On Friday, June 2, Saba confirmed its commitment to working with Aruba, Curacao, Bonaire, St. Eustatius and St. Maarten in the common goal to increase food security among the islands as part of the Dutch Caribbean Visioning Process (DCVP). A week-long conference was held in Aruba for this purpose and culminated in the signing of a multilateral memorandum of understanding (MoU) by representatives of each island. The delegation representing Saba at the conference included Randall Johnson and Justin Simmons.
The goal of the DCVP is to increase the resiliency of the 6 Dutch Caribbean islands – which are vulnerable to climate change and other world events, such as pandemics and war – through the development of their agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors. The conference was hosted by Aruba’s Department of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (DLVV Santa Rosa), which falls under the Ministry of Transport, Integrity, Nature and Elderly Affairs. “As sister islands, we can achieve our common goals by standing and working together,” said Minister of Transport, Integrity, Nature and Elderly Affairs Ursell Arends at the kick-off of the conference.
As a first step in collaborating with each other, each island agreed to take the lead in the development of different initiatives and topics and the sharing of information in the fields of agriculture, livestock and fisheries.
Aruba aims to develop a good agricultural practices (GAP) program for the further development of its agriculture sector and is committed to assisting with setting up similar programs for the other islands through the sharing of information, knowledge and know-how.
Curacao confirmed its commitment to the development of a lab where various tests can be carried out to improve food safety and facilitate the import-export processes of produce and livestock throughout the island.
Bonaire committed to the development of a digital platform whereby information can be uploaded, stored, and accessed by each island for the sharing of information and know-how.
St. Maarten aims to (further) develop and incorporate agriculture education in the various schools on the island and has committed to helping other islands develop their agriculture education programs through the sharing of information.
St. Eustatius committed to sharing information on the financial structures available from the Netherlands and the EU that can be used to finance the various initiatives that each island aims to carry out to develop its agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors.
Saba, with its strong (commercial) fisheries sector, is committed to sharing information, knowledge and know-how with the other islands for the further sustainable development of their fisheries sectors.
This conference included a week of various activities, excursions to different agricultural projects and initiatives on Aruba and meetings, which all led up to the signing of the MoU on Friday. On Monday, the delegations from each island arrived on Aruba and got settled in. On Tuesday, the delegations were introduced to agriculture on Aruba by visiting various projects and initiatives in this sector. It started with visiting the Prinses Amalia basisschool, where students at this school together with an assigned teacher have developed a food forest. This was done with the help of Aruba’s DLVV Santa Rosa.
This was followed by a visit to the dragon fruit farm of James Ramos, who has developed his own line of hybrid Aruban dragon fruit. The delegation also visited Happyponics, which is a hydroponics farm specializing in growing various types of lettuce specifically for hotels and restaurants in Aruba. This was followed by a visit to Aruba’s Bee Haven, which is a bee farm operated by a father and son with some 135 beehives located throughout the island. The delegation also visited a goat farm and got to see how goat farming is done in Aruba.
The final stop on Tuesday was at DLVV Santa Rosa. Here the delegations were treated to a farm-to-table lunch, given a tour of the grounds and given the opportunity to see the animals used as breeding stock to supply local farmers to improve their livestock.
The visit to DLVV Santa Rosa culminated in the planting of various fruit trees on the Santa Rosa grounds by representatives from each island. The planting of these fruit trees symbolizes the commitment of each island to working together through the DCVP to achieve the common goals of the islands in increasing food security. Department Head of Agriculture Randall Johnson planted a lemon tree for Saba, which was a Tahiti graft.
On Wednesday, the delegations came together at the Renaissance Convention Center for the official opening of the DCVP Aruba conference. Here each island representative presented the agriculture, livestock and fisheries sectors on their respective islands, the challenges they face, but also best practices and what works for them.
The delegations split into working groups to discuss various topics and develop potential plans for initiatives that all the islands could work on together in order to work toward the common goal of achieving food security among the 6 Dutch Caribbean islands.
These discussions were continued and finalized on Thursday and early Friday morning with each island confirming which topics it would take the lead on. During the signing, the Department Head of Agriculture Randall Johnson signed on behalf of Saba with representative Justin Simmons also in attendance. The signing demonstrated the individual islands’ commitment to working together and taking the next steps in the Dutch Caribbean Visioning Process.