Findings presented to key stakeholders
The findings of a study of the agricultural sector conducted last year have been presented to key stakeholders.
The aims of the study were to assess and analyse the sector, to establish the reasons for its decline and key constraints to its development, identify its weaknesses and come up with propositions for its long-term revival.
The Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change Didier Dogley, the Minister for Investment, Entrepreneurship Development & Business Innovation Michael Benstrong, as well as the Minister for Fisheries & Agriculture Wallace Cosgrow – all responsible of key ministries associated directly with the development of the sector and funding of agricultural projects –attended the presentations which took place at the Eden Bleu Hotel yesterday.
Mohamud Hussein Egeh, senior natural resources management officer from the African Development Bank (AfDB), was also present, as were representatives of Agrer, the Brussels-based consultancy firm which in 2014 was awarded tender to carry out the Agriculture Sector Development Study (ASDS), representatives of Eco-Sol (a locally based company which worked with Agrer to provide it with expertise in the areas of rural infrastructure engineering, hydrology, GIS and human resource).
UNDP representatives, consultants both local and foreign who conducted the study, farmers and personnel of the Seychelles Agricultural Agency (SAA) also attended the presentations.
The study was conducted through financial resources provided by the African Development Bank.
Minister Cosgrow officially launched the presentations and discussions.
Duncan Burnett, a consultant from Agrer, led a team of a dozen consultants who conducted the study.
Based on its findings the team has designed and prepared a long-term document so the Ministry of Fisheries & Agriculture can submit to government who will decide on funding with potential funding institutions.
Among the findings that the study discovered Mr Burnett noted the scarcity of land for agriculture which he said is probably due to the fact that over 50% of land here is environmentally protected, the growth of the tourism sector which has taken a lot of coastal agricultural land, driving farmers up into the hills were farming is difficult with soil not so good, among other challenges.
“For that we have designed a project which has a component which would address the problems of land availability. We would bring in some consultancy to look at the existing legislations from protecting agricultural land and ensuring that not more of it leaks away,” Mr Burnett said.
Another finding is that agricultural land available are not being used to the maximum and for that agro forestry is being encouraged and supported and it consists of looking closely at what is available in forests in terms of local fruits and crops.
Lack of agricultural development has also been attributed to the fact that not enough credit is available for farmers and businessmen to invest in the sector.
“Credit that is available is not coming much from the commercial banks and farmers lack the experience to write a proper business plan to be presented to the bank. While the DBS (Development Bank of Seychelles) has schemes with very good terms and conditions, they are not easily accessible and there is not much available and we will build a credit fund which will be called a value chain investment fund to make available against certain criteria and monitoring affordable credit to try and stimulate more development in existing farming communities and to encourage new entrants in the farming business,” Mr Burnett explained.
Other concerns include lack of marketing ability, inability to cope with competition from foreign imports and profitability of farms which is not bad but farmers need innovative technology namely controlled environment agricultural technology.
Because water retention is very poor, there is the need to conserve water in and around the rivers in the agricultural areas through filtration dams, as well as construction of proper infrastructure for farmers, namely access roads.
“The sector has over the years received a fairly small proportion of the national budget which means there has not been enough money to provide very extensive extension support for farmers and many buildings are old and need renewal and a programme is being proposed to support the SAA in its different activities like soil and plant laboratory, research and development station,” Mr Burnett highlighted.
Source : Seychelles NATION