Honourable Minister of Agriculture Claude Hogan on Sunday afternoon declared Agriculture Week Open.
Hogan addressed the fishers and other attendees at the first day of activities at Marine Village in Little Bay. The day included the judging of a lionfish chef competition and an appreciation ceremony for both male and female fishers for their contribution to feeding the population of Montserrat.
The full text of his speech is below.
“It is with great pleasure that I welcome you to this event this afternoon, which starts off Agriculture Week 2015; and as we also celebrate the Christ in Christmas.
As Minister responsible for the portfolio which includes among others the Departments of Agriculture and Environment, this activity is quite timely as it comes on the heel of the Conference of Parties (COP) 21 meeting in Paris at which the world’s leaders and top environmental and agricultural scientists met and agreed to address climate change because of how it will affect our lives and livelihoods if we do not pay attention to rising sea levels, droughts and increasing pollution and carbon dioxide production. The world have agreed that we need to adopt climate smart strategies in our daily lives. I think in Montserrat we are ready to do our part in the billion dollar effort to save and protect ourselves and our planet and as the WAITT Institute has taught us, to leave a heritage for our children and for generations to come.
We are opening the week with a fishing activity to show that we realise that the marine environment is just as important as the terrestrial environment in promoting good health and nutrition as well as healthy lifestyles. A lot of the wealth of Montserrat is in our sea and we welcome all the attention and help we are getting to explore and exploit it sustainably.
How we manage the oceans is just as important as how we manage our lands. To this end we are therefore expending great effort in putting our ocean governance strategies on a sound footing. The Waitt Institute which is a co-sponsor of this
afternoon’s activity is working along with us to ensure that we have a sound scientific basis on which to guide our ocean governance policies. When this policy is completed and implemented, Montserrat will be able to boast of having created the environment for our fisher folks to enjoy a sustained resource. This will ensure our fishers livelihood, while we also share our oceans’ vast resources for recreation on jet skis, windsurfers, divers; and afford me and the many children being trained by Aqua Montserrat the opportunity to safely pursue our hobby – snorkelling.
The economic importance of the fisheries sector and the ocean will be borne out during the coming week when you will be hearing messages on ZJB from the CRFM, FAO, Rohan Smith and Associates, and the Caribbean Network for Fisherfolk. In addition over the next few weeks my Ministry will be giving out incentives to 25 fishers as part our drive to increase production in the sector. I can also tell you that the British are now also showing an interest in the development of our fisheries sector, so we should all start gearing up for better or for worse in this industry going forward, because there will be action. I know that we know how to “hold on to our property and will it for our children.”
For me, this event is more than about showing off agriculture. It’s about continuing to demonstrate for learning and inclusion of our people in team work and team activities and to see how fishers appreciate each other. Look at the commaraderie, the backing of each other, the support with a smile and laughter.
Our future relies on Montserratians working together. We need to see this big picture and not focus on the small hiccups and challenges. We need to check our complaining and lamenting that our co-workers are low and failed capacity. We need to check on others, but also help them to help ourselves. Nobody from anywhere is better able to serve us than we ourselves, and that is how we will grow. The development of Montserrat means our personal and collective development. We need to grow our community by working together. It really saddens and grieves me to see the increasing number of technical workers and consultants that have been made available to the Government of Montserrat, because we are failing to establish and work with systems and through team effort all across the private and public sectors of this little island. The reliance on expert help and plans from everywhere can go too far. I therefore implore our fishers to remain steadfast and strong. Our other workers, children, public servants, private sector, NGOs, all – let us together work to a good programme of watching and helping each other. They call it checks and balances and I realize that our fisherfolk are the best at teamwork, so please let us learn from them this week and going forward put these skills into practice.
The fact that we have chefs judging a competition of fish dishes, again; and we are tasting lionfish, again; shows the success of the Ministry of Agriculture through the fisheries unit and others, in tackling one of the challenges that has cropped up during recent times. We have been confronting a very aggressive invasive specie, but “we have turned our scars into stars”. The lionfish is being controlled by harvesting it and including it in our meals as we continue to “eat it to beat it”.
We have to thank our fisherfolk for taking up the challenge. Initially there was a great deal of fear and trepidation as the spikes on the lionfish are very dangerous, but our fisherfolks rose to the challenge. For those of you who have never tasted the Lionfish, please do so today. It is a real fine tasting delicacy – the Lionfish. I’m sure that once you taste it, you will include this fish on your must buy list.
During this week you will also get an opportunity to visit our new abattoir and see the slaughtering process with the highly sophisticated gear which should bring us into accord with international standards. This will improve our health and safety standards for meat production and could result in our meat and meat products access to export markets.
We will end the week of activities with our market day at the Little Bay public market. Here you will get an opportunity to see the range of agriculture related items we have produced despite an extremely long and crippling drought. You all heard already how I was dismayed that we had to push back the irrigation programme that we are proposing to complete over the next 3 years to make agriculture more resilient in Montserrat. Anyway, nothing happens before it’s time.
Let me just add my thanks to our sponsors and partners in agriculture and fisheries, the Waitt Institute, Phenomenal Creations, Flow and especially the Department of Agriculture and Ministry staff along with the Permanent Secretary for being able to pull this worthy event together. May we all learn from the staging of Agriculture Week 2015 more about: teamwork; the life skills needed to achieve our goals; build our lives; and develop our country.
I am therefore honoured to declare Open in Montserrat Agriculture Week 2015.