Public entities must play role in agriculture development

THE HAGUE–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.

Source: The Daily Herald