The Virgin Islands government is ramping up efforts to achieve greater food sovereignty and self-sufficiency, according to Junior Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries Hon. Karl Dawson.

In a statement at a recent press conference Dawson outlined various ongoing plans and initiatives aimed at boosting local agricultural production and strengthening food security in the Territory.

Key developments include bringing into force the Virgin Islands Food Security and Sustainability Act, establishment of the Virgin Islands Agriculture and Fisheries Marketing Authority, provision of a reservoir for agriculture at Paraquita Bay, regularization of farm plot usage, and development of an agricultural complex.

“The Government of the Virgin Islands remains committed to the principles of food sovereignty and food security and to ensuring we have a far greater capacity to feed ourselves than currently obtains,” Dawson stated.

A comprehensive plan for agriculture and fisheries in the BVI, informed by public consultations, regional policies, and existing departmental work plans, is currently being developed with expected completion in the second quarter of 2024.

Dawson revealed that both short and long-term solutions surrounding irrigation issues, particularly at the Paraquita Bay farming area, are being pursued in parallel. The reservoir project is progressing, with additional resources being deployed to address water distribution challenges.

Meanwhile, the junior minister highlighted a busy calendar of events for the Territory’s Agriculture and Fisheries Month aimed at connecting producers and consumers, sector development, and engaging youth.

Agricultural exhibitions and market days are being held across the major islands throughout March, including upcoming events on Tortola (March 16-17) and Jost Van Dyke (March 23).

“Many farmers have been giving their best efforts despite trying circumstances. This is a sector we are proud of and wish to showcase during this time,” Dawson remarked.

Complementing the exhibition activities are initiatives like a recent “regenerative farming” forum, plans for interactive virtual sessions with agricultural schools regionally, farm tours allowing public visits, and gourmet dinners featuring locally sourced foods.

The junior minister expressed optimism for “brighter days ahead” as water access improves, more arable lands become available, support networks strengthen among producers, and agricultural training opportunities expand.

“We want to ensure they are aware of opportunities available in the sector such as marketing, research, technology, and entrepreneurship,” Dawson said regarding youth engagement.