Dutch State Secretary of Economic Affairs Sharon Dijksma sees the potential to revive and further grow Saba’s agricultural sector, writes The Daily Herald.
This possibility was a key topic discussed with Island Governor Jonathan Johnson and the Saba Government this week while she was on a working visit to the island along with Kingdom Representative Gilbert Isabella.
“We have discussed a way to maybe further strengthen our cooperation on the exchange of knowledge. Maybe, we could bring also some students in and see how we can develop the agricultural potential of the island,” said Dijksma at a press conference on Wednesday. She noted that the Netherlands was “willing to invest” in such a venture.
It is difficult for Saba to compete with Central America when it comes to the production of food due to availability of land and the abundance of cheap labour.
However with a kick start, Saba Commissioner Chris Johnson hopes some young Sabans will see agriculture as a viable way of making a living. Those young prospective farmers can possibly focus on specialized or organic products to get a competitive edge, he said. The goal is “to go back to our historical tradition and again produce our own food.”
Commissioner Johnson updated the state secretary during a boat trip around the island about development on the island. The officials covered in the course of the working visit updates about the conservation foun dation, Saba bank management unit, tourism, the goat buy-back programme and the organopónicos. They toured the site of the underconstruction power plant.
Commissioner Johnson welcomed the extended visit of the state secretary saying it presented an opportunity to address the challenges Saba faces with economic development. “We live on a small island with a high cost of electricity, a high cost of living, we have to import everything,” he said.
With 98 per cent of the land on Saba in private ownership, it is quite difficult for government to do extensive projects. “With that in mind, we know we have to continue working together,” he said.
Saba has had three years of “positive” audited year reports. Now, we have a year of good governance auditing,” said Commissioner Johnson. That puts Saba in a position to continue to take over tasks from the Central Government.
The Dutch Ministry of Economic Affairs has been “quite willing” to work together with Saba. He thanked Dijksma for her ministry’s “common sense approach.” Dijksma commends the government and people of Saba for their efforts to better their island to ensure economic development. “We see a lot of work is in progress [But –Ed.] renewable energy is maybe something we can work a little bit more on.”
Dijksma was on a working visit to the island that included stops in the other two Dutch Public Entities of St. Eustatius and Bonaire.