Farming on St Helena needs to get bigger, better and more business-like, says the island’s draft agricultural policy.
But the document also recognises the role of small-scale producers – and their place in island life.
“Agricultural enterprise on a commercial basis is practically absent,” says the Growing Forward document.
“The efficient management of resources, mechanisation, professional production methods, trade standards, and business skills and service quality is limited.
“Together, these issues threaten the future contribution of agriculture to our economy.”
The paper makes no reference to the launch of an egg farm on the island, or the increase in the number of crops being grown in polytunnels. Coffee-growing has also been revived on a limited scale.
Strong leadership and possibly even new laws are called for in the paper, which says producers need to have more influence. It says the Farmers Association needs to be given a stronger role and have help to become more effective.
Challenges include providing support services and incentives, and sharing skills and knowledge.
The economic strategy in the Growing Forward paper sets out ten priorities, including to:
- promote professionalism and a business culture
- explore research and development needs
- set standards for trade and quality
- build links between farming and tourism
- invest in the most promising types of production
- provide business and technical training
And it says the government should support small-scale growers and encourage more people to start their own small-holdings, but “with lower levels of resource allocation.”
People on St Helena have traditionally grown food alongside their paid jobs, for themselves or for profit, but there has been concern that the practice has declined, with islanders preferring imported goods.
The Growing Forward report recognises small-holders for “their contribution to food supply and the economic and social profile of the island.”