June 18, 2023 -PHILIPSBURG—Minister of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Transportation & Telecommunication (TEATT), the Honourable Arthur Lambriex, signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for Agricultural information sharing at the 2nd Dutch Caribbean Agriculture Visioning Progress Conference in Aruba on June 2.
The MoU establishes an agreement between St. Maarten, Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, Saba and St. Eustatius on the way forward to improve food safety for the respective islands through networking and information sharing that will bolster the rate of food production on the islands.
Each island signing on to the MoU shared its Agricultural initiatives during the event. The St. Maarten delegation led by Minister Lambriex shared their vision of implementing agriculture in the local schools. St. Maarten’s initiative focuses on “the value of experiential learning, promoting food education, and instilling in students a sense of pride and responsibility.” The TEATT Ministry shared its hopes to create a new generation of “environmentally conscious individuals with an appreciation for local food production by including Agriculture in the local school curriculum on St. Maarten.”
The Bonaire delegation’s vision includes creating a digital shared information platform to centralize knowledge, share best practices and improve communication amongst farmers and experts in the Agricultural industry.
The team from St. Eustatius envisions concentrating their efforts on improving Agriculture by improving access to funding for farmers. They propose streamlining funding options, facilitating loans and promoting investment opportunities in the agriculture sector, which will alleviate the challenges farmers presently face in securing funding.
In the case of the Saba delegation, their presentation at the Conference centred on promoting responsible fishing practices. The initiative also addressed marine conservation and the need for a balanced ecosystem. By promoting sustainable fishing methods and supporting local fishermen, the Saba Agriculture sector hopes to enhance the quality and consistency of fishery products on the island.
Aruba’s group enthusiastically presented their initiative on Good Agricultural Practices (GAP).
They highlighted the importance of knowledge-sharing and collaboration among farmers,
Stakeholders, and consumers. The GAP initiative aimed to enhance productivity, ensure food safety, and foster sustainable agricultural practices through comprehensive guidelines and standards. The Curacao delegation’s presentation was focused on “the Green Economy.” They outlined their plans to prioritize sustainable development, renewable energy, and responsible land use. They aim to “promote economic growth while minimizing environmental impact, aligning with the principles of a green and resilient economy.”
Minister Lambriex said the goal of the MOU is to ensure that St. Maarten and the other countries “prioritize food security through the establishment of coordinated action as a means of increasing natural food production.”
He said the signing agreement marked a new era of cooperation between the Caribbean Netherlands sister islands. “Since taking office, I have maintained that one of my top priorities is promoting sustainable agriculture practices on the island. With the agreement signed in Aruba, our local farmers can use an extensive network of knowledge, technology and best practices to improve their production level and ultimately reduce our dependency on importing certain food products,” said Minister Lambriex.
The attendees at the Conference also received first-hand updates on two projects in Bonaire, the animal tagging system and a children’s animal farm, and fostering young entrepreneurs among children with special needs that have been very successful.
Lambriex said that everyone in attendance at the Conference has acknowledged that taking full ownership of the outcome of agricultural food production and food safety plans is essential. For this reason, each island selected specific projects they would execute and report back to the group on the progress. He said the MoU provides a clear direction for collaboration between the islands, which St. Maarten will benefit significantly from.
Minister Lambriex, in his remarks, expressed his gratitude to the representatives and dignitaries for their commitment to working together to improve the lives of the people of the sister islands. He emphasized the importance of sustainable agriculture and the need to reduce dependence on imported food. He also highlighted the benefits of the work agreements, which would help to address labour shortages and support economic growth across the sister islands.