Agriculture stakeholders discuss innovations for peaceful co-habitation of humans and monkeys

(SKNIS): Because the growing number of monkeys has resulted in increasing conflicts with humans, the Ministry of Agriculture is undertaking a new initiative to address the problem. A three-day summit is currently taking place at the Agricultural Department at La Guerite bringing together from across the country stakeholders including Ross University, St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation, farmers, officials from the Ministries of Tourism, Health and Education, Estridge Monkey Farm, as well as a team of Colombian experts.

Speaking at the opening ceremony on Tuesday, July 05, the Honourable Eugene Hamilton, Minister of Agriculture, noted that many can give account of the damages caused by monkeys.

“Farmers and householders alike will tell you that when it comes to fruit and vegetable production, the monkey is a pest,” said Minister Hamilton, while adding that there is more than enough evidence to support the statement. “In fact, in an anthropological study done by Dr. Kerry Dore, more than half of the farms in St. Kitts experienced monkey damage. Further, of the more than two hundred and fifty crop farmers previously registered with the Department of Agriculture, more than one hundred or so, somewhere about forty percent, listed monkeys as a major constraint to production.”

Minister Hamilton said he hopes that the summit creates an avenue for ways to put in place a plan to deal with the monkey problems.

“We expect that objectives will be crafted and that realistic targets will be set based on this summit and other stakeholder consultations, targets that will engender a one-health approach where the well-being of both animals and humans are considered,” he said. “Objectives that will seek the advancement of the various stakeholder individuals and organizations represented here. If the solution is to be supported it must be beneficial to all.”

The minister said that agriculture is of great importance to the Government and therefore any efforts to eradicate the damage to crops caused by monkeys in the Federation is vital.

“Government has identified agriculture as an engine for socio-economic development in the Federation,” said Minister Hamilton. “Mitigating any threats to the sector is therefore an imperative of Government through this Ministry. For example, we have to find ways to increase water availability so that we can produce in agriculture. We have to reduce praedial larceny and other measures.”

He noted that quite a number of measures have been achieved such as the significant reduction in the cost of fencing wire in order to allow crop farmers to limit damage from pigs and other roaming animals.

As part of the three-day activities, a field trip was scheduled for today, Wednesday, 06 July, where experts went out into the field to get an idea of the monkey population, as well as damages caused. The summit concludes on Thursday, July 07, when the Colombian experts would present their findings to the stakeholders based on findings from the field trip.