Capisterre Farm Sews Seeds of Self Sufficiency

Farm Manager Versailles and Minister Harris lead mini-tour of Capisterre Farm Capisterre Farm Manager Stuart Versailles

Basseterre, St. Kitts, February 04, 2011 (SKNIS): With the launching of the Capisterre Farm Project last Friday, the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis and the Sugar Industry Diversification Foundation (SIDF) commenced a new era in large-scale farming operations in the Federation.

Comprising 130 acres overlooking the village of St. Paul’s, and including two major ghauts as well as estate ruins; activities toward the development of Capisterre Farm began in 2007 when NH Holdings, a private company, submitted plans for what was called Premier Farms. According to Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture Dr. Hermia Morton-Anthony, the area was assessed by the Department of Agriculture and remained dormant, but the global economic crisis caused NH Holdings to withdraw their support. However, Government continued the necessary procedures and a funding commitment came from the Counselors of the Sugar Diversification Foundation.

“The development of Capisterre Farm is one of the initiatives approved by the Government in accordance with the National Adaptation Strategy 2006 to 2013,” Dr. Morton-Anthony stated. “The Strategy cites agriculture as one of the pillars of its productive sector and states that the primary objective of the Government’s strategy for the development of agriculture following the closure of the sugar industry is to significantly increase agriculture production in a sustainable manner.”

To demonstrate the significance of the project, Capisterre Farm Manager Stuart Versailles stressed the economic value of Agriculture.

“Its [Agriculture’s] importance as a priority area on the regional development agenda is therefore unquestionable,” Mr. Versailles emphasized. “The nexus between agricultural development and the Federation’s ability to achieve its food security/nutritional security goals are inextricably linked.”

Students listening to presenters at opening ceremony

The Capisterre Farm Manager outlined that of the 130 acres, 114 will be cultivated; – 70 acres will be for fruit tree crop production, while 44 will go toward vegetable production. He explained that the objective of the Farm is to complement the domestic demand for our agricultural commodities in the domestic market while striving to maintain affordable prices for agricultural commodities.

Mr. Versailles added that the Farm is expected to create more than 100 jobs in the construction of greenhouses and other infrastructure as well as the establishment of water systems for the Farm and nearby farms. There would also be jobs for operators, office personnel and the like. An Agriculture Ministry-appointed advisory committee, headed by Permanent Secretary Morton-Anthony, assisted by Director of Agriculture Ashton Stanley, was also established.

Terrence Crossman, Chairperson of SIDF – the sole funder of the Farm, explained that his Foundation was established to support former sugar workers and assist in the development of industries to replace the sugar industry.

Funding the development of these alternative industries and providing further support to ensure their sustainability, and granting assistance to individuals and institutions that qualify for such was also included in the Foundation’s activities. Mr. Crossman noted that the Capisterre Farm falls directly under the Foundation’s mode of operations.

“The project is one of four such projects that have been approved and funded by the SIDF,” The Chairman revealed. “They are: the Agriculture Training for Employment Programme, the Agriculture Diversification Fund, the Agriculture Resources Management Project and the Capisterre Farms. Agricultural Projects like this one which we are launching today [January 28] not only develop our economy, but also ensure that the basic need for survival is met, food.”

Minister Harris (red shirt) and Prime Minister Douglas (next to primary school students) picking peanuts

Senior Minister and Minister responsible for Agriculture, Honourable Dr. Timothy Harris emphasized that it was important to increase agriculture for food security, nutrition, poverty alleviation and to obtain foreign exchange savings.

“I would want as a result of our coming together today that we kindle a greater awareness of the real challenges facing the agricultural sector,” Minister Harris stressed. “And the agricultural sector needs assistance, committed assistance over the long term if it’s going to play that multifunctional role of employment generation, poverty alleviation and contributing to food nutrition. You can’t talk about processing tomatoes and juices if you don’t have an adequate supply to start with because you need that to achieve certain efficiencies to move from that level.”

Prime Minister Honourable Dr. Denzil Douglas likewise stressed the need for consistent investment in agriculture in conjunction with his government’s ideals.

“I emphasize that this 130 acre Capisterre Farm is an excellent example of how Government is approaching the production aspects of food security here in our country by empowering our farmers, by providing necessary incentives for farming through the availability of good quality land, and assistance in essential agro inputs,” Prime Minister Douglas noted. “We are looking toward boosting output in a very significant way, maybe in a way we have never, ever done before. Of course appropriate farmer training is critically important, so too is the access to appropriate levels of financing and insurance as one delves further into business aspects – into all of the business aspects of agriculture.”

The Prime Minister thanked the Federation’s agricultural partners such as the Taiwan Agricultural Mission, the International Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI), the Venezuelan Alba Alimentus Project and the Republic of Cuba for their dedicated support.

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