Assessment of opportunities for sustainable agriculture and fisheries on St. Eustatius

Overall conclusions Agriculture and fisheries are small sectors on St Eustatius. Nonetheless they represent important economic activities for the island, providing many people with an additional source of income. The level of these sectors is marginal but there is a good potential for development and innovation. Investing in improved agriculture and fisheries will diversify the sources of income on the island, create new perspectives for young people and increase the (business) contacts with the surrounding islands. Practically the marginal state of both sectors represents a risk. The agricultural sector (especially the vegetable sector) has innovators that inspire people to develop new initiatives. For these innovators it is difficult to survive in the present circumstances and the enabling environment is nearly absent. It will be crucial for the development of the agricultural sector that these innovators can continue their activities and improve their production. People who are inspired by the frontrunners will be discouraged and disconnect if these innovators would cease their commercial activities. It would strengthen the local scepticism that economically viable agricultural activities are not really possible on St Eustatius. This is in contrast to its potential. The fisheries sector is quite traditional and relatively small. It does not seen to have any active innovators. The enabling environment for development is largely absent. Local fishermen feel threatened in their existence even though new development opportunities are present. The lack of active innovators and present development in the sector discourages young people to become active in the sector. Improving the enabling environment will be crucial to professionalise the sector, create new perspectives and be attractive for the next generation. Intervening in the agricultural and fishery sector will also involve some risks. Top down approaches to create new developments generally do not work. It will be essential to provide a positive environment for local people to develop entrepreneurship and innovation. Local encouragement and support will be crucial. Accept that processes are slow. Life rhythm on St. Eustatius is slower that on the mainland. Improving agriculture and fishery on St. Eustatius will and should take its time. Accept that initiatives might go wrong. Improving the sectors means taking chances; for local people and for (investing) governments. Attempts to reduce the risks are valid only if they will not reduce the extent of the improved enabling environment. The classic response to a request for development is providing budgets. For St. Eustatius this aspect is crucial but not the only prerequisite. Professional guidance is essential. It will be essential not to focus only on the production side of agriculture and fisheries but to strengthen the marketing side of the chain from the start. An imbalance will have a strong negative impact.

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