Increasing local produce, securing a steady, quality food supply to Saba, and several challenges in the social domain are important areas the Executive and Island Council discussed during a recent retreat.
Investments continue to be made in agriculture to promote the local growing of produce and to make the island more sustainable. Efforts are made to increase productivity at The Farm. Recently, Vernon Liburd was appointed team leader at The Farm. The Rendezvous Farm is under construction. An agriculture policy is being drafted. The Island Council was very critical about the fact that these initiatives were taken without being based on a Masterplan Agriculture. Commissioner Rolando Wilson was requested to present a Masterplan Agriculture this year before the implementation of other projects.
The Public Entity Saba started a pilot late last year for an alternative fresh produce supply line to improve food security. At the start of the Corona crisis, it became clear that a supply of fresh produce cannot be guaranteed for Saba. The same happened after Hurricane Irma in 2017. Saba, but also St.
Statia is completely dependent on wholesalers in St. Maarten. This creates a vulnerable situation. High failure rates and a long logistics chain in combination with the small scale on which imports take place to push prices further up. Wholesalers at intermediate hubs extend the travel time of the products, repeatedly break the refrigerated chain, and repeated repacking of products causes loss of quality. An important recommendation from the Netherlands Enterprise Agency RVO study was that setting up a supply route directly from the country of origin could improve Saba’s food position. Based on these studies, Saba decided to set up a pilot for an alternative supply route directly from the country of origin/Miami. The pilot started on January 19. The first evaluation takes place in April. The initial findings showed mixed results with both advantages and disadvantages.
The government will do a more in-depth evaluation with the two local supermarkets that participate.
The Island Council has questioned the delay of the animals/goat project. It has been months now and the Council expressed the hope that the challenges were being resolved, and the project can move forward. The project will also allow for assistance to goat owners who want to keep their animals in a sustainable manner. The Island Council has asked if the project could also support the fishermen in their plea.
Together with the Ministry of Public Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS), the Public Entity Saba is looking into the possibility to implement a WMO-light (social support) on Saba. The Meals on Wheels is a crucial element in this. A proposal for funding has been submitted to the Dutch Government to receive funds for healthier (locally grown) food, food baskets for children, and additional staff. The government already received a grant for Home support to help with cleaning at people’s homes. A plan is being drafted for Home health which will start shortly. The third pillar is to make small adjustments at homes so people can stay home longer instead of going to the old home. The government received a special grant for this and a plan is being drafted together with the Home and the hospital. Execution will start before the summer.
Rent subsidy system
The Public Entity Saba and the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) are working on decreasing the housing costs of households with low incomes. As part of the ‘Saba Package 2019-2022,’ it has been agreed to work on reducing the housing costs, to construct social housing tenements, to develop a policy with regards to social housing, and to start the joint pilot ‘Rent(al) subsidy Saba’. The rent subsidy will also be available to the private sector.
Artisan Foundation building
The renovation of the Artisan Foundation building in The Bottom has been completed, and the Saba Reach Foundation is moving its offices to this location. The plan is to turn part of the building into a gym and to also create a second social workplace. A plan has been sent to the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor (SZW) for funding.
The Island Council has requested the government to come up with a new public assistance budget and to draft a clear policy on this. Both are being looked into and a plan will go to the Island Council shortly. A project will start in June this year to assist disabled persons with making small adaptations at their homes such as installing railings and a ramp. Adaptations will also be made in public areas for persons who are less mobile.