH SITTING OF THE FIRST SESSION
OF THE FIFTH HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY
TUESDAY, 31ST OCTOBER, 2023
Update on Agriculture and Fisheries
Madame Speaker, agriculture and fisheries remain a high priority on the Government’s agenda, and I wish to provide an update on current matters.
Madam Speaker, the Virgin Islands Food Security and Sustainability Act, 2022, was passed but has not yet been enacted as we await regulations to support the Act. Consequently, a consultant has been engaged to assist with; (1) the development of an implementation plan to guide the development and drafting of supporting Regulations; (2) the establishment and operationalisation of the Agriculture and Fisheries Management Unit and the Virgin Islands Agriculture and Fisheries Authority, defining organisational structures, roles and responsibilities, staffing requirements, and financial stream and requirements, inclusive of financing schemes; and (3) drafting regulations to support financing and management of the Virgin Islands Agriculture and Fisheries Authority.
Madame Speaker, we also desire to constitute the Board of the Agriculture and Fisheries Authority in 2024, and advertisements seeking applications for the Board will be published by the end of this year.The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change is working closely with the Recovery and Development Agency on developing the Agriculture and Fisheries Complex at Paraquita Bay to store, process and sell local produce and fish. Development works are underway to install a large water storage tank to support productive farming in Paraquita Bay.
Madame Speaker, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources and Climate Change, is assessing fish landing sites on Tortola, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, and Jost Van Dyke, to be used for the purposes of capturing very important data to meet our International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) reporting requirements as well as to drastically improve our services to the fishing community. The establishment of these sites will ensure that fishers have clean and dedicated spaces on the coastline for landing and light fish processing. The fish landing sites will serve as satellite facilities for the central processing facility at Paraquita Bay.
Madame Speaker, the agricultural component of the RATED programme is set to begin soon. Land will be identified in Paraquita Bay, and those participating in the programme will be guided through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in crop production. It is expected that this will help increase local produce availability, train a new generation of farmers and entrepreneurs and provide employment.
Madame Speaker, a sustainable land management project is underway in Paraquita Bay to assess the extent and nature of current farming practices on the Estate, develop a master plan and demonstrate sustainable land management practices on the Estate. The project is made possible through the “Integrated Landscape Approaches and Investments in Sustainable Land Management in the OECS” project, managed by the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States and funded under the European Union Global Public Goods and Challenges Programme.
Madame Speaker, on the education front, the Agricultural Advisory Committee of H Lavity Stoutt Community College plans to deliver their first workshop in November 2023. The workshop will be on Agroecology and will introduce sustainable farming techniques appropriate for our Virgin Islands landscape with its characteristic low rainfall, thin, rocky soils, and the current and predicted impacts of climate change. School gardens are being developed in all public schools through support from GreenVI to be used as teaching tools across the curriculum for agriculture and science, mathematics, social studies, and nutrition, etc.
Madame Speaker, several programmes have been ongoing in fisheries to encourage our fishers to organise into a single group or groups that represent their collective voice and interests. Several training exercises have been conducted in the last two years on developing fisher organisations through funding support provided by the UK Darwin Initiative and technical support from the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute and the Caribbean Network of Fisherfolk Organisations.
Madame Speaker, a few weeks ago, a training workshop was held for fishers on the ecosystem approach to fisheries. We have also been strengthening our data collection and management systems to assist with understanding trends in our fish stocks, which is foundational to diversifying our fisheries and developing the blue economy. We will launch pilot projects soon with our fishers to address sargassum influx and lost fish traps. Three fishers and one staff member from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries also recently benefited from a fisher exchange to Barbados. They were engaged with fellow fisherfolk and fisheries managers in Barbados and learned about fisheries management in another regional jurisdiction.
Madame Speaker, my government is committed to the development of agriculture and fisheries and we will continue to work with the existing farmers and fishers while encouraging others to get involved in this subsector of our economy with tremendous potential.
Thank you, Madam Speaker.