New strategies needed to re-launch agriculture in a more attractive way |10 July 2021
Agriculture should be made more attractive to the next generations of farmers, hence the need to introduce favourable conditions to attract more youth to the industry.
This was said by the Minister for Employment and Social Affairs Patricia Francourt yesterday following her second visit in a series of three to various farms around the island.
The aim of these visits is to understand the farming environment in order to have targeted strategies to encourage more people to join the industry.
Minister Francourt was accompanied by the chairman of the Agricultural Production Association Seychelles (Apas) Barry Nourrice, executive committee member Jean-Paul Geffroy, along with staff of the ministry.
Yesterday’s visit started at Steven Roseline’s farm at Anse Boileau, where Minister Francourt had discussions with the owner as well as the Apas members on the different constraints they are facing, especially when it comes to labour.
As a result of labour constraint due to travel restrictions in various countries, Mr Rosalie, who farms on a 12,000 square metre plot of land and relies mostly on foreign workers, said his farming power is limited to only 50 percent of the required capacity.
His main concern was regarding the Gainful Occupation Permit (GOP) procedure which he said takes too long and this affects production.
The ministerial delegation’s next two stops were at the Fresh Way farm owns by Guynemer Corgat and the farm of Alix Esparon, both situated at Val D’Andorre.
At both farms, they interacted with the owners and workers to get a clear idea of the various constraints, while also seizing the opportunities to view the various facilities and productions.
Minister Francourt explained that after the visits, her ministry and that responsible for agriculture should go back to the drawing board and come up with new policies, in line with the existing localisation plan to encourage more Seychellois to be actively involved in permanent employment, especially the agricultural sector which at the moment is facing a considerable drought in terms of local manpower.
This, she said, other than ensuring monthly basic wages, will cover any form of social security, retirement benefits or insurance cover for health among others.
Minister Francourt further added that seeing the situation hands-on will give the ministry a better picture, thus enable it to come up with better strategies to encourage more people, especially the youth through skills development programme to join the agricultural sector which will surely help towards ensuring the country’s food security.
On behalf of the Apas, Mr Geffroy explained that two months ago the association had a virtual meeting, requesting to meet with the ministry responsible for Agriculture and the Ministry of Employment and Social Affairs to bring forward their case as to why they need foreign workers.
He said due to strict restrictions across the board to bring in foreign workers, they had a lack of manpower and were struggling in that area.
“Our expectations are high from these ministerial visits and seeing the minister showing interest towards our concerns proves that she has kept her words,” he explained.
“For the association, it shows that the minister wants to work with us and we appreciate it greatly. The issue of our foreign workers being blocked and being prevented from coming into the country was resolved, but by the time we received all necessary documents and go ahead, the rest of the world shut the doors with restrictions due to Covid-19,” added Mr Geffroy who also noted that the visits should have follow-ups with further connections since Seychelles as a small country has a fast moving economy and that the Covid-19 pandemic has taught us a lesson.
“I think everyone will agree that there are sufficient justifications and merits to adjust our ways of doing things. Even in certain departments their policies are stagnant or even too rigid or not well structured at times, therefore we need to adapt to our surrounding, something that we cannot control,” Mr Geffroy added.
The accompanying photos show Minister Francourt on the three farms she visited.
Vanessa Lucas/Shannon Françoise
Photos by Joena Meme