Monday , March 4 2024

Public entities must play role in agriculture development

The Dutch Government is willing to invest in an innovative ag­riculture programme in the public entities Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, but only if the local governments are truly committed to structur­ally developing this sector on their island.

State Secretary of Home Af­fairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops alluded to this in a letter that he sent to the Second Chamber of the Dutch Parliament earlier this week in response to a motion that was adopted in October 2017 as part of the handling of the 2018 Kingdom Rela­tions budget.

Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba are largely dependent on the import of meat, vege­tables and fruits. Food prices are high. The Second Cham­ber wants something done about that via local provision of fresh produce and meat by stimulating investments in agriculture.

The adopted motion asked the Dutch Government to look into the possibilities to support and realise an inno­vative agriculture policy – for example, through the exper­tise of Wageningen Univer­sity – so the islands can pro­vide their own food as much as possible. This would have to take place in consultation with the island governments. The motion was submitted by Members of Parliament (MPs) Joba van den Berg of the Christian Democratic Party CDA, Antje Diertens of the Democratic Party D66, André Bosman of the liberal democratic VVD par­ty, Stieneke van der Graaf of the ChristianUnion, Attje Kuiken of the Labour Party PvdA and Ronald van Raak of the Socialist Party (SP). Knops stated in his response that the Dutch Government supported the motion in the sense that improvement in the area of innovative food production would make the islands less dependent on the import of goods. Innovative food production and a stron­ger local agricultural sector would also help to combat poverty and support a sustain­able development trajectory. According to Knops, Wa­geningen University has drafted several reports in the past years regarding the various agricultural projects in Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba. A recurring problem in Bonaire and St. Eustatius is drought and overgrazing by roaming cattle. “That is a challenge for agricultural de­velopment for which a solu­tion has to be found.”

The Dutch Ministry of Ag­riculture, Nature and Food LNV has already funded projects on the three islands. Two greenhouse projects for schools have been initi­ated to increase interest in the cultivation of fruits and vegetables among the youth. The first greenhouse project will take place in Bonaire, followed by Saba. An assess­ment is being made regard­ing how to support agricul­ture in St. Eustatius.

“These are positive devel­opments, but a more struc­tural input in agriculture development is needed if the islands are to take serious steps towards self-sufficient and innovative food produc­tion. Naturally, the coopera­tion of the public entities is needed,” stated Knops.

“This requires broad-based decision-making and conti­nuity of the governments on the islands; and local project execution in which trust and commitment are central ele­ments. Good governance is a requirement to execute these programmes.”

According to Knops, the LNV Minister is willing to have con­sultations with the public enti­ties so the islands can develop and start their own agricultural programmes if the local gov­ernments are seriously com­mitted to doing so.

The Daily Herald.

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