Basseterre, Saint Kitts – Nevis
April 9, 2008 (CUOPM)
Two days after a Cabinet announcement that some 100 acres of land was allocated to local farmers in Estridge, Mansion, Phillips’ and Old Road, the St. Paul’s Community Center was the venue for re-settling 44 farmers on 80 acres of land in the Fahie’s Agricultural Belt, bringing to 240 acres the amount of land made available for farming in an area called “the Bread Basket of St. Kitts.”
“It is an exercise that will continue the empowerment of the ordinary man and woman in St. Kitts and Nevis and in particular our small farmers,” Prime Minister and Parliamentary Representative, Hon. Dr. Denzil L. Douglas said at the ceremony at which the farmers signed contracts for the lease of the land they will cultivate under the “Small Holdings Act. “
“This empowers you to have the right to plots of land and give that right to develop that land by farming and making a living from that land and contributing to the provision of food not only for your families, but your neighbours and visitors to St. Kitts ad Nevis,” said Dr. Douglas, who disclosed that some 1,000 acres of land has been earmarked for agriculture in the area stretching from Newton Ground to Bellevue.
The leased land allocated to the farmers will be given rent-free for the first two years and would be extended for several years once the land is continued to be used for farming.
Prime Minister Douglas told the farmers that they have a very important role to play in the development of St. Kitts and Nevis as agriculture is critical to play in the continued development of the twin-island Federation.
“You will be engaged in subsistence agriculture in which you will be doing your own small farming as you have been accustomed to. The only difference is that you will no longer be cultivating high up in the hills and on the ghut sides. We have given you good arable land on the flatter areas and you will be given the agricultural technical support that will allow you to develop your farming skills and produce more food in line with the government’s policy to grow more food,” said Prime Minister Douglas.
He said the thrust of his St. Kitts-Nevis Labour Government is to ensure food security for the people of the twin-island Federation.
“We need to ensure that our people can feel secured in obtaining not only high quality nutritious food, but it should also be at affordable prices as well,” said Dr. Douglas, who pointed out that as the cost of food on the supermarket shelves has become challenging, it was time to return to back yard gardening.
“We are importing almost everything that we eat and we are saying that is not going to give us the kind of food security that we speak about. With so much food is being brought in from outside, then it is going to be more difficult for us to get the food; then we are not going to be as healthy as we expect to be because the nutritional value is not being obtained and also it is too expensive,” said the President.
Dr. Douglas said the imported food is so expensive because wherever in the world it is manufactured, it is costly. “It is also costly to transport it to several places before it reaches its destination. The high cost of energy ““ oil or fuel – makes it expensive to produce or manufacture; transportation by train, ship or aircraft, all ads to the cost.”
He said that even if Government does all that is possible to reduce the cost of food by controlling the prices, nothing can be more effective than if we produce come of that same food here in St. Kitts and Nevis.
“That is what is going to be important about food security by making sure that we are able to produce more of that food here in St. Kitts and Nevis ourselves. Here is where you come in. We are encouraging you to plant food on these lands,” said Prime Minister Douglas, who appealed to all farmers to partner with his Government to ensure that the quality of life of the people is enhanced.
“So that they can live better and eat better and can make a contribution in moving St. Kitts and Nevis forward,” said Dr. Douglas.